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Disaster and Triumph

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two impostors just the same…

(From the famous Rudyard Kipling poem ‘If…’)

Here are two very different, but very interesting and challenging books on dealing with disasters:

1. Stephen Robinson, Ministry in Disaster Settings: Lessons from the Edge (2007).

Media news broadcasts highlighting human and natural disasters often conclude with the line, ‘So-and-so is receiving counseling’. You and I have sometimes wondered, ‘Who are those counselors? How do they cope? How do they survive, if that’s their vocation?’

Well, this book offers some well-researched answers.

Stephen Robinson, a Uniting Church minister in Sydney is both a theorist and a practitioner in the area of ‘Disaster Ministry’. This book is his doctoral project on the subject, based on conversations and interviews with clergy, chaplains and others who work in deeply traumatic circumstances. And he’s a member of various Disaster Recovery Committees.

Robinson describes the aftermath of four disaster settings: the Granville (Sydney) train disaster, the Kempsey bus crash, the Port Arthur Massacre, and the Thredbo Ski Resort Landslide. All Australians remember these horrific events.

To the question, ‘How do counselors cope?’ we have to say at least they’re not automatons. Here’s one response (by ‘Milton’ on the first day of the Granville Train Disaster): ‘I was collecting particulars… It was a man of my age that had died… there were two children, and suddenly a girl and a boy who were the same age as my children, and suddenly I just started crying…’ A pastor who helped victims of the Port Arthur Massacre got no ongoing support from his denomination. He’d lie ‘awake all night nearly vomiting with fear. It was at this point we knew we had to leave [Tasmania] and take a congregation elsewhere.’

Robinson then writes on the nature and effects of ‘Ministry on the Edge’, offers us scriptural and theological reflections on ministry in times of crisis, and lists some timely warnings for any who might feel called to get involved (like the importance of supervision).

Some useful appendices offer insights on the processes of ‘defusing’ and debriefing, and he concludes with a proposal to establish a peer support team for those who minister in disaster settings.

Read this well-written book before you ever think of venturing into this hazardous area of ministry! It is available through Christian bookshops and Stephen’s website: emergencyministry.com.au.

2. Dariel Forlong, This is My Story: From Death to Life, (Open Book 2005).

Dariel and Kevin Forlong are high-profile Pentecostal pastors, who have a prophetic ministry in Australia, New Zealand (they were originally Kiwis) and other countries. This book tells a wonderful story of courage and faith as Dariel battles with the grief of losing two of their three children to untimely deaths – one, a daughter, fifteen minutes after birth, the other, their only son, to a massive heart attack at the age of 34.

Their daughter was born severely handicapped, and the pastoral/emotional care they received was virtually non-existent: ‘Our little child was taken from us with no goodbyes… There were no words of compassion from the nursing staff, my specialist, or from anyone else. We were just informed that they would take care of her body; we were not allowed to have a funeral, and would not know where she was to be buried… It seemed that no one wanted to talk or even acknowledge that I had carried this little life for nine months…’

The rest of the story is an honest recounting of the ups and downs of life and ministry, of healings and miracles, of mission trips to Papua New Guinea and several Asian countries, and the exciting development of probably the largest Assemblies of God church in Melbourne’s western suburbs (Westside – of course! – Christian Centre).

The book ends with a beautiful, personal exposition of Psalm 23.

I have had the privilege of meeting Kevin and Dariel, and Tracey, their surviving daughter. I found them to be people of openness and integrity: and especially openness to whatever God wants for them. This book will be a challenging gift to those who need to know that in the dark times, God is not absent, although one’s rational mind might not be able to figure out the reasons for the darkness.

The Forlong’s website is at http://www.kevinforlong.org/

December 2008.

Shalom/Salaam/Pax! Rowland Croucher

http://jmm.org.au/ (20,000 articles 4000 humor)

Blogs – http://rowlandsblogs.blogspot.com/

Justice for Dawn Rowan – http://dawnrowansaga.blogspot.com/

Funny Jokes and Pics – http://funnyjokesnpics.blogspot.com/


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