Three Airdrie-based chaplains were part of a team of six crisis-trained clergymen and women to attend a candlelight vigil in Kelowna, B.C. on July 16, in memory of five men who died in a crane collapse the week before.
Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association drove eight hours from Calgary to Kelowna last Friday to offer spiritual and emotional support to a crowd of approximately 300 people, who attended a vigil organized by the North Okanagan Labour Council.
The crane collapse occurred at a construction site in downtown Kelowna on July 12, killing four workers and one resident of a nearby building. WorkSafe BC, the provincial workers' compensation board, is still investigating the cause of the crane's collapse as of press time, alongside RCMP officers, according to media reports.
Merle Doherty, chaplain and manager of the Rapid Response Team (a core group of volunteer chaplains that are crisis trained to respond to disasters), said people who have experienced tragedy rely heavily on trained support workers and loved ones to process trauma.
When they don’t have a support system of their own, Doherty said rapid response chaplains are on hand to help victims feel and express their emotions in the wake of a tragedy.
“If we can get to a situation as quickly as possible, if we can spend time and listen with ears that are trained, we allow people to express their emotions so they don’t get bottled up,” he said. “That’s why we go and this is why we go quickly.”
Doherty was accompanied to the vigil by fellow chaplains and Airdronians Steve Taylor and Jalessa Taylor, as well as Calgarians Angela Prado, Marg Pasay and Maureen McReynolds.
Since 2002, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has responded to more than 540 crises across the globe, according to its website.
The drive to Kelowna was the second recent deployment for the Rapid Response Team, who spent two weeks in northern Ontario helping the community of Attawapiskat cope with an outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year. A team of chaplains is also preparing to deploy to B.C. to offer support to victims of ongoing wildfires in the province.
“I’m so glad to know that the organization that we are a part of has a ministry arm like this and chaplains that can go into these situations and tragedies, and we can provide that spiritual emotional care to the people who are impacted,” Doherty said.
He added the aim of the Rapid Response Team is to provide “a set of listening ears and compassionate hearts” to those who experience tragedy. He added that his team is also trained in crisis and stress-management techniques.
“[The team] listens with their ears to hear the hearts of these people,” Doherty said. “Because we are faith-based, we listen to our Holy Spirit and [we either] say something or we say nothing and just let people speak,”
“The biggest thing we’re providing is the ministry of presence and it’s the ministry of His presence.”
Doherty added their Christian faith emboldens and equips the Rapid Response Team to serve others in the wake of tragedy.
“We know that Christ goes before us. Even though I don’t know who I’m going to meet [at the vigil], even though I don’t know what someone is going to say to me, I know that Christ does,” he said. “He will empower me through the Holy Spirit to hear appropriately and to speak appropriately.
“He goes before us and He will provide everything we need when we are there.”
For more information on the Billy Graham chaplain ministry, readers are encouraged to visit billygraham.ca/RRT