Flash mob -- preparing chaplains to respond
Mon, 07 Nov 2011 - 4:30 PM CST
Whether preparing students for military chaplaincy, occupational and institutional chaplaincy or even emergency services chaplaincy, the Assemblies of God has established a reputation for providing quality chaplains to serve in a variety of ministry areas.
Military chaplains serve active duty and reserve military units. Occupational and Institutional Chaplains serve in businesses and institutional setting such as jails and prisons. Emergency Services Chaplains serve the emotional and spiritual needs within fire departments, law enforcement agencies, EMS departments, and emergency dispatch centers. They care for responders and citizens in crisis.
Recently, the Assemblies of God national Chaplaincy Department partnered with the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) to help chaplaincy students and those preparing to be emergency services chaplains experience the demands of a violent flash mob.
|Chaplains Jernigan and Cordero.|
Dr. Manuel Cordero and Chaplain Robby Jernigan were the organizers of the event. Cordero teaches a five-day intensive at AGTS called Ministry to People in Trauma and Crisis and Grief, designed mostly for AGTS students called into the military or occupational/institutional chaplaincy. Jernigan, an AG U.S. missionary, conducts online Emergency Services Chaplain training along with periodic in-classroom chaplain training classes for pastors and others who want to become involved in their local communities as emergency services chaplains.
"In Chaplaincy," AG Chaplaincy Ministries Director Alvin Worthley says, "we know that chaplains need this training in order to be prepared to minister in traumatic situations. We also believe that pastors of local churches should be prepared to respond to traumatic situations that happen in their local community."
Cordero says that a violent flash mob incident was chosen because it's cutting edge right now. "It's also critical to understand that we need to be prepared for about anything - whether it's a flash mob, a tornado that kills and destroys such as in Joplin or a hurricane that destroys and paralyzes such as the Northeast experienced earlier this year."
Although the flash mob violence was simulated, organizers of this training exercise focused on realism.
"The mob was comprised of Central Bible College and AGTS staff and students along with students from Evangel University," Jernigan says. "In this scenario, the mob started making fun of religion and then started stealing and breaking stuff at AGTS. We had several individuals who confronted the mob, and ultimately the mob turned on them. Bystanders were beaten, with one ultimately being 'shot and killed.'"
|As observers look on in the background, the flash mob takes off, leaving their "victims" behind.|
As the flash mob dispersed, a Cox Hospital EMS crew with a fully-equipped ambulance arrived on the scene to attend to the "injured," while Green Lawn Funeral Home sent members of their staff to remove the body of the "deceased." In addition, the Springfield (Missouri) Police Department and the Greene County (Missouri) Sheriff's Office were on hand to ensure safety, while students from the Evangel University Criminal Justice Department served as security for the event.
Jernigan says that although it is unlikely that a chaplain will be caught in the middle of a flash mob, there is a strong likelihood that he or she will be ministering to people who have experienced or witnessed a crisis event in their lives. These events might include someone being beaten, shot or held against their will; someone being seriously injured; someone facing or witnessing death; or a number of other traumatic life experiences.
"This is the third such live field training exercise we have conducted in cooperation with AGTS for Chaplaincy training," Jernigan says.
"Previously, we held a simulated motor vehicle accident that was the result of a drunk driver serious injuries and several deaths occurred," Jernigan says, "and the second one, we had an 'active shooter,' where a person became violent and ultimately 'executed' the AGTS president (Dr. Byron Klaus) and took hostages. For that simulation, the Federal Medical Center (located in Springfield) sent us a SWAT team and a hostage negotiation team. Several other entities and emergency services agencies also participated."
Generally speaking, the emergency services chaplain students in Jernigan's class and the students from Cordero's class did not actively participate in the field training exercise. Their challenge was to take in the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the 'crisis' and observed how trained chaplains and other responding personnel did their jobs in the midst of a crisis.
|Paramedics wheel an "injured" bystander out of the AG Theological Seminary lobby to an ambulance, while a sheet covers a shooting "victim."|
"It was an overwhelming experience for many of the students," Cordero says. "Many students commented on how there is so much to do. And afterwards, in our classes' review of the event, we discussed the different layers of victims and opportunities for ministry, as it's not just those who are personally caught in a critical incident who are impacted - family members, coworkers, friends and others can also be indirect victims of a crisis event."
"The concepts of Critical Incident Stress Management are one of the areas we cover in our training," Jernigan says. "It is recognized by the United Nations as the 'gold for assisting people (primarily emergency services personnel) who have been through a critical incident."
Jernigan says that there were a number of people, besides the students, who heard about the training and asked to come and observe the event. They included the director of corporate security for Walmart, the regional loss prevention manager from Walgreens and representatives from Greene County Office of Emergency Management. "They all wanted to know what to expect and how to use what they learned to better determine how to prepare and respond in such a crisis," Jernigan says.
In addition to being powerful training tools for the chaplaincy, Jernigan and Cordero have found that these field training events frequently are therapeutic for their students as well.
"Many times we'll have students who, due to the sights and sounds of the live event, will come face-to-face with incidents buried in their past," Jernigan says. "We spent 45 minutes after this exercise debriefing, asking students what they saw, how it affected them, ways they could minister to others in the future, and even what it drew out of them. Numerous students reflected back on their own life experiences, and found discussing them healing."
Cordero and Jernigan agree that through these field training exercises, students become better equipped to empathize with victims as well as understand the critical role they play in helping victims - at many difference levels - heal and recover.
|The "deceased" is carefully removed.|
"I also believe that the more prepared our AG districts are to respond following a crisis, whether it be a natural disaster or some act of terrorism, the better we'll be able to actively demonstrate the compassion of Christ to our communities," Cordero adds.
"Assemblies of God Chaplaincy is willing and able to provide emergency response training for churches on a local or on a district level," Worthley says. "This training is a first step for working with their local VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) and with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)."
For more information about emergency services chaplain training, contact Jernigan at email@example.com. To learn more about AGTS degree programs for chaplains, see the seminary's website. Information about the AG Chaplaincy can be found at chaplaincy.ag.org.