Another chaplain and I asked permission to sit next to her, while workers came and went. As mold and soil caked the threshold, we paused. Walking into someone’s life, on her worst day, is peculiar. Each call for service is different; working with another chaplain is unlike working alone. Dozens of stumbling blocks can litter the first moments with complete strangers. We paused to pray before approaching the house; paused to decide which chaplain would speak first; paused to debrief with the disaster response team. Climbing her steps, we nevertheless entered a mystery.
Open water is a mystery. Temperature, currents, chop and depth demand respect. As with big water, so with the human heart, first a toe, then toes. Slow entries tamp regret. We regretted her circumstance but remarked her adult son's haunted gaze. He had been silently watching from corners of the house and yard. I was supposed to speak first, prayed "Speak Holy Spirit," and, instead of speaking, felt led to join in looking at her shoes. While we looked down, and she rubbed her elbows, a rhythm settled.
"When did your son die?"
"Chaplain, he died three months before the hurricane."
"What was your son's name?"
"Trevor…his name was Trevor." Looking into her son's haunted eyes, but speaking to her, I asked "What's Trevor's brother's name?"
"Justin. My name is Justin."
Disaster workers called for chaplains out of concern for the compound effects of Trevor's death and the storm. Now, the volunteers were stunned to hear Justin's first words all week. Justin came from hiding, sat down with us and comforted his mother. "Can you tell us about Trevor?" My partner and I listened as Rachel and Justin wept, laughed and remembered. A sense of the depth of their suffering began to appear.
Open-ended questions lifted a mother's eyes from her shoes to focus on the people around her. A grieving brother, being strong for mom, was able to let his guard down. Another open-ended question revealed the temperature of the storm battered household. While flooding, mold and wind damage stung, their greatest needs were internal. When we asked if they wanted prayer, an eager, "Yes," preceded an invitation for the disaster response team to hold hands and bow heads together.
Together we huddled on the porch, closed our eyes and thanked the Lord for bringing Rachel and Justin through dangers seen and unseen. Before moving on to the next assignment, we gathered their information to stay in touch and set a time to return. Upon returning, Justin poured his afternoon into a discussion on Jesus' parables. Before leaving, we invited Justin to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, an eager "Yes," preceded his prayer of salvation.
Justin has since been connected to a Christ-centered church and equipped with a Bible for regular study. Training for crisis responses, a flight to the disaster, car rental and deployment expenses were covered because God has formed a team of prayer and financial partners. Each individual, family, church and business supporting the work is as unique as the circumstances demanding spiritual care.
First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is reported all over the world. ~ Romans 1:8
As the Holy Spirit continues speaking in desperate situations, a community of faith is mobilizing as Christ's hands and feet. Until Jesus returns, being sent in His name is a high privilege. Together, storm victims, first responders, prayer partners and financial supporters are trusting Jesus for changed lives.