Thursday, May 26, 2022

Uvalde, TX Journal

26May22 @ 16:57

 Yesterday I boarded an airplane in Michigan (MI) to visit ministry partners, learn from Harris County Sheriff Office chaplains and the Houston PD peer support team in Texas (TX).  

In the airport, newspapers and televisions screamed of Uvalde.

Before touching down, I began reaching out to the Billy Graham Rapid Response Chaplain Team.  Since the 9/11 attack, trained chaplains have deployed to natural and manmade disasters and would be needed at the shooting site.  Emailed confirmation of chaplains being sent arrived before sunset.

Waves of chaplains are being sent and I've been asked to stand by as more are needed.  For now, the plan in Texas is to continue learning from law enforcement professionals and updating the prayer partners.  A pivot has also included journaling through my time in Texas.  

Journaling is a way for me to catch what the Holy Spirit is saying.  My blog posts avoid first person language and possessive pronouns.  Shining a spotlight on the work of the Lord is a better fit for me.  Sitting alone in a city when I like every other parent want to hug our children is messing with me.  Rather than post sterile, professional updates to the chaplaincy blog, I'm just letting you in.

There's a way I'm supposed to present to churches and a way I'm supposed to present to my family and a way I'm supposed to present to prayer or financial partners; another way to other chaplains or officers.  It's been working (maybe?) but hearing our son ask, "Why is Dad talking to us like he talks to prayer partners?" got my attention.

I talked to him this morning after 24 hours of travel and Uvalde processing.  It's just now, as I sit still enough to reflect, that I realize the reason I "used the wrong voice" is because I've been talking to more people about the disaster than I've been connecting with my family.  He heard the "disaster response chaplaincy voice" I didn't even know I was using.

Maybe I sounded like that because the thought of being a parent who - like 19 parents in Uvalde - kissed their children goodbye without know it would be the last time is debilitating.  Perhaps the thought of extending a Texas stay, because the Rapid Response Team calls my name, threatens to pull me under.  A professional voice and demeanor seems a buoy in the chilly waters of a possible deployment; to look in the eyes of parents, as a parent, frightens me.

If I sound like a parent, on the phone with our son, I might start thinking about the parents who wish they could be on the phone with their daughters and sons.  Keeping it together by being a ministry professional seems a better bet, but our teenager casually popped the bubble of my pretense.  He has been with me in appointments when I'm asking for prayer and financial support; casting vision and answering questions; leaving brochures and sharing a story.  He knows what the working voice sounds like.

Today, we talked on his way to school and he later asked his mother why I sounded off.  I sounded off because I am off.  Talking to him on the way to school, while sitting in Texas, is messing me up.  It may be a few days or weeks before I see him again, if deployed.  


In blog posts, I avoid first person language and personal pronouns.  Letting readers in is risky but being far from my wife and our children - while facing the possibility of ministering with the brokenhearted - and not journaling is riskier.  I don't have time to hold it together professionally and undertake the usual therapeutic interventions: swim, golf, read, run, stretch, nap, study, journal, walk, cook.  Compartmentalization and "keep us posted chaplain" are too heavy.  I'm just going to keep people posted and let the messiness flow a bit.  Journalism removes the first person.  A blog is not only a news source however; it's also a journal.

I came to Texas to tell of the work of the Lord among first responders but am experiencing a work of the Lord in me.

27May22 @ 18:06

Yesterday, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team sent an update on the need for Uvalde chaplains.

27May22 @ 05:04

Am in prayer because there's nothing else to do.  Self deployments are frowned upon, though driving to Uvalde to "do something" is a temptation.  Rushing into a situation uninvited is prideful and pride precedes the fall.  Parking in prayer, a drive away from Uvalde, is humbling me.

When I find things that humble me, they're often sent by the Lord.  

27May22 @ 09:22

A Texas resident with Michigan roots met for breakfast.  He's a chaplaincy prayer and financial partner for the Lansing PD outreach and underlined the impact of the Uvalde disaster on Border Patrol Agents.  Stated the unique outreach to law enforcement professionals is needed in the region.  Before the Robb School shootings, Border Patrol was dealing with human trafficking, smuggling and politics.   Some of their children were in the school on the day of the shooting.  They're hurting, yet are being asked to serve with distinction.

"Who is caring for Border Patrol?" he asked over breakfast this morning.  Passed the question on to the Rapid Response Team as we await news on the next wave of chaplain deployments.

27May22 @ 18:38

Posting a video for partner churches and families interested in more information on possible Uvalde deployment:

28May22 @ 13:11

Continuing in prayer and preparation for a possible deployment. A prayer chain is a welcome resource. 

29May22 @ 13:01

Tentacles are extensions of the host.  In murky water, a squid's tentacle snag prey before the victim sees the predator's mouth.  Uvalde has tentacles.

If child and teacher deaths took place at the mouth, 911 operators are caught in a tentacle.  Through murky waters of grief, emergency calls continue working.  A "Due to the Uvalde shooting, we are unable to take your 911 calls for service," recording may not sit well with tax paying citizens.  While Robb School occupants were being decimated, 911 operators were expected to cooly purr their greetings as if just emerging from a bath.  While you read, they're still taking calls for domestic violence, cats in trees and neighbors with loud music.  They had to listen to the chaos all day and night.  How much more anxiety is produced when 911 is called and no one picks up?  Dispatchers are caught in a tentacle.

Spouses are caught in a tentacle.  Nightly news interviews will stop long before grief's grip slackens.  A husband has already died of a broken heart.  Partners of educators and school resource officers are negotiating hypervigilence and renewed sidearm toting.  If a husband wants to carry a weapon to defend his family but does not have time to train with the weapon he's carrying, do loved ones feel more or less safe?  A natural response to Uvalde is to make sure we can do whatever we can to prevent the same where we live.  A citizen has quietly started carrying a gun this week because they're caught in Uvalde's tentacle.  

Hospital workers are caught in a tentacle.  Wounds from assault rifles may be the size of a bullet upon entry, but they're often the size of bowling balls when they exit the body.  Moaning children squirm under the care of wound technicians.  Wounds make noises when cleaned; preparing chicken, fish or steak might trigger a worker hearing the same noise.  Care givers may have never seen the elementary school but in the murky aftermath, a tentacle is fumbles for them.

In an aftermath, there's a cleanup.  Bone, skin, muscle and blood have to be removed by a hazardous materials team.  Whoever gets the contract is still watching cable news with the rest of us.  When the front line workers do suit up and go in to reclaim infrastructure for the summer or fall, there may not be as many cameras.  Laborers sweating in protective gear, doing the best they can for pay and posterity, may not be a lead story.  Who cleaned Sandy Hook?  Who cleaned Columbine, Oxford or Olathe East?  The workers in the schools are anonymously gasping in a Uvalde tentacle.  

Police records technicians are not supposed to gasp when they see investigators' photos or view body camera footage.  They're supposed to dispassionately transcribe audio files for court proceedings.  Indifferently cataloging shell casings, the body armor and rifles used to murder is a part of the job.  In a cubicle, in a cinder block building, perhaps next to a window, evidence is being organized.  Few understand the pressures of the job because of the many hoops to clear before being hired.  When no one understands, we can feel alone.  Writhing in a tentacle's coil is a lonely feeling.
Every predator understands the strategic value of isolation.  The devil knows that if he can separate you from the voices of your support community, he can surround you with the sounds of the world and the flesh.  God put us in communities of faith for our protection.  There is strength in numbers.  ~ Patrick Morley (The Four Voices, pg 162) 
There is blood in the water; spilled at Uvalde.  We are floating in the murk and tentacles search.  May the Lord Jesus protect survivors from the Fowler's snare.  
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.” ~ Psalm 91



  1. I hope that your chaplaincy deployment ministry includes organizing a listening and ACTION session with the Uvlade parents and law enforcement who (armed with guns and extensive training) failed to act in the power of the holy spirit (available to believers) and the bravery innocent children needed in a time of crisis. I pray some of the ministry dollars your financial partners share, go to support the funeral costs and mental health expenses of those left to deal with this kind of trauma. James 2:14-17 "Prayer and action...can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation." -Henri Nouwen

    1. @firstlady Thank you for your post and challenge. Henri Nouwen's words sting and stir recognition of difficult truths: disaster attracts deceivers and prayer is and isn't enough.

      Parents and law enforcement (LE) benefit from your prescription. Hearing your words, before a possible deployment, is more timely than reading them in the field. Today, the pulse is slow enough to give ears to hear...thank you.

      Chaplaincy dollars are managed by Reliant ( IRS and ECFA ( regulates where and how resources can be used. Medical or funeral expenses would be more directly covered by University Health. (