The time was 3:30 pm.I had just returned from a Crisis Chaplain Training in New York following the terrorist attacks on the twin towers and was extremely tired.The phone rang, and it was the Temple Texas PD where I had been serving as counselor for the last several years. “Dr. Haynes, there has been a shooting at the VA Hospital, the Chief asked if you could come immediately,” said the dispatcher.Oh how my body didn’t want to do that. Nevertheless, I said, “I’m 5 minutes away.I’ll be right there,” I responded with a deep breath.Was I ready to respond?Not really.Did I need to respond?Absolutely!Outside of the grace of God giving me the energy necessary to get in my car and go to that uncertain scene, what were the training principles that I needed to rely on to make me effective as a counselor for that particular incident?I relied on 4 things.
Availability - I learned many years ago that God was not at all interested in my ability.Or anyone else’s, for that matter.He was only wanted my availability.We have all heard that, but the truth of the matter is, most of the faith community is not available - unless it is convenient.However, if we are going to be responsive as leaders, even though it doesn’t meet our personal schedules, when God calls, we best be prepared and ready.Or should I say, Available! I never saw a time in New York when a person in a leadership capacity was not available!What is the key word here that defines our boundaries?
Adaptability – I had no clue what I would be needed to do at that murder scene when I left the house and headed to the VA.I only knew, from long-term experience, that I had to set my personal or ministry agenda aside and do what I was called on to do.I would just have to be able to adapt and fit into whatever role I was called on to do even if it meant only what I call, ‘A Ministry of Presence.’I needed to concentrate on ‘being’ and not ‘doing.’How many times and in what ways do leaders fail to adapt? Failure to adapt in New York caused immediate dismissal from the site.
Awareness – The best thing Leaders can do on any critical scene, or on any other scene is to be aware and listen.The awesome power of a listening ear can often times be of much more benefit than anything we could say or do.People sometimes just need to ventilate, and we need to give them a safe forum to do just that!Chaplains give hurting people permission to cry.We need to be ready to hear their hurts, sorrows and even anger.That’s what Chaplains do.They listen and then listen some more!
Attentiveness – This is the most important part of being prepared.The Holy Spirit is the only teacher of truth.He is the only point of discernment and wisdom. How was I to know that day that I would see two dead bodies and blood all over the room when I arrived?How could I possibly know what to say to the distraught brother of one of the victims?I had to have spiritual guidance added to what I said.I had to have wisdom beyond my training.Wisdom, or course, is the application of knowledge.If you do not know how to apply the things you have learned as a Victim Chaplain, you can sometimes do much more harm than good.So, being attentive to the leadership God and the discernment only He can give at such a serious time, a Chaplain can leave long lasting negative results.After all was said and done at that horrific event, we were able to minister to witnesses, bystanders and family members themselves.When people are trained and prepared to respond to hurting people, Chaplaincy can bring a remarkable amount of healing to the situation.