Chaplaincy in Action: Providing Hope at Just the Right Moment
A Saturday Night Story from a Fairly New EMS Chaplain
I was at my church office late Saturday night taking a last look at my sermon for the following morning when I received a call from the director of the EMS service advising me of a situation where a young man was threatening to jump off an overpass to the highway below. They requested I come to the scene to try and talk with him. I left immediately and received another call a few minutes later letting me know that the ambulance staff had gotten him off the bridge and was on the way to the emergency room. I was right by the hospital, so I was able to meet the ambulance there and walk into the ER with the paramedics and the young man.
As they moved the young man into an exam room, he appeared quite anxious. I asked the staff if I could speak with him, and they allowed me to go in. I introduced myself to the young man as an EMS Chaplain and asked if it would be ok if I sat and spoke with him. As I sat down, he reached over and hugged me. Crying, he asked if I would please pray for him. God was evidently at work because the prayer just flowed forth. I was told that he recently lost his job and his girlfriend and was having a big fight with his parents when he jumped out of the moving car. He ran off, ultimately arriving at the bridge and deciding to commit suicide.
He was reluctant to remain in the emergency room and accept medical treatment, but I was able to help him decide to stay and allow the staff to treat him. As he began to calm down, he started telling me more about the problems in his life that drove him to the point of desperation, stating, “Nobody cares about me.” I pointed out to him that the EMS staff, hospital nurses, and I (sitting there free of charge) were all there to help him work through this.
Then, for whatever reason, I asked him, “Do you realize that the EMS crew wasn’t even responding to a call about you? After another call, they were simply returning to the station and just happened to see you straddling the guard rail on the bridge?” His face immediately lit up, and he shouted, “That’s it!!! That’s AMAZING!!!” He continued, “I had been thinking about suicide for weeks but didn’t know how to do it. When I saw that bridge, I knew I could jump off onto the roadway below, timing it so I’d be run over by a truck.” Then he got serious and said, “But I prayed one last prayer, ‘God, if you’re out there, you need to stop me right now, or I’m ending it all.’”
He said IMMEDIATELY after saying that prayer, the EMS ambulance drove onto the bridge, stopped, and turned on its lights. The paramedics got out and asked if they could talk to him before he did anything. This was when dispatch notified the EMS director, who then contacted me. They convinced him to ride to the hospital where he and I met.
As we talked over the next hour and a half like old friends, I asked if he’d like me to call his parents. He initially declined. After some more time, the nurses let us know his parents were in the waiting room and provided him with large green hospital clothing that made him laugh and explain, “I look like the Jolly Green Giant,” he agreed to let his parents come into his hospital room. When his parents arrived, after a brief moment of tension, the dad and son suddenly began hugging. I stepped back so as to not interfere with that moment. I was able to hand his dad my business card and tell him that they were free to call me if they needed anything.
The young man promised that he’d follow up with me, stating he wanted to get his life back on the right path. He promised, “If I ever contemplate suicide again, I’ll remember how absolutely and clearly God slammed that door shut today. It is not an option.”
This is an inspiring true story with edits to protect the identity of the young man involved. It highlights both God’s perfect timing and love for people as well as the positive impact that Chaplains have on a hurting world when they are willing, trained, and available to help. It is a honor to work alongside Chaplain Billy and the other hundreds of I.F.O.C. Chaplains across the world. Your work matters!
~Leadership at the International Fellowship of Chaplains