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Long-term student needs get BGAV focus

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The Virginia Tech campus currently is saturated with media representatives and an array of volunteers and professionals who want to provide help to students and families devastated by the killing rampage.

“The support system that they have right now will not last them for as long as the trauma is going to last,” Terry Raines, disaster relief coordinator for the Baptist General Association of Virginia mission board, told Baptist Press.

“In two to three weeks the students are going to disperse to go home. They’re going to be away from one another who have shared this experience and they will be away from the crisis care support network that’s in place there on campus for them,” Raines said.

With students’ long-term needs as the focus, the mission board activated two of its crisis care chaplains to develop resources that will be given to students, their parents and their home churches.

The resources will describe secondary stress, which Raines said is “sort of the common cold version of post-traumatic stress.” Chaplains will explain what symptoms to watch for and what students and parents can do to work through their feelings in a healthy way, he said.

“What do you say to these folks? What do you not say to these folks? How do you respond to questions?” Raines cited as some of the topics the resources for parents and churches will address.

“Then at the end, it will have some referral-type resources,” he said. “For the version that is sent to the churches in Virginia we will have names and contact numbers of crisis care chaplains that we have trained that are in the areas of those home churches.”

As sponsor of the Baptist Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech, the mission board has been working through the staff and students there to minister to the broader campus community. Raines said BCM staff members have developed over the years relationships with the university administration and other campus organizations, and that network will be utilized in distributing the resources developed by BGAV chaplains.

Jim Burton, senior director of the partnership mobilization division at the North American Mission Board, said the resource development “opens up a whole new dimension of long-term recovery for Southern Baptists, and I appreciate the leadership the Virginia Baptist Mission Board is giving here.”

Burton has asked Virginia leaders to tell about their plans at an upcoming national meeting of disaster response volunteers.

“I think this is a good learning curve for us because it takes a long time for people to get over this, and we’re very concerned about the students and how they respond once they get home and more of the realities begin to sink in,” Burton said.

After a conference call with Raines and Jack Noble, disaster relief coordinator for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Burton told BP something he appreciated Noble noticing.

“One of the things that Jack Noble pointed out is the agencies that had a presence on that campus before the crisis are the ones that are going to have a presence long-term,” Burton said. “I think there are a lot of people showing up in Blacksburg right now, and in every disaster a lot of times that adds to the confusion.

“But I think this points back to the strength of Southern Baptists having Baptist Collegiate Ministries,” Burton said. “The fact that it was so well established at Virginia Tech, this doesn’t give us a short-term presence. This gives us a history and a future to build upon to help this community put themselves back together.”

The BGAV’s disaster relief department also is assessing the need for a temporary childcare unit that could be deployed to the university campus to assist people who are volunteering their time to help students, Burton said.

A disaster relief kitchen unit from the SBCV continues to feed law enforcement officials and other people on campus, Burton said, adding that Southern Baptists are working alongside the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army in the effort and that Wednesday night will probably be the last time they need to prepare meals.

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  • Erin Roach