Shoulders to cry onSometimes they are the first faces people see when they lose a loved one or when they’ve lost their home to fire. They stand alongside law enforcement and provide comfort and help those in a crisis get back on their feet.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
Sometimes they are the first faces people see when they lose a loved one or when they’ve lost their home to fire. They stand alongside law enforcement and provide comfort and help those in a crisis get back on their feet.
The Dickinson Police Department and Dickinson Fire Department volunteer chaplains have seen a lot in their combined 32-plus years of service.
River of Life Church International Pastor Jim Hessler spearheaded the DPD chaplaincy program.
“My brother was in law enforcement and he told me the need of a chaplaincy program,” he said.
Much of his duties, Hessler said, include going with law enforcement officials to inform loved ones that someone has died.
“We set the program up to basically just lighten the load of the law enforcement agency,” Hessler said. “Through death notifications sometimes there is spiritual counseling and things of that nature.”
He acts on the interim until he can call the family’s pastor or priest and have them come. If they don’t have a pastor or priest, Hessler offers help.
“Sometimes I’ll even do the funeral for them,” Hessler said. “I’m not there in any means taking another pastor or priest’s responsibility.”
Firemen attend the Dickinson Evangelical Bible Church where Tim Privratsky is pastor. They approached him about pioneering the department chaplaincy “because they’ve never had one.”
“I just really admire those that give of their time like the firemen do,” Privratsky said. “Though I don’t go through all the training, I thought it was a way for me to offer my services to the community this way.”
Now he carries a pager, so he’s aware of all calls the DFD gets in case someone needs assistance. He also has firemen’s “bunker” gear so he can go just about anywhere firemen go, said DFD Chief Bob Sivak.
Hessler carries a special badge, which is similar to a police officer’s, but identifies him as a chaplain. He’s a member of an international chaplaincy group and has received training from the agency.
Hessler also lends a hand to members of the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Stark County Sheriff’s Department.
Hessler has been dependable, said DPD Capt. Stewart Stenberg.
“He’s so giving of his time,” Stenberg said. “He’s never let us down, not once.”
While Privratsky said he listens carefully each time the pager goes off, he pays closer attention to house fire calls.
“Without a doubt, anything to do with a house fire, I’m going to go,” Privratsky said. “That’s what they want me there for. Part of my job in responding is to be able to minister to those that are standing there watching their house burn.”
Privratsky said he’ll help the victims of fire by contacting the Red Cross, taking them to hotels and checking on them after the incident.
Hessler said he’s seen a lot over the years and it never gets easier.
“There’s always that area for compassion for those people because they are going through such a traumatic time,” he said, adding the hardest cases are murders and suicides.
Available during a July tornado in Dickinson, Privratsky said he hasn’t had calls lately and he hasn’t had to deal with any deaths since he has taken over as chaplain.
Religion, he said, isn’t what he focuses on when he ministers to those in need.
“My first and foremost thing is to minister to the family,” Privratsky said. “I don’t bring, what you might say, religion into the part right there.
“Whatever church or denomination they belong to, of course I’m going to encourage them to be in touch with their pastor or priest.”
Both men say those they minister to are generally appreciative and Hessler said he’s gotten letters and phone calls in that regard.
“I feel my role in prayer is very important, both for the law enforcement agency and the city,” he said.