The Tefts are well acquainted with providing support to those who struggle. Both retired teachers from Michigan, the Teft’s focus for several years centered on facilitating a weekly support group which assisted paroled sex offenders in the transition from incarceration to monitored freedom. “We cooked them a meal and showed them a better way. We know change moves from the inside out,” said Bob.
With their children grown and settled, the Tefts found they had time to consider options with using their abilities in productive and beneficial ways. Owning a Christmas Tree Farm and the mineral rights of the land in their home state of Michigan along with the stability of their teachers’ pensions gave them a measure of financial security.
Judy found herself reading an edition of the BGEA’s publication Decision Magazine one day in 2007. As she read about BGRRT she said she felt a definite affinity with the group and began to research the pathway to chaplaincy. Becoming volunteer chaplains was a lengthy process. Extensive references, applications, interviews, pastor’s referrals, and in-depth classes at “The Cove” retreat center in Ashville, N.C. provided the training.
According to the website, “BGRRT is a ministry of crisis trained volunteer chaplains who deploy in the aftermath of a disaster to respond to the emotional and spiritual needs of people in crisis.” The team’s mission statement encompassed the purpose Bob and Judy wanted to accomplish as they became chaplains. BGRRT team members financially support themselves when deployed, and because of their financial security, the Tefts knew they were able. Judy is quick to add there are many volunteers with both Samaritan’s Purse (a BGEA affiliate) and the Rapid Response Teams which are offered scholarship support by local churches and civic groups.
“I just knew in my heart this was the way to go,” said Judy. The Tefts have been deployed in several areas since being interviewed, accepted and trained. Their longest deployment was in Nashville a couple years ago. Bob sees their involvement as a chance to network and fellowship with new friends and to become reacquainted with fellow chaplains who are deployed alongside the Tefts. “I hope heaven is like that,” says Bob as he reflects on the close camaraderie he senses at each site.
The Tefts were deployed to Lincoln County by BGRRT to assist those who were devastated, as well as providing support to Samaritan’s Purse team members who were deployed to clear rubble and offer physical support to survivors. “It takes a spiritually high commitment; we need to show a different spiritual level,” says Judy, who knows that personal fatigue is a risk of their involvement.
Along with several others, the Tefts stayed more than three weeks and offered compassionate hearts in service to any who needed assistance.
After deployment, volunteer chaplains face going home to pick up their lives after a crisis. “It’s called ‘compassion fatigue’ and each chaplain faces it,” says Judy. Part of the chaplain training at BGRRT asks the question, “Who do you have at home who will listen to you?” The Tefts try to find support for themselves as they assume their responsibilities in Michigan.
“We chose this ministry over a local, home church ministry for this season in our lives,” says Judy. “There’s no experience like deployment.” Recently, the Tefts were offered partially funded staff positions as chaplain coordinators which will provide them the opportunity to train and teach new volunteers. Working alongside Samaritan’s Purse, the Tefts expect many years of deployment in the future.
Those who are interested in volunteering in a variety of ways through BGEA may visit their website: www.billygraham.org.