PACIFIC – It’s not as glamorous as wielding a chainsaw or cranking through a few thousand meals a day, but chaplains are playing a role in Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) as volunteers bring help, hope and healing to St. Louisans in need.
Rhonda Myers, a member of South Ridge Baptist in Jefferson City, is one of those lay chaplains. By day, she is a licensed professional counselor. But over New Years, she took her professional role, donned a yellow DR hat, and lent a friendly ear to victims of the recent flood.
Myers and her husband, Kelly, also a DR volunteer, worked at shelters at First Baptist, Arnold and at the community senior center in Pacific before going to door to door in Pacific, talking to victims, offering a hug, and sharing the gospel with the opportunity arises.
Chaplains also are responsible for observing and building up the emotional state of the disaster relief teams the work with. Working in high stress disaster areas, the need arises more often than one might think.
In this disaster, DR chaplains were able to come alongside Red Cross staff as they scrambled to respond in the first days of the flood.
“There were a lot of emotions in Pacific,” Myers said. “They were overwhelmed and we were able to help them with their anxiety and stress and then share Christ with them. This was very personal to them and there were opportunities to intercede and de-escalate their raw emotions a little bit. I truly believe it was by divine appointment. We were able to pray with them, nurture them, and connect them with Dwain (Carter, director of Missouri Baptists Disaster Relief) so they could get more help.”
Going door to door on foot, Myers said they were never turned away, but some were more open to talking than others.
“Some allowed up to pray for them, and some were more focused on what they needed to do to start cleaning up,” she said.
The chaplains carried personal care kits prepared by the community center, and had DR teddy bears ready should any kid need a smile. Or adults.
“One woman had recently lost a child, and we gave her a teddy bear,” Myers said. “That was the comfort she need that day.”
Whereas Myers might have a series of sessions with someone as a counselor in her practice, the nature of DR chaplaincy is that there is probably going to be just one meeting, and one chance to model the love of Jesus.
“I get to plant the seed,” she said. “I pray that someone maybe long after me will water it.”