Baptist relief leader discusses “tender and sensitive” moments, after the storm

Sam Porter runs Baptist Disaster Relief, a permanent project of the Southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma. In a lively interview Wednesday (May 29) he talked in some detail about operational aspects of the ongoing relief efforts by his group and diverse range of other private sector charitable operations. 
His reflections on logistics will be reported separately. What stood out in his discussion with CapitolBeatOK was his response to this question, “Are there any aspects of your work that are NOT getting the attention you think is merited?”
Porter offered this, touching a matter he had not discussed previously because it “it was so tender and sensitive.” 
He continued, “I admire the emotional and spiritual counseling that has been done by 400 trained chaplains, many of them Baptist. I want you to understand, these are persons who are Baptist, Assembly of God, Methodist and other churches. Because of our past experience, the public officials in Moore asked us to set up shop at First Baptist of Moore.”
Those who gathered 10 nights ago at First Baptist included the parents of children from Plaza Towers Elementary School, devastated in the path of the tornado. While several were rescued after the storm passed, seven students died, despite the efforts of teachers and then firefighters and other responders to save them.
 “Our counselors sat with the families who were waiting to learn the fate of their children. This included the families of the children who died at the school. When the time for death notifications came, it was these trained chaplains who delivered the terrible news,” Porter told CapitolBeatOK. 
He continued, “You should understand they care and are deeply sensitive – and also have been through training to understand such terrible moments.”
Then, “At the requests of the families, these individuals sat with most all of the families, right through the funerals. The families had bonded, and the counselors had bonded with them. From the first funeral through this week, those families have sat together through each funeral, with our chaplains there, sitting with them. Most people do not see this, and don’t know it is going on, because the counseling is out-of-sight.”
Porter concluded, “Our people are there to love on the families and help them grieve. We see signs of restoration in front of our eyes. I must stress that all the faith-based groups are involved in this. The Mennonites, the Adventists, the Baptists, and so on.”
Any last words, Porter was asked? His voice was fraught with emotion: “Brother, I love what I do. I have been doing this for 20 years. Our people are doing an incredible job. I am blessed just to be part of it.”
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