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Grief counselor for Wedgwood shooting among chaplains sharing testimonies


ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–As a chaplain at Osteopathic Medical Center in Fort Worth, Peggy Johnson is used to grief counseling. But a few weeks ago she found herself helping not just a family or two but an entire community.
At her home about two miles from Wedgwood Baptist Church, she got a phone call shortly after the massacre there that claimed eight lives. A young girl nearby had been invited to the Texas church that night by a friend, only to see her friend murdered right beside her. Over the next two days Johnson helped facilitate various grief groups as the community dealt with the tragedy.
“We mostly just let the children talk and cry and ask the questions for which there are no answers,” she said. “We tried to reassure them that it looked like nobody was in control, but that somewhere deep inside God was in control. But the main thing that we tried to tell them was that there was crying in heaven too, over what sin has done in our world.”
Johnson was among several chaplains sharing testimonies Oct. 8 at the North American Mission Board’s Alpharetta, Ga., offices. The service was part of the NAMB’s annual Chaplains and Spouses Orientation, offered to chaplains endorsed by the agency to serve in business and industry, the military, institutions and health care.
Ruby Swanigan told of her own personal pilgrimage through a variety of jobs, none of which gave her true satisfaction. As a girl she had responded to God’s call to missions, and she found peace only when she fulfilled that call by becoming a prison chaplain. She now serves with the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Tucker, Ark.
Swanigan told of one incident when her ministry was as simple as remaining silent and wiping a woman’s nose; even that was used by God in a mighty way. “She later came to know Christ, telling me that was the greatest love that anybody had ever shown her,” she said.
Bill Sheffield, a U.S. Army chaplain stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., told how military chaplains around the world are regularly leading young people to faith in Christ and ministering to them during a particularly critical period in their lives. “They expect you to tell them about the Lord,” he said. “In a way, we’re missionaries all over the world”
He also thanked Southern Baptists for their support of their chaplains through North American Mission Board networks. “I tell you there are a lot of chaplains who are not Southern Baptist who are jealous of the opportunities we get and the support and fellowship we receive. So I just want to say, ‘Thank you,’” Sheffield said.
Fred Broussard, director of the chaplaincy program at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison in Sugarland, Texas, told of his own pilgrimage from a highly paid position in the carpet industry to prison chaplaincy.
After his father died in 1980, Broussard said he made a commitment “to be as good for God as I had been for Satan.” He began volunteering in prison ministry, and ultimately left his job to direct the prison chaplaincy program in 1991. Using his business and organizational skills, he developed a base of 300 volunteers — enough to offer about 30 different programs in their own building on the prison grounds. The program now is the only one of 177 prison units in Texas with a fully functioning church on site.
“I know that with God working in our lives … and our ministry, there is no limit to where God is going to carry us,” he said.

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  • James Dotson