The phone rings, it is 2:19 on a Sunday morning. “Pastor, can you come?”
There is a problem.
You can’t say no, but there are a thousand thoughts immediately bouncing around in your head. Of course, you think the worst as you put on a pair of jeans and grab a jacket. Heart racing, car revving, you make your way to the scene. The blue lights are flashing, and people are all milling around. It is the worst scenario.
Sure enough, he has a gun. It is up to the edge of his head. His girlfriend has just departed, for good. There is no reason to live. What do you do?
This happened to me on one occasion. And it was the most terrifying night I had ever spent in my life. “Put the gun down, Daniel! Put the gun down Daniel!” It seemed so empty.
Thankfully it worked. The gun was finally put down, and the scene was over. Daniel is alive today and I am thankful.
Another night, another call.
“Pastor, can you come?” This time, the suicide had already been committed. The estranged husband had shot himself in front of his wife. She was left with three small children to manage from that day forward.
“Let me follow you home, Linda. I will make sure you get home safe.” And then, I left her to tell her small children that their daddy had died. I just left her there. All alone, at 4:00 am to share the terrible news.
It is one of the greatest “mistakes” of my ministry life.
Oh, how I wished that I would have been trained. Oh how I wish I knew what to do.
Out of those situations, I learned four important lessons.
- I learned to expect the unexpected. We can’t be completely prepared, but we can anticipate that people will find themselves in terrible situations. How are you going to respond to the unthinkable? You’d better think about the unthinkable because life and ministry is rarely without monthly if not weekly crises.
- I learned that ‘showing up’ is much better than not showing up. Even if you don’t know what to do, being there can only be helpful. There is something powerful about presence. Presence is something you can’t delegate. But your presence could have a lasting impact, not only on those who need you there, but also the view of Jesus in the lives of those in crisis.
- I learned that you should never leave a grieving person alone. Call someone, phone a neighbor, stay on site … anything is better than leaving. This is difficult, but after the initial ministry, your organization should have a plan and that plan should include more than you alone. You lost your superman cap back in 3rd grade, stop looking for it.
- I learned that TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL to being prepared. This is why we are offering a valuable training experience for chaplains and other ministers.
Next time, make sure you’re prepared.
Attend Hope on Call: Training for Pastors and Chaplains.
Louisiana Baptist Building, Alexandria, La.
Conference Speaker: Greg Giltner – He retired from the Oklahoma City Police Department after over 26 years of service. He was a patrolman for 23 years and over 3 years as full-time department chaplain, holding the distinction of being the first commissioned officer to be named as Department Chaplain. Greg currently serves as the Chief of Police for Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. He is married to Vonne, a second grade school teacher, and they have 5 children and 3 grandsons.