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In the pipeline: Chaplaincy takes Gospel to oil fields

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–In a state with oil rigs on its state capitol grounds, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma is developing an oil field chaplaincy program.

“There are 60,000-plus people in Oklahoma employed in the oil and gas industry,” said Tom Beddow, who is coordinating the new outreach in conjunction with BGCO chaplaincy specialist Paul Bettis.

Wherever there’s an oil and gas field in the state, Beddow said, there is a Baptist church.

“And in those churches are men and women who have or are currently working in the oil and gas industry. We want to find them, train them and send them into the community as chaplains,” Beddow said.

The mission statement of the new chaplaincy ministry is to be available anytime, anywhere to be a caring and supportive presence in the lives of oil and gas industry personnel and their families.

Beddow, in addition to serving on the BGCO staff, has been appointed by the North American Mission Board. He previously served as director of counseling and family ministry at First Baptist Church in McAlester, Okla. Earlier, he owned an oil field welding business in Ada, Okla., for 20 years.

Ministers and laypeople begin the process of qualifying for oil field chaplaincy by completing the BGCO chaplaincy program and Critical Incident Stress Management training, which also can lead to an endorsement by the North American Mission Board.

Currently, there are 15 trained oil field chaplains in Oklahoma and more in the training process. “Our goal is to have 200 trained chaplains at the end of three years,” Beddow said.

Bettis noted that training also is available for individuals from states with major energy industry sectors such as Texas, Colorado and Wyoming.

Compared to disaster relief ministry’s sporadic deployments, Bettis noted there are “crisis situations every day” in the oil and gas industry. “There’s so much going on in people’s lives.”

Three key components of oil field chaplaincy are:

— Critical incident response, such as death and serious injury notification and support for grieving individuals and families.

— Education and prevention, such as alcohol, substance abuse and suicide awareness and prevention and anger and stress management.
` — Faith resources, such as pastoral counseling, support groups, Bible studies and referral options.

While Beddow is responsible for finding, training and sending out chaplains, he also is working with Baptist associations and churches to equip them to help in the oil field outreach.

Beddow told of visiting with the pastor of First Baptist Church in Calvin, Okla., which has a number of community ministries, including a free medical clinic. “They were looking for ways to minister to the drilling activity going on all around the town,” Beddow recounted.

They came up with the idea of preparing meals and feeding the crews working on rigs in the area. Beddow secured permission from the drilling company, and church volunteers fed 18 people and gave out New Testaments at one of the rigs. The church now is seeing this as a continuing ministry, feeding a “rig of the month.”

Beddow added that the church is considering opening its fellowship hall for families of workers who live in trailers in the area, noting, “It would be a great place for them to come for fellowship.”

So far this year, Oklahoma oil field chaplains have responded to numerous critical incidents, including two deaths and several serious injuries.

“A young man who lives in Woodward was hurt on a drilling rig in Canadian, Texas, and was taken to a hospital in Amarillo,” Beddow said. “Two chaplains from Guymon and Woodward were deployed, one to the rig to do critical incident debriefing and one to Amarillo to minister to the man and his family.”

Beddow said one of the chaplains was asked to return to the rig site and have prayer with the workers.

Beddow said he has developed a relationship with Oil Field Christian Fellowship, which distributes Bibles and has chaplains around the country. He was asked to pray at the annual Oil Field Prayer Breakfast recently in Houston, attended by some 800-900 people from around the world.

As Beddow continues to make contact with oil companies, he said he hopes to get Bible studies started with oil and gas employees, including online Bible studies.

For more information on the oil field chaplaincy program, contact the BGCO chaplaincy office at 405-942-3000, ext. 4326, or go to www.bgco.org, click the Ministries tab and then Oil Patch Chaplaincy.
Dana Williamson is associate editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, on the Web at www.baptistmessenger.com.

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  • Dana Williamson