Tulsa Church Leaders Discuss Preventive Strategies For Traumatic Events

Thursday, December 16th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A group of Tulsa church leaders met Thursday to examine trends and learn lessons from school shootings and other traumatic events. They focused on preventive strategies and dealing with the aftermath of tragic events.

Long before shots were fired in Fort Gibson, there might have been clues that predicted the incident would happen. There was time for the community to plan. Joe Williams, one of the chaplains for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told the group that planning was key. "If people today are unprepared for what could happen in our communities, it's plain simple denial - it can't happen here,” he said. “It can happen here."

A local group of Baptist pastors and church counselors are planning for disaster. Whether it's a school shooting or other crisis, they might be called upon to administer emotional first aid. "People are always going to ask why?,” said Midwest City Fire Department chaplain Chuck McDade. “And whether they voice it or not, they are ultimately asking God, Why did you allow this to happen? 'Why did you allow this to take place?'"

The Baptists called in Williams to examine not only how to deal with the aftermath, but how to prevent some acts from happening at all. "We must reach the children,” Williams told the group. “If there are people in your youth group, you need to get them to name the people that are ignored by other people. They may dress differently, they may wear their hair differently."

Dr. Lonnie Latham of the Tulsa Metropolitan Baptist Association says the people who feel most disenfranchised are the ones which Baptists and other churches need to reach out to the most. “They're just people wanting to be seen,” he said. “They just want to be heard. They want to be loved. “Instead of us turning away and saying, 'Those are strange people,' our hearts need to reach out for them."