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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Chaplaincy: Personal Tragedies Shape Ministry’s Focus

By John W. Kennedy
July 01, 2012

In a five-year span, Jamie M. Grubb experienced three dozen significant losses in her life, including her husband, David, being laid off from IBM after 28 years; traumatic births of two grandsons and the near death of another; several relocations; church splits; serious family illnesses; the loss of extended family through death or estrangement; trampling injuries to her 12-year-old daughter by a horse; and relinquishing the long-cherished property she and David had just purchased.

“I experienced one thing after another,” Grubb says. “There were losses of dreams and the loss of hopes. I was grieving and hurt.”

Grubb looked for solace and compassion among fellow churchgoers.

“Instead of getting, ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘What can I do to help?’ I got a lot of quoting of Romans 8:28,” Grubb recalls.

While understanding the reality that God works for the good of those who love Him, Grubb points out that someone in the throes of loss doesn’t always find it to be the most comforting Scripture verse cited.

In fact, when her baby son Micaiah James died 21 years ago, Grubb says she belonged to a “hyper-faith movement” that stymied any thoughts of crying out to God in pain. She repressed her grief for 15 years. When the series of constant losses began to take place, Grubb wondered if she did indeed exhibit a lack of faith. She pondered whether she had unconfessed sin in her life.

After extensive research, Grubb figured out she just needed to go through the normal grieving process. Last December, the family — which now includes eight grown children — held a remembrance ceremony for Micaiah.

Through her personal experiences, Grubb found her ministry calling: providing practical help to those hurting from traumatic stress and grief. The passionate Assemblies of God chaplain is executive director of Hesed Hope Ministries. Grubb founded the Argyle, N.Y.-based nonprofit in 2009. The New York District of the Assemblies of God has approved Hesed Hope as the key contact and ministry during crisis and disaster.

The ministry started with funds entirely from the Grubbs’ retirement savings. The couple, now married for 30 years, stepped out in faith — just before David lost his career job. Currently all who serve, including Jamie and David, who is an adviser, are volunteers.

Much of the ministry is geared to training Christian volunteers how to be sensitive, compassionate helpers in the wake of a disaster. In essence, it is the ministry of “presence,” an opportunity for churchgoers who want to help out but haven’t known how to do so before. Participants have the option of obtaining further training through Hesed Hope Ministries that allows them to be certified as crisis and disaster response spiritual care providers. They are trained with standards of care endorsed by other larger organizations.

“People have a lot of fear-based responses because they don’t know what to say,” says the high-energy Grubb. “Often they just react with a Christian cliché.”

While disaster response must include helping people survive with medical treatment, water and food, ultimately there is more to it.

“Our primary focus is always going to be emotional and spiritual care, critical incident stress management,” Grubb says. “We can’t just say, ‘Be warmed and filled’ when someone has practical needs.”

Among last year’s projects, Hesed Hope helped with tornado relief in Missouri, Alabama and Indiana, and flood relief in Vermont and New York. However, the ministry doesn’t have enough workers to meet needs. The Salvation Army and American Red Cross requested chaplaincy help from Hesed Hope Ministries following Hurricane Irene hitting the Northeast last August, but the organization had trained only a couple dozen volunteers.

“We’ve grown in need much faster than we’ve grown in numbers,” Grubb says.

With additional funding sources and through networking, Grubb hopes Hesed Hope can train more laypeople, pastors, chaplains, counselors and health care professionals as skilled emotional and spiritual care providers. She actively pursues speaking engagements and training opportunities at churches.

Once equipped, Hesed Hope volunteers provide emotional first aid in times of distress to those impacted by disasters such as house fires, vehicle wrecks and deadly storms. Yet the training of Christians, especially those in the pews, is designed to go beyond assistance in the aftermath of a natural calamity.

“We live in a pain-filled world,” says Grubb, 53. “There are things people are going through on a daily basis — divorce, death of loved ones, job loss.”

Various studies indicate around 9 out of 10 Americans will experience or witness a traumatic event in their lifetimes.

“In doing so, they are impaired emotionally, physically, cognitively, behaviorally and spiritually,” Grubb says. “A person’s worldview can be shattered when going through significant loss.”

Emotions of victims range from a sense of feeling crazy to a belief the tragedy always will be foremost in their thinking. With early intervention, some symptoms can be alleviated. However, if unaided, they are likelier candidates for domestic violence, divorce and suicide.

“We help to reconnect them vertically with God and horizontally with others,” Grubb says.

After the post-crisis one-on-one interaction, someone from the Hesed Hope Ministries staff is available by phone around the clock. Grubb sometimes puts in 80 hours a week.

A disaster can turn a secure, content family into one on the brink of a crackup. For example, one couple lost their $200,000 home and its contents in freakish flooding. They had no flood insurance because there never had been a flood in the area; federal assistance maxed out at $30,000.

A retired couple had insurance when a tornado struck. But the coverage didn’t include removing trees that landed on top of the house. Before bulldozers came in to level the house, Hesed Hope volunteers helped remove belongings still inside.

“Added financial burdens can overwhelm people and cause them to lose hope,” Grubb says.

The ministry also trained more than 200 pastors in Haiti during 2011, after an earthquake the previous year left an estimated 300,000 dead. In the midst of such death and devastation, relief supplies only go so far.

“One pastor said, ‘What good is food and water when you don’t want to live anymore?’” Grubb notes.

While firmly believing in the power of the Holy Spirit, Grubb says at such difficult times troubled individuals need assurances that go beyond “God will provide” or “This is all for a purpose.” Because she has experienced heartache, Grubb is able to offer empathy.

“Jesus never promised that we weren’t going to suffer, but rather that He would be with us in the suffering,” Grubb says. “You can’t minister to other people if you believe nothing bad is ever going to happen to you.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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