Helping the Hurting in West Virginia
Chaplains offer comfort to devastated community
April 23, 2010 - Rapid Response Team chaplains are comforting grieving people in Montcoal, W.Va., where a total of 29 miners died in an explosion, making this the worst mining disaster in the United States in nearly four decades.
RRT chaplains met brothers Bob and Tom at the office of the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal. The brothers were waiting for rescuers to recover the body of their brother Ron who had died in the mine explosion.
The chaplains listened as the men spoke about the tragedy, and their sorrow over losing their brother. Bob also works underground in another mine, and through the years the brothers had lived with the danger of their jobs. As the chaplains invited the brothers to pray, Tom shared that he knows and loves the Lord.
Bob, however, had never accepted Christ, and though he had heard the Gospel message many times, he patiently listened as they shared it again. Bob told them that he was not yet ready to invite Christ into his heart. He added that he would like to have the chaplains' phone number so that he could tell them when the time comes.
Both Bob and Tom were thankful for the literature they were given, especially pamphlets regarding grief and God's comfort. Bob had talked about his grandchildren, so the chaplains also gave him a children's book about losing a loved one.
A few days later, the chaplains met Bob at the funeral of another fallen miner, and Bob greeted them with enthusiasm and a hug. He said that he would like for the chaplains to come to his home and meet his wife and family, and asked that they bring more literature with them. When the chaplains went to Bob's home, they met his wife Tina and their adult son, Drew, who also works at the mines.
Bob's daughter had been killed some years ago, leaving an eight-year-old granddaughter, Ashley, whom Bob and Tina were raising. Ashley was excited to show the chaplains the book that her grandfather had brought home to her – the children's book that the chaplains had given to Bob when they first met him at the mine.
Ashley said that she had read through the whole book and that she had filled in all the pages that asked about her life. Ashley shared that she is sometimes worried for her grandfather and uncle as they go into the mines.
Tina's sister, Trudy, who is battling cancer, also lives with them and she came out to meet the chaplains. They all sat around the kitchen table as the family continued to share about their life. Trudy described the cancer treatments she is going through. Throughout the discussion, the chaplains learned that quite a number of family members had died of various things in recent years, including Tina’s brother and Bob's father.
After bringing words of encouragement, and reading Scripture, the chaplains went around the table and asked each one if they could remember ever committing their lives to the Lord and inviting Jesus to come into their hearts. Ashley piped up right away and said yes she had. Tina had rededicated her life to the Lord when they went to church recently with Bob's brother, Tom.
Drew had accepted Christ, but he hadn't been to church in a long time, and he wasn't sure he would go to Heaven. Trudy said that she had never invited Jesus into her heart, and Bob confirmed again that he hadn't either.
Tina smiled and said that it seemed that God has been pursuing Bob. He had met so many pastors recently who all asked the same thing, but Bob has been resisting for many years. Recently, Ashley even brought home a paper that she had written at her Christian school, expressing that she hoped that her grandfather would accept Christ. The chaplain said that he found it interesting that God had put Bob in their path several times during their time in the Montcoal area.
Then the chaplain looked at Bob and asked him if there was any good reason why today wouldn't be the day that he would like to pray and invite Christ into his heart to be his personal Lord and Savior. With great emotion, Bob started to cry and said, "I really want that."
Ashley, who was sitting on Bob’s lap, looked into his face and wiped his tears with her hand. Trudy said that she was ready too, and Drew said that he would like to know that he's going to Heaven based on Christ's grace and mercy. It was a precious moment as they all held hands and prayed to receive Christ into their hearts.
April 14 Update
The Governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, and other state and federal officials honored the 29 fallen miners at a wreath laying service at the foot of the Coal Miners' Statue at the state capitol building in Charleston on April 12.
A team of RRT Chaplains attended the service to pay their respects and minister to family and friends in attendance.
*Carl, a brother of a miner had tears in his eyes as he expressed the sorrow of losing his brother. His own son, who stood beside him, has worked in the mines and is looking for a job above ground because of the tragedy. Carl's wife asked for prayer for the family and for the lost in her family, that they might come to know Christ.
Chaplains also met the widow of *Mark, another miner as she stood with her son and daughter after the memorial service. The son smiled as he told the Chaplains that his dad was a Christian and that he knew his dad was now in Heaven. The family gathered close as the Chaplains prayed that God would bring them comfort in knowing that those, like Mark, who know Christ as Lord and Savior have eternal life.
In addition, the chaplains had the privilege of praying with a number of miners and others in attendance. One of the chaplains even had the opportunity of leading a man in attendance to Christ.
Please continue to pray for the families and friends of the deceased miners, and for whose struggling with unanswered questions.
Please visit our prayer page and offer your petitions to the Lord.
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