NW chaplains to the fire rescue

Disaster Relief volunteers trained, sent to serve
By Sheila Allen
NW Baptist Convention,
Witness NEwsletter

disasterreliefGOLDENDALE, Wash. — Providential timing was at work when Disaster Relief volunteers from across the Northwest gathered at Camp Touchet in Central Washington for training in chaplaincy and incident command September 9-10. Some of those trained forces were put to work immediately when the Monastery Fire broke out in Klickitat County near Goldendale, Wash., the same weekend.

Chaplaincy team members were trained to deploy to disaster areas anywhere in the Northwest, often with short notice. Volunteers who have completed the Southern Baptist chaplaincy training and desire to be deployed nationally can also receive the required Critical Intervention Stress Management (CISM) training to be offered October 28-29, also at Camp Touchet, near Dayton, Wash.

“We originally intended the training to be for Region 6 churches of the Northwest Baptist Convention,” said organizer Paul Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Leavenworth, Wash. “We opened it up to other regions when we saw there was interest.”

Nearly 30 people completed the two-day training at the encampment owned by Columbia Basin Baptist Association.

“It was an amazing training event because the bonding that took place was of as much value as the training itself,” Henry said. “Oftentimes when we have training events, people break off in small groups for meals and hotels, but this was an amazing setting where the volunteers came together as one group. It was also more cost effective for feeding and housing the team.”

Volunteers at the camp were made aware of a disaster dubbed the Monastery Fire and monitored it throughout the weekend. Soon after, two volunteers were dispatched to the fairgrounds in the Goldendale, Wash., area where shelter and feeding stations were set up for those displaced by the fire.

“We worked in conjunction with the Red Cross and prepared meals with other groups on a rotating schedule,” Henry said. “We also set up an incident command in response to the fire and were able to use it as a training opportunity. Rick Peringer from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pullman, Wash., and I were able to volunteer at incident command training and we brought in four others throughout the week. Rick did an outstanding job.”

The Disaster Relief team serving at the Monastery Fire connected with a family with significant health issues whose mobile home was completely destroyed.

“Rick had contact with the gentleman each day, as he was very stressed out due to relationship problems with his wife and her doctor,” Henry said. “We were able to listen to him and he eventually calmed down. After the call went out for volunteers to help clean up, 39 volunteers from across the Northwest and Columbus Ave. Baptist Church in Goldendale came to his place and had it completely cleaned up in one day. It was awesome to see the group of volunteers who turned out.”

The team was able to dismantle the mobile home, cut the metal into manageable pieces, and separate the metal from other debris. Volunteers sifted through the remaining debris, searching for valuables listed by the homeowners. The debris was then placed in large dumpsters provided at no charge by Allied Waste Services.

“We were able to build wonderful relationships with the local Red Cross folks who previously didn’t know who we were,” Henry said. “Our chaplains and assessors drove every road in the area looking for signs of those who were impacted by the fire. One such man the team was able to connect with asked about a local church, and the team was able to direct him to Columbus Ave., where he joined them in worship the following Sunday.”

“The development of chaplaincy within Disaster Relief has been in response to God opening up an opportunity for this specialized ministry,” said Disaster Relief Chaplaincy Trainer Bill Lotz of Tri-Cities, Wash. “During a disaster there is a unique need for and acceptance of God’s loving outreach to us. However, people who are crisis victims are also very vulnerable and disadvantaged and so deserve special spiritual care. As a trainer, it is exciting to see people understand the uniqueness of this ministry and be willing to put in the time and effort to prepare for being with those in need.”

Jan Schrable was one such volunteer who turned out for the training.

“I really don’t believe in retirement as such,” Schrable said. “I really feel God has called us to a higher level than that. That’s one of the reasons I’m involved in Disaster Relief. Having personally gone to Vermont recently, there is such a need for compassionate care, especially that chaplaincy gives. People wanted someone to listen and hear what they were saying and to be able to comfort them and give them some hope. Chaplaincy is so crucial.”

Another volunteer who turned out for the training is International Mission Board personnel Scott Wood, currently in the Northwest on stateside assignment. “I believe God has revealed he is calling me to be prepared to serve as a chaplain internationally in crisis situations,” Wood said. “Disasters are horrific, but also appropriate opportunities to serve large segments of society in a short period of time. Through meeting the physical and spiritual needs of these groups, I believe we fulfill God’s will and serve like Jesus feeding the 5,000.”

Those seeking more information regarding future training events may contact Paul Henry at [email protected] or call 509.630.8443.

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