The Salvation Army provides a hot meal, a listening ear, and prayer support in Hurricane Ida relief effort
By: Philip Burn
Emotional & Spiritual Care (ESC) is an integral part of The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services. The opportunity to listen to, encourage, and pray with a storm survivor is an important aspect of our service and one of the areas that differentiates The Salvation Army from other organizations active in disaster.
ESC teams are made up of Salvation Army officers, employees, and volunteers who are specially trained to provide effective emotional and spiritual care to meet the disaster-related needs of disaster responders and affected families and individuals. Captain Jeremiah Romack, Senior Kroc Center Officer from Kerrville, Tex., is the assigned ESC Officer for the Gonzales Incident Management Team (IMT).
“My primary responsibility is to provide support to the IMT staff and all volunteers during Hurricane Ida response. The work our teams do is stressful, and the days are long, very hot, and draining,” said Capt. Romack. “That can really weigh down on a person after serving for multiple days on the front lines of disaster ministry. My job as an ESC Officer is to check in with everyone, be available to listen and pray, and make sure that all are doing well, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too.”
Captain Romack has served as an ESC Officer during two other Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services operations: in El Paso during the visit of Pope Francis’ to Juarez in 2017, and during a response to wildfires in West Texas.
“I work closely with the Incident Commander and other IMT staff. These are the folks running the entire operation, making crucial decisions related to the response effort, and managing the team of volunteers,” Capt. Romack said. “There are lots of moving parts to any response effort and I want to be available for people to talk to, or pray with, as they feel the need.”
Each morning, Captain Romack shares a devotional thought with the 51-member command post team during the morning briefing.
“My goal is to encourage staff and volunteers and remind them that we are the hands and feet of Jesus to those we encounter during the day. We don’t necessarily need to preach but can show the love of Christ through our work and actions,” said Capt. Romack. “As I work to encourage and challenge the team, my prayer is that they will be empowered to minister to others. Our team has made 4,323 emotional and spiritual care contacts since Tuesday, Aug. 31.”
Ten additional specially trained ESC Officers will arrive from the Potomac and North & South Carolina Divisions by Sept. 8. They will go out each day as part of the mobile feeding unit team, with the sole responsibility to talk with, listen to, and pray with storm survivors.
Through Sept. 6, the mobile units from the Gonzales IMT have served 102,797 meals, 57,756 drinks, and 20,540 snacks. The Salvation Army has served 177,549 meals, 117,961 drinks, and 45,658 snacks, making 6,449 emotional and spiritual care contacts across the state of Louisiana in response to Hurricane Ida.
To make a financial donation to support ongoing Hurricane Ida relief efforts, go to helpsalvationarmy.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. For the latest disaster response information, go to disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.