News Articles

Chaplains tackle hurricane aftermath via listening & prayer

LONG BEACH, Miss. (BP)–The 20-something woman carried a box filled with mismatched coffee cups. She held them out to the disaster relief volunteers in Long Beach, Miss.

“We lost everything, but y’all fed us. This is the only thing I can find that’s still mine. I want you to have this. I don’t want y’all drinking out of plastic,” she told Lois Sikes, a disaster relief chaplain from First Baptist Church in Clinton, Ark.

“I wanted her to keep them,” Sikes said. “I asked her if she didn’t need them and she said they didn’t have any coffee. I felt like we couldn’t not let her bless us.”

Knowing what to do can be one of the hardest things for disaster relief volunteers.

“What I thought [disaster relief] chaplaincy was and what it turned out to be are two totally different things,” said Tawyne Gibson, volunteer chaplain from First Baptist Church in Winterset, Iowa. “It’s not what you say, it’s what you listen to that makes a difference.”

Gibson and Sikes worked in Long Beach with local evacuees who returned to find damaged and destroyed homes.

“It’s deceiving when you look around. You see homes standing, but that doesn’t mean it’s livable. Sometimes that makes it harder for people to accept,” Gibson said.

Gibson told of a woman looking for help for her husband. The couple’s house had been flooded and trees were down in their yard. Her husband bought a chain saw and started working to clear the yard. But he cut himself with the chain saw.

“He wouldn’t go to get medical help and then it started to get infected,” said Gibson, who took the couple to a Red Cross nurse.

“This woman told us they were sitting in the house watching the black mold grow up the wall. We told her she had to get out of the house. It was dangerous to breathe the mold. She just looked at us and said, ‘You don’t understand, I have no where to go.’

“The hardest part about being a chaplain is you can’t fix it,” Gibson said.

“You just hope that in each conversation you can give them enough to keep them going a little longer. There’s nothing I can say to her to take away what she’s feeling. The only power I have is prayer.”

    About the Author

  • Sherri Brown