Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

15Dec/110

My Sermon Video: How to Respond to Disaster

This is a short sermon I prepared and delivered during my seminary education. It addresses the spiritual foundation we need in times of disaster to hold our life securely and the benefits of having the correct foundation. It draws from the themes and overall message of the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, as well as from Jeremiah 17.

I counsel victims of disaster and crime as a part of Victim Relief Ministries, and this sermon is based on my experience as a chaplain as well as the counsel of the Scripture. I exhort anyone in the counseling role to avoid providing answers for those in crisis, and rather to exercise a ministry of love by being present and caring for the person.

14Nov/110

Sermon: How to Respond to Disaster

Herein lies one of the life messages that God has written on my heart over the course of the past year. When I chose this topic for my second sermon for Preaching III, I wanted to allow God to speak more fully into my life after having experienced a lot of significant events in 2010 and 2011:

Last spring, I lost my cousin in a motorcycle wreck.

Since the beginning of the year, I‘ve watched and prayed from afar as one of my fellow DTS graduates cancelled Ph.D plans to fight cancer.

This summer Stacy and I spent five days counseling victims of the tornado in Hackleburg, Alabama.

This fall I’ve been on a number of deployments as a Chaplain for crime events in the city of Dallas, including a homicide at a local bank.

Needless to say, seminary deals with the tough questions of life, but I wanted more than complex theological answers about sin—I wanted to formulate a message that I felt Scripture itself compellingly communicates to us when we experience tragedy. So many sermons I hear on this topic tend to shock us by delving into the messy details of the story, say a few things about God, and then end with a fluffy, feel-good ending of someone who experienced the tragedy and came out better. That can inspire us, but it usually does not ground us God’s words to us. It just leaves us feeling good for the person whose story we’ve heard. 

God has a better message for us than that. God has a message that applies to all of us—not just those of us that come out of the tragedy blessed. A message that leaves the Words of the Bible ringing in our ears, so that we can hear God when the storm hits our lives.

Brace yourself…this is not a feel good message…it’s a challenge.

Don’t argue with me…argue with the Bible…that’s the source of the message.

Don’t just listen to me…my message is just part 1 of what God says to us in disaster, the essential part. There’s a lot more that needs to be said, and should be considered. If you need more answers, consider reading C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain or another relevant book.

And finally…send me feedback. Your responses will make me a better preacher!

Sermon Exegetical & Theological Outlines (What the Bible says)

Sermon Homiletical Outline (How I present what God is saying)

Sermon Typed Transcript and Audio (My Presentation)

24May/110

How NOT to Endure a Tornado…

The lightning flashed, the thunder clapped, the sirens wailed, and Swiss Tower residents spent a few hours together huddled in the lower floor hallways…watching television and popping popcorn…so American.

Our disposition as Americans is to expect the things we have seen on television—things that will contribute to cool stories and safe-but-scary visions of the power of nature. Somehow we all operate with the idea that “it will never happen to me”. And that’s a problem.

It’s the same problem that the hundreds of victims I counseled in Alabama had. Too many of them told me the same thing, ”I didn’t think it could ever happen to me.”  And their assumption led them to stay in their homes instead of taking shelter—later enduring the storm that ripped the home apart, threw them across the yard, and in one ladies case—sucked her out of the bathtub and into the tornado’s chaos.

I have said it once, and I’ll say it again. Tornados are the worst. Hurricanes and Wildfires can be predicted, evacuated, and avoided. Tornadoes come without much warning, a lot of destruction, and no one to blame for the devastation they leave behind. They leave destruction that traumatizes the people who endure them and the people who attempt to save others after the event—normal people who live life with the memories of the death they witnessed after the storm had passed.

It’s tornado season—if you’re playing the “it will never happen to me” game this season, please decide to play it safe from here forward. Get educated on the dangers, and take precautions whenever a tornado might strike. Get to shelter, a basement, or an interior room without windows, which shatter in the tornado every time—preferably the bathtub which holds the walls around it together. Wrap yourself in a blanket, tarp, or other protective wrap in case you get pelted with debris. Expect the tornado to rip off the roof of your home. Expect it to utterly destroy any vehicle in its path. And expect it to hit you!

In this case, I would definitely rather be safe than sorry…and I hope I might have convinced you to do the same.

See some of the devastation from Alabama here.

Read more about tornados here, including the facts that most tornados occur in the United States and that they have hit many city centers.

2May/111

Driving to Alabama…

Dear Prayer Warriors,

As some of you know, Stacy and I volunteer with a ministry that works with victims of crime, trauma, and disaster called Victim Relief Ministries (VRM).  We have been asked to go to Hamilton, AL to work with the victims of the recent tornadoes that destroyed that town. Because Tuscaloosa is the media’s primary focus, the majority of people do not know that in Marion Country, where Hamilton is located, almost as many people have died as Tuscaloosa. When the neighboring county of Franklin is included, more people have died and property destroyed than Tuscaloosa. Unfortunately, the people in these two counties have received little government disaster assistance from the state of Alabama so far, and there is an absence of the American Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, also. VRM is focusing their efforts in this area to meet unmet needs for now.  So as Patrick and I prepare to leave tomorrow morning for Hamilton, AL we ask that you lift up the following cares to our Savior:

1)      Please pray for these victims who have lost everything. Pray for their safety as they sleep outside in makeshift tents, because no one has come to help them set up shelters.

2)      Pray for the State of Alabama, the American Red Cross, and other ‘physical aid’ organizations, that they will send aid to help the people of these counties as well.

3)      Pray for the search and rescue teams who are searching for survivors and loved ones who have been reported missing. Pray for their emotional and physical protection as they are exhausted and the work is overwhelming and traumatizing.

4)      Pray for the VRM Chaplains and Crisis Responders, some who have been in Hamilton since Friday, as we minister to the lost and the hurting. May the love of Jesus be shown and the Hope of Good News shared to the hurting.  Please pray for our spiritual, emotional, and physical protection as well as endurance.  May all we say and do be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for praying for us, VRM and the victims of this disaster.

If you feel led to give, please do so through the VRM website at www.victimrelief.org. There’s a donate button on the bottom of the front page.

28Apr/110

Texas Wildfires in Possum Kingdom

Stacy and I had the privilege of serving with Victim Relief Ministries over Easter weekend as they responded to those affected by the Texas Wildfires in Possum Kingdom. We met government officials, firefighters, and homeowners and sought to minister to them in the midst of this disaster. I recently wrote a summary of our activity, and wanted to share it with you…

map of burned area

About the Fire:

The Possum Kingdom West Fire started on Wednesday, April 13th west of Possum Kingdom Lake in Stephens County. On April 19, the Jackson Ranch Fire was added to the PK Complex Fire. Management of the Complex was taken over by the Southern Area Type 1 IMT on April 20th at 08:00 and 755 personnel were committed to the Complex, including local fire departments from the DFW area, state and federal agencies and Texas Army National Guard. Two thousand homes were threatened, with a total loss of 126,734 acres, 167 homes and 124 outbuildings.

About Victim Relief’s Role in the Disaster:

Victim Relief began responding to the events on April 16th after the loss of a fireman and have been actively involved ever since, supporting the fireman, civil officials, and victims of this disaster through the end of the danger to residents. Victim Chaplains and Crisis Responders have been active in counseling those affected by loss, fear, and destruction, many of whom were forced to evacuate their homes in the midst of these events.

burned churchWP_000009

This past weekend the tireless efforts of everyone involved and the blessing of rain helped advance the fire’s containment to 90% and returned safety to the residential areas of Possum Kingdom. As residents were allowed to return to their property, Victim Relief Chaplains and Crisis Responders counseled men and women, pastors and parishoners, and builders who faced the loss of their property, their memories, their businesses, their churches, and their animals. As workers continued to staff shifts throughout the Easter holiday, Victim Relief assisted in organizing an early morning worship service on Sunday for them to attend.

Victim Relief has been in active attendance at the community meetings, and has formed a partnership with the local Baptist Association of churches in Palo Pinto county to ensure that emotional and spiritual support is readily available and accessible to victims throughout the area as they work through the effects of these events over the coming weeks and months. Our hearts and prayers are with all the people involved in these events throughout Texas, and we pray for God’s hand to be active in comforting and consoling each person affected by the fires.

(Map and Event Information courtesy of the Incident Information System Website at inciweb.org)

To contribute to Victim Relief’s efforts in serving the victims of crime, disaster, and terrorism, please donate here.