A Day in the Life of a Chaplain
Blogging from Georgia with the Rapid Response Team
September 30, 2009 - "I like to say I’ve gone from saving people from fire, to saving them from fire of a different sort," says Al New, a chaplain coordinator with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
by Janet Chismar
View photos from this deployment »
New, a retired fire captain and paramedic, is one of the many compassionate people I was honored to meet during my brief visit to the flooded towns northwest of Atlanta. Walking along side the chaplains for a day, I witnessed repeated examples of Christ's mercy in action.
"My own compassion comes from working as a fire captain, helping people, and always being there rapidly when they needed somebody in a hurry," says New, who also was a pastor for several years.
But when he began to volunteer with the Rapid Response Team during Hurricane Katrina, New realized he no longer wanted to work in a church. "I decided being in the field right where the people are hurting and suffering is where I needed to be. No walls, just me and the Lord, and whatever the Lord had for me to do that particular day and with that particular individual."
Mary and Tom Kaplan, chaplains who live in the Atlanta area, found that "loving their neighbor" took on new significance this week.
“When we realized they needed us close to home, we felt like we needed to put our situation behind us and help here," says Mary. “It’s a wonderful feeling to say, ‘Here is my home telephone number. When all of this is over, feel free to call me.’”
Please continue to pray for all the RRT chaplains serving here, as well as the Samaritan's Purse volunteers and all the people affected by the flood.
September 30, 2009 — I already knew after attending the Rapid Response Team “Sharing Hope in Crisis” seminar a few days ago that this assignment would be special.
Although I’ve previously written RRT-related stories, the seminar gave me a fresh appreciation for the commitment, dedication and caring of volunteer chaplains.
As God so often does, He had nudged me to attend the seminar well before I knew I would be travelling to Atlanta this week. He knew it all along, naturally.
But even that sneak preview did not fully prepare me for today. As I try to convey my emotion, I struggle for the right words. I’ve just returned from an end-of-day sharing time, where both RRT chaplains and the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers join together for a meal, testimonies and prayer.
We listened to several stories of how God placed the right people in the right place at the right time to help homeowners in practical and spiritual ways. Over the next several days, I will share some of those stories.
What most touched me most tonight, however, was realizing several volunteers for both organizations took time off work, without pay, to be here. All volunteers pay for their transportation. One couple traveled from New Mexico; other individuals came from Arkansas and Indiana.
Once in a while, a volunteer will be away from home when crisis hits his or her family. Today a man learned his 11-year-old daughter developed pneumonia and spiked a fever of 107 degrees. His aunt also was hospitalized.
As soon as he shared his prayer request, a swarm of other volunteers crowded around him in support and prayer.
A Homeowner Says ‘Thanks’
I was not the only person who felt a flood of appreciation for the team. Dennis, a local homeowner, stopped by the trailer to express his gratitude in addition to picking up some much-needed personal items. I was privileged to sit across from this kind and gentle man and hear his story.
Seven years ago, Dennis’s house burned and he lost everything he owned; he has a mechanical valve in this heart and, last week, he again lost everything in the flood.
In the back of his property, a 40 by 12 foot trailer was stuffed with toys, games, shirts, pants – all still with tags on them. Every time he would stop by a store, he would buy things in bulk for the local kids. Some of the items were gifts the kids could give their parents when they couldn’t afford a present of their own.
Everything was ruined.
Yet, here he was, asking to serve the volunteers and lend a hand after dinner. I’ll let you read his own words as he thanked the team:
“I just want to say thank you. That man is having problems at home, but he is out here away from his family. You don’t know what it is like to know that you are here when you could be at home with your loved ones.
"I haven’t heard anyone complain, or whine. It’s just awesome what you are doing. Don’t stop, because you are a valuable asset in today’s world. It’s so easy to give up and think that nobody cares. You all care.
"So, kudos to all of you. Thank you for all you do.”
Dennis, I couldn’t have said it better! As Samaritan's Purse volunteers work on his house tomorrow, our video team will capture the scene. Watch for that footage next week. I will be gathering more stories and some photos that likely will post over the weekend.
In the mean time, please pray for both the SP team and the RRT chaplains as, together, they show the residents of Dallas and Woodstock, Ga., compassion in action.
Learn more about the Rapid Response Team here »
View photos from the Atlanta area and read more about this deployment.
Learn more about the work of Samaritan's Purse.