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, 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 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,” said Romack. “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 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, August 31”
Ten additional specially trained ESC Officers will arrive from the Potomac and North & South Carolina Divisions by September 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.
On Sunday, after a short worship service in the command post, mobile units will be serving in Hammond (2 units), Houma (2 units), Larose, Cut Off, Lockport, Dulac, Gray, Bayou Blue, LaPlace, Bayou DuLarge, Livingston Parrish, Mt. Herman, Chauvin, and Napoleonville and two Polaris ATV units will be roaming in the Gonzales area.
The mobile units from the Gonzales IMT have served 70,506 meals, 45,974 drinks, and 17,047 snacks. The Salvation Army has served 115,738 meals, 84,548 drinks, and 31,634 snacks, across the state in response to Hurricane Ida.