Disaster Relief training: Ministering to those experiencing grief and despair

By Irene A. Harkelroad | Sep 6, 2022

Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers prepare for more than disasters. They train to develop a deeper understanding of the emotional and spiritual despair caused by those events. And, they learn how to support each other as they face the suffering of those impacted by trauma.

KLOVE sponsored Crisis Response Care Training at CalvaryPHX Church Aug. 16-18. The training was offered free of charge to Disaster Relief volunteers, chaplains, pastors and first responders.

Training continued on Aug. 19-20 at the Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network office.

The instructor was Naomi Paget, an FBI crisis interventionist and chaplain, as well as chair for the National Voluntary Organizations Assisting in Disaster (VOAD) Emotional & Spiritual Care Committee. Her work in critical events and disasters spans six decades, and she has served in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief for more than 30 years.

Dr. Paget taught four Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) courses: Second Victim Syndrome, Peer to Peer Crisis Intervention, Enhancing Resilience and Crisis Care in Traumatic Grief.

“I found the Crisis Care in Traumatic Grief course eye opening,” said Karla Cox, a member of Mercy Hill Church in Phoenix. “I learned a lot about different ways people deal with grief —things I never think about.”

The course helped her recognize how she deals with loss and that loss isn’t just about death, she said.

“I … find it very helpful to know that grief is a healthy part of life, but staying in grief is not,” Cox said. “Dr. Paget taught us how to listen to others in their grief — to be a silent listener. I understand more about the value of words, things that are helpful to say and things that are not. As much as we want to, we can’t just fix things.”

This specialized training equips Disaster Relief volunteers to deal with emotional and spiritual issues and provide comfort and compassion to those experiencing loss.

In addition, Paget presented the National VOAD Memorandum of Understanding to Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force members, lead chaplains and blue hats (team supervisors). This document represents the agreement among the participating voluntary organizations throughout the country.

Annual statewide Disaster Relief training is scheduled for Feb 3-4 at Calvary PHX Church.

The initial course, “Involving Southern Baptists in Disaster Relief,” is available online at azsbc.org/dr-training/.

For more information, to volunteer or to check on upcoming Disaster Relief training, go to azsbc.org/disaster-relief/.

Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.

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