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The following is a summary of reports given by W. Derrick Lea, NAD Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) director, as he met with the local members in Orlando, Florida, to serve a community in crisis, in the week after the mass shooting.
|Part of the ACS DR team gets ready to visit Florida Hospital in Orlando, with care packages for several individuals injured in the June 12 shooting.
Photo supplied by W. Derrick Lea, ACS DR director for NAD
Upon hearing of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, I started reaching out to a couple of our ACS DR directors in and around Orlando. We first made contact with Conrad Duncan from the Florida Conference. We talked about the possible need for Crisis Care and Duncan agreed and began contacting his local providers, to ascertain their availability to assist.
I expressed our desire to be of support and informed him I’d reach out to the Florida VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to determine if teams were being used within the local community.
We also reached out to the Southeastern Conference and spoke to Ella Thompson. Glad we had contacted her, she informed us that she had received Crisis Care instruction offered by NAD a couple of years prior. Ella agreed to contact those she remembered had also gone through the training. She would check on their availability.
As we continued to gather information, reports of the circumstances surrounding the shooting continued to arrive, and it was apparent the community would need support from those trained to deliver emotional care to those affected.
Several conference and local leaders and I discussed how a deployment might work best given the circumstances surrounding the shooting, including Florida Conference and Southeastern Conference directors. We agreed to meet the following morning to discuss recovery efforts.
NAD ACS DR is in Orlando to assist the conference and local leaders on how to best help the community, including partnerships with both the governmental and the non-governmental sector.
The Plans Come Together
The next day we met. While all were aware of the shooting that had taken place the day before, not many were aware of any role ACS would have in the recovery. We explained how Crisis Care was one such area of expertise. We shared our desire to form a team with some of these individuals who had been prepared for this type of event.
Pastor Duncan was asked to identify local pastors who could assist our efforts. Thompson was asked to solicit help from Crisis Care members in the local area. I was tasked with reaching out to possible partners that could ensure our team was engaged in the recovery.
By the end of the day, Duncan and Thompson had formed a team of 15 individuals who were willing to serve as spiritual care providers for the recovery efforts. I connected with the American Red Cross, and discussed using our team in partnership with them. We also met with the Florida VOAD, who placed ACS DR as one of the key providers for spiritual care.
Next, we contacted Catholic Charities, who offered to partner with us for the duration of the event, which will be months — and perhaps longer. The United Way created a crisis hotline, and asked if we’d be willing to serve during certain designated hours.
We plan on bringing most of the team together in the morning at the Florida Conference office to confirm the roles of those involved and determine who will be responsible for each particular task. While many organizations are motivated to participate at the beginning of such events, we are setting a plan with local people who live and work directly in the community. Just as it is said all disasters are local, we believe so are all real recovery efforts, and the plan will ensure help to the end.
During the few days after the shooting, many people are volunteering to help. In some cases, there have been too many people. One indication of this was the blood center that opened — and ended up shutting down for a period of time due to the huge number of people that showed up to donate blood. While this response shows the overwhelming support communities give to those in times of crisis, the reality is many of these groups from other areas will be gone a month after the mass shooting.
With the aforementioned backdrop, ACS Disaster Response came into Florida with a desire to ensure the local community was outfitted to lead out in giving support to the affected community.
A number of activities are currently taking place by various churches, which include prayer vigils, blood drives, the offer to host funerals by several central Florida Adventist churches, and church being open for the public to come and talk.
A meeting was called with pastors from around the region to discuss some of the ways our actions might be combined to ensure a greater impact than any one church could elicit singularly.
Florida Hospital was asked to give an update as to how some of the patients transported to the hospital on Sunday were healing. The lead chaplain, Carl Ricketts, reported that many of those hurt — and their families — were in dire need of spiritual/emotional care. He shared horrifying stories from the night of the shooting.
Six crisis care workers/pastors, along with ACS Disaster Response, went to visit those families that still have members at the hospital on Wednesday morning, June 15. We had been informed by hospital personnel that no patients would be receiving care counseling that day. The police were being given priority to speak with the healing patients, and there would not be time for us to visit. But after prayer, and speaking with Ricketts, we went to the hospital.
We were placed in a holding room. One by one, a guard came to escort individuals to the bedside of those who had been injured.
It is not clear what changed, but in this setting we were able to tell the injured how much we cared for them, and we expressed our prayerful hope that they would get better. While we were not able to initiate prayers, they thanked us for showing love to them.
The staff was so moved by the effect we seemed to have we were asked to offer prayers at a prayer vigil given for the entire hospital. In addition, four individuals from the Florida conference were asked to read the names and ages of those killed. What was to be a drop off of some nice items turned into a witnessing opportunity for a group of individuals that wanted nothing more than to serve.
One of the advantages of working within the disaster response community is the relationships that are formed with groups that one may not have relations under normal circumstances. This effort is no different and one such group we connected was Catholic Charities, a large nonprofit that works all over the country rendering disaster relief services to many in crisis. One of the skills they needed in the Orlando area were spiritual care providers. Because they were familiar with ACS and some of our resources, they asked if we’d be willing to partner with them and offer these services from a resource center set up at one of their local churches.