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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Disaster relief chaplaincy ‘extension of being Christ,’ Eutaw pastor sayscomment (0)

June 30, 2011

By Julie Moore


The way Eutaw Baptist Church Pastor Rick Williams views it his work as a disaster relief chaplain “is simply an extension” of what the Lord has called him to do as a pastor.

Williams, who has served as pastor of the Bigbee Baptist Association church since January 2007 and previously led churches in several other states, attended disaster relief basic training after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He later realized his training and background as a pastor could be a springboard for serving in a chaplaincy capacity.

Williams’ chaplain training was greatly needed after the April 27 tornadoes struck Alabama and he headed to Tuscaloosa.

During his first full day of service there, Williams joined a chain saw team from another association. The group helped clear trees off houses and talk to survivors.

The next day, Williams was asked to join a relief team serving in the hard-hit Forest Lake community. He met survivors where they were, offered to pray with them and listened to them share their stories.

Williams was then tasked to assist a Federal Emergency Management Agency site to counsel those dealing with a roller coaster of emotions.

He discovered that one man had just lost his daughter in the storm, and the next couple he talked with had lost a son. “I was just privileged to share a little bit with them and know that the God of all comfort was comforting them,” Williams said.

“You let people tell you their story,” Williams said of a chaplain’s role. He explained that as chaplains listen to people, they are also in prayer and seeking what the Lord would have them share.

“Sometimes Scripture comes to mind,” he divulged, and added that occasionally even just a small joke or a laugh can provide needed relief to hurting people. During his recent service in Tuscaloosa, he observed many people of faith who were comforting others in midst of their own loss and grief.

As a chaplain, Williams must be ready to adapt because each ministering opportunity is different. He has noticed that some of the very people he is there to talk with cannot adequately express their emotions due to the overwhelming nature of what they have just been through.

However, he has often found that when he aids the chain saw and cleanup crews, that very act of physical labor will sometimes open the door for spiritual conversations.

Williams heartily recommends chaplain training for anyone going through Baptist disaster relief training. Chaplain trainees are told to always have their badges on hand in case they are called upon at a moment’s notice. “We stand ready,” he remarked.

For pastors or seminary students who are considering becoming a chaplain, Williams said the two-day course is “well worth the training” and many of the skills they have already developed will serve them well in a chaplain role. “[It’s] one more extension of being Christ in the world,” he said.

According to the Alabama Baptist disaster relief website, disaster relief chaplains “do not have to be ordained; they just need to be called by the Lord to minister.” In addition, there is currently a need for more Christian women to be involved in this ministry. For additional details on chaplain training, visit online at www.sbdr.org and click on the Find Your Ministry box.

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