When disaster happens, chaplains are the people who are deployed to serve the mental, emotional, and physical needs of those who have been affected. We are fortunate to have two leaders in chaplaincy, Wayne and Sue Williams of the International Fellowship of Chaplains, or IFOC, right in our back yard.
Wayne serves as the President and CEO of the organization, which consists of 1600 chaplains in 48 states and 74 countries. Sue serves as the chaplain advocate and class training coordinator.
When asked how they decided to become chaplains, Sue said, “Our spiritual mentor called us and told us that it was something that we should do: that it was our future. The reason was that I really wanted to do disaster response. When Hurricane Katrina hit, I couldn’t go anywhere as a nurse. That’s how I became a part of it.”
Before becoming a chaplain, Sue had been all over the world: Peru, the tsunami zone in Sri Lanka, Argentina, and Africa, but when an opportunity came to serve in the US, everyone wanted to know what her credentials were. Just being a nurse wasn’t enough.
Wayne explains that how a chaplain differs from a minister or pastor. “A minister or a pastor has a congregation they are responsible for. A chaplain is non-denominational and is often someone in the pews who wants to be involved in the community. We are there to serve the needs of anyone in any crisis circumstances. The constitution gives chaplains rights beyond what a pastor has. We go beyond the yellow tape. We go into areas where pastors can’t.”
Today, IFOC chaplains serve in every area except the military: hospitals, hospice, disaster sites, jails, industry, etc. One main area of focus for the IFOC chaplains is serving first responders. Often these first responders come away with their own trauma from the situations they encounter. Debriefing with chaplains is key in helping to prevent them from developing PTSD.
If you are interested in exploring chaplaincy, there will be a training class in the Cincinnati area October 7-11, 2019. Please contact Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sue at email@example.com for more details.