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Emergency info vital to crisis ministry

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–When a pastor’s phone rings at midnight, it often signals an emergency or tragedy — and early morning ministry.

John Sharp, pastor of North Point Community Church in Columbia, S.C., rolled over to answer his phone around midnight last summer.

Bob Hataway — a chaplain for the North American Mission Board who heads up TransAlive, a ministry to professional truckers — was on the line, telling Sharp that a driver from Columbia had been killed in an accident. Hataway asked Sharp if he’d minister to the family in crisis.

“My first thought was, ‘Is this real or could this be a dangerous prank or scam?’ After confirming its validity, my thought shifted to, ‘Can’t you find someone else?’ I just couldn’t seem to hang up the phone or give a good enough reason not to accept the opportunity,” Sharp recounted. “God wanted me to answer the phone that night and play a small part in ministering to a family in need.” And Sharp did.

Hataway, a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, said Sharp is one of many pastors grateful for the opportunity to be used by God in crisis ministry. “Ninety percent of the time, they call me back and thank me for involving them.”

Finding pastors to make death notifications to the families of truckers is but one of TransAlive’s ministries. Hataway and his wife Carol travel across the country on TransAlive’s AmCoach, a bus equipped to transport ailing and recovering truckers back to their homes. This aspect of the ministry assists about 20 truckers annually.

Of vital importance to Hataway are the 44,000-plus Southern Baptist churches nationwide which are his prime resource for Southern Baptist ministers who will be “God’s representative” to that trucker or his family. That’s one reason Hataway is such an advocate of churches publishing accurate emergency contact information. Yet, he says, many churches don’t.

“We have a Christian force that is technologically armed to meet the needs of our metropolitan as well as isolated rural communities across America, but herein lies our dilemma,” said Hataway, who often finds it difficult to locate a pastor for an emergency.

Suggesting that churches include emergency contact information at the beginning of their answering machine message, Hataway said people in distress and crises don’t need to listen to “a litany of church service hours and staff listings.”

Churches with several staff members could use a cell phone dedicated for after-hours emergencies, and rotate it among ministerial staff, he added.

Because Hataway and others rely on the Internet for church information, accurate emergency contact data is vital for crisis ministry.

The SBC lists church information at www.sbc.net under its “Church Search” tab. Many state conventions and local associations also have Web-based information about churches, and those resources can only be as accurate as the information submitted.

To ensure your church’s information is correct at www.sbc.net, or to add emergency contact information, click on Church Search menu and select “Update your church info.”

Hataway noted that contacts to churches from TransAlive can lead to expanded ministry opportunities. One such contact in Chicago resulted in two salvation decisions. “We initiate a connection from the driver to the church, then the church can visit, get to know them, lead them to the Lord and follow up in baptism.”

Saying he was humbled to be a part of TransAlive’s ministry, Sharp added, “I think this ministry is an incredible opportunity for the church to intersect hurting lives with ministry and the Gospel of Christ.

“I love the way Bob is connecting local pastors with families in need for a possible long term ministry opportunity. When would a family be more receptive to ministry than in a time of crisis?”
Kay Adkins is a freelance writer in Mountain View, Ark. Tammi Reed Ledbetter, news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, contributed to this story. For more info on TransAlive, go to www.transalive.com.

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  • Kay Adkins