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Memory Lane
Van Buren First Assembly of God's Memory Lane Alzheimer's Special Care Unit is considered the finest Alzheimer's facility in Arkansas and one of the best in the nation.

Many Assemblies of God churches care for the needy through food pantries, clothing banks, holiday meals and similar compassion ministries. But Van Buren (Arkansas) First Assembly of God may be the very first AG church to not only offer a retirement center for seniors, but now a fully-staffed care unit for individuals who have Alzheimer's or dementia.

The new $5 million, 34,000 square-foot Memory Lane Alzheimer's Special Care Unit, dedicated on November 13, was recently completed through the donation of a gift of $5 million given anonymously last November. The care unit is an addition to the already existing 60,000-square-foot Legacy Heights Retirement Center.

Senior Pastor Bobby Johnson, who has been ministering at the 1,100-member church for the past 34 years, says that in 2007 the church opened the Legacy Heights Retirement Center, offering 55 units for retirees.

Having converted a wing of the center into an Alzheimer's care unit in 2009, Johnson says at first the church struggled as the economy crash at that time took its toll. "But three years ago, a foundation offered us a $1 million grant, if we could match it," Johnson says. "We matched almost all of it and that helped us recover."

Memory Lane pictures
Much of the decor in Memory Lanes is designed to help those with Alzheimer's use their memories.

Apparently liking what Johnson and Van Buren First Assembly were doing, the same foundation came back to them this past November and offered the grant money to build a state-of-the-art Alzheimer's care facility.

AG General Treasurer Doug Clay spoke at the dedication of the new unit. "Thank you for being a wonderful and biblical example of excellence in ministry to our seniors," Clay said. "There is nothing quite like this . . . praise the Lord!"

When the new facility, which is expected to open by mid-December, is at capacity (40 patients), it will have a staff of 50 to 60 people, including nurses and other professional staff who will provide 24-hour care in private rooms. The facility is also licensed by the state.

"Memory Lane is divided into two mirroring pods of 16,000-square-feet each," Johnson says. "They each have 20 rooms and include a dining room, activities room, a beauty salon, whirlpool, an outdoor walking track within the confines of each pod, and between the pods is a safe room for residents of Legacy Heights and Memory Lane."

Clay observed that one out of eight Americans are now age 65 or older, with more than 5,500 Americans turning 65 every day. "As the percentage of older people in the population increases, problems, attitudes, responsibilities, and care related to the aging become matters of increasing concern," Clay said.

Pastor Bobby Johnson
Pastor Bobby Johnson

Johnson agrees with Clay's assessment. "Statistics say 1 out of 2 people who are 85 will contract this disease — a disease where there are no survivors."

According to what state officials have already communicated to Johnson, the new Alzheimer's facility is the best in the state and is one of the best in the nation.

"The difference is, this facility was built strictly for Alzheimer's patients — it's not an older building converted to house Alzheimer's patients," Johnson explains. "For example, our large outdoor walking track is secure, pictures and decorations are from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, which will help with memory, and each patient's door will have pictures of their family members on it."

What's more, Johnson says, those residents living at Legacy Heights and the patients soon to be a part of Memory Lane will continue to have the opportunities to hear the gospel message, through visitation of retired AG ministers and live-streaming of all church services.

And perhaps Clay summed the church's efforts up best when he said during the dedication, "Thank you for addressing this concern with care, quality and excellence."

For more information about Legacy Heights or Memory Lane, contact Van Buren First AG at info@vbfirst.com.

 

 


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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.

Jernigan and Cordero
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.'"

Flash Mob 2
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.

Flash mob 3
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.

flash mob 4
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 robbyj@ipa.net. 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.

 

Authors: Dan Van Veen

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