by Michael Tummillo | Founder, The Church @ Work
Feb 17, 2014
I’ve served as a Workplace Chaplain – a Circuit Preacher – for nearly 8 years, my ministry originally being directed toward the over 500 employees for a Texas nursing home chain scattered from Baird to Sherman, Itasca to Grand Saline and points in-between. As the years have passed, an increasing amount of my ministry has begun to include the Residents at these facilities, too, often called to my attention by the staff who’ve come to know me. These employees consist of low-income individuals, in most cases. Many of the Residents are poor people, too. I’ve come to see this mountain of poverty-stricken folks as nothing less than another brigade of soldiers in the Lord’s Army, in need of equipping and encouragement. The training I’ve received through the Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) has been a great “tool” in my toolbox since my affiliation with ADRN.
Last Thanksgiving, preferring to serve at a church dinner rather than just stuff my own face, I contacted the Salvation Army in Brownwood and asked if they needed assistance. I wound up going to their Thanksgiving dinner along with ten people from my own church and it was great. When the staff learned I was a Chaplain, they not only requested that I open with prayer, but they insisted I offer a short devotional as well, no problem for a guy with plenty to say about my relationship with the Lord. A firm believer in “Relationship Before Function,” having established that relationship, I felt very comfortable asking, a few weeks after Thanksgiving, if I could return and do a 7-week devotional series. The Director agreed so long as each message lasted no more than 15 minutes.
Recently, because of the weather, the Director phoned to tell me the facility would not be opening; week #4 would be postponed a week. We wound up spending a good 45 minutes on the phone, witnessing to each other about the things God has done in our lives. Like myself, having served the Survivors of the West, Texas explosion through the ADRN, she served there, too, with the Salvation Army, and shared a wonderful testimony about her deployment there. When I asked her about her ministry at the Salvation Army, she shared that she tries to talk with someone at least every thirty minutes. She added, “They may not have survived an explosion like we saw in West but, most days, it’s a disaster story every 30 minutes. It’s THEIR disasters.”
She admitted many of the Volunteers don’t think about the ministry part of their work and many have no training in that. They mean well when they go into the field but they are not equipped to minister on a spiritual level. That’s where the CISM, CERT and Chaplaincy training has been an invaluable tool for us in ADRN. How can we exude confidence toward those who are hurting if we have none?
I recently went to the home of one of the nurses in our company whose husband had been sent home from the hospital to die. I found myself going through CISM with them. Also, I did a conversational debriefing with a woman who was attending the “Psychology of First Aid” training. In fact, I use my ADRN training in the nursing homes quite frequently. Several weeks ago, a young woman from my own church delivered a stillborn baby at the Cleburne hospital. CISM came in handy then, too.
As the famous story goes, when the Marine Sargent gave his battlefield report, it was, “We are surrounded by the enemy… we’ve got ’em just where we want ’em!” Likewise, we are surrounded by hurting people as we are out and about on the highways and bi-ways of life. It’s often said among Chaplains that ours is “a ministry of presence.” With that in mind – Chaplain or not – I encourage ADRN Volunteers not to wait until the next ADRN deployment to use the techniques we’ve received and, to those who are not affiliated with ADRN but could use some very practical ministry training, I highly recommend you look into what ADRN has to offer. Disasters are on the increase. There’s nothing like being prepared!