Reaching Hurting People
December 1, 2005 - In a crisis situation, we demonstrate the heart of God when we respond with compassion and practical help.
by Jerry Paradise
You may work with people who know you are a Christian. When a crisis happens in their lives, they will likely look for you to help them and perhaps even to pray for them. "You know the Man upstairs," they may say. When tragedy hits, something shakes people in the deepest part of their spirit, and they often feel a need to get in touch with God. We, as the Body of Christ, should be the first ones on the scene to respond and to facilitate healing.
According to the American Red Cross, in the four weeks after Sept. 11, the clergy in New York City completed 42,660 contacts with people who wanted to talk. Sept. 11—and this year's hurricane season—have taught us to be ready.
What can you do in your own community to prepare, not necessarily for a hurricane or something like 9/11, but for a house fire or other tragedy that hits close to home?
At our church we formed a chaplaincy ministry and held training for those who wanted to reach out to hurting people. Then I informed our police department that we have people available who know how to listen and speak with those who have been traumatized. "We're ready to be an asset to you," I told them. Soon we started getting calls from the police department saying that they had victims who would appreciate someone to spend time with them.
One man lost his son in a house fire. Twelve of our chaplains helped him retrieve what was left of his belongings and put them in storage for him. Once the man got his new apartment, our people helped him get settled. In another fire, two children were killed, and their fellow students were traumatized. A few of our chaplains went to the school to bring comfort to students and teachers in the classroom.
We found that building a relationship with our police and fire departments, and letting them know that we are ready to be an asset to them, has helped us to be Christ's presence to those who are hurting.
Note: The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is offering an evangelism conference—“His Presence in Crisis,” June 19–22, 2006, at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, N.C. The conference is for pastors, church leaders, chaplains, or anyone interested in learning more about how to bring God’s comfort and hope to those suffering in times of crisis.