Reflections from a Rapid Response Team Chaplain

By   •   November 23, 2009

Al New, a retired fire captain and paramedic, is one of the many compassionate people I was honored to meet during my brief visit to the flooded towns northwest of Atlanta this fall. A total of 42 chaplains served in the area from Sept. 24 through Nov. 19, praying with more than 1,600 people.

Here, Al takes time to reflect on what the Rapid Response Team ministry means to him personally.

Is there a particular person or situation that will forever remain in your heart and memories?

You can never forget the things you see or smell during most deployments, but it’s the people whom you continue to have a heart of compassion for even after you (as a chaplain) have gone home. You leave behind new found friends whom you have built a relationship with during a major crisis in their life.

It’s now four years post Hurricane Katrina, and my wife and I are still invited to birthday parties, weddings, and other activities in and around the St. Bernard Parish, LA, area where we shared God’s love during their crisis. We visit the area a couple of times each year just to visit with our friends.

How have you seen God move?

We as chaplains have seen God work in so many ways on deployments. We’ve experienced God sending chaplains just in time to stop suicides. We sometimes find our real purpose of visiting a home was to just to be a listening ear for someone who needed to talk. We share God’s word with them; many make changes in their lives as they accept Jesus into their hearts.

Chaplains give a compassionate heart to help those whom are hurting because they’ve just lost close friends or their pastor in a shooting on their college campus or even in their church.

How do deployments affect you personally?

As a chaplain coordinator on deployment, you’re not only dealing with your own personal emotions from the effects of the crisis but also with the emotions of the chaplains that have deployed with you. Though all are trained to work in such events, each event is different in its own way.

Chaplains may have deployed many times but react differently at each deployment depending on the circumstances surrounding the event. Some chaplains may even need to be debriefed before going home to help them release emotions they may have allowed themselves to hold in.

As for me personally I have the privilege while deployed of being able to share the events of my day with my wife (a chaplain) who deploys with me. Of course keeping a strong spiritual life and staying in tune with God is the key to being able to move forward without struggles following a deployment.

I personally consider myself blessed and privileged that God would allow me the opportunity to be in the ministry of being a BGEA chaplain. I have found myself each holiday season since becoming a chaplain thanking God for His blessing on myself and family, and for all those whom I have come in contact with during deployments.

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