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Overcoming Crisis

Bob VandePol is a leading voice in the world of critical incident response services to the workplace. Bob is the Executive Director of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Employee Assistance and Church Assistance Programs. He is also the President of PAX Crisis Response a non-profit subsidiary of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services specializing in the delivery of crisis response training consultation and service to faith based organizations. In 2001 Bob managed a crisis centre in Manhatten after the terrorist attacks and consulted businesses and business leaders about how they can provide organizational recovery during crisis.

Bob says he was lead into crisis management because from the bottom of his heart he knows he was called to be there for people on the worst day of their life. He believes there is no greater honour or responsibility than to do that. The call came to him as a teen when he had a very close friend drown and they had visions of doing this type of work together. He is grateful now that he has been able to do this work for so long.

He had a clinical degree and did all kinds of clinical things and at one point he was dragged kicking and screaming into a workplace fatality where a young man was killed and over a thousand empployees watched him slowly die. They brought a team in and did a lot of compassionate loitering that the company said was really helpful. Then afterwards they realized they should know what they are doing next time and received specialized training. Took a holy spirit nudge to leave a good job to get in on a startup. That company was blessed by God and became the largest in this little niche of having trauma counsellors on sight for surviving employees.

How important is that? To be able to provide crisis management, trauma response when something has happened? Bob says that it is crucial. We have all had a "worst day of our lives" and we will remember who came alongside us and supported us and helped us. We will remember those also who came and weren't helpful and perhaps we will remember mostly those that didn't show up at all.

Bob's business has been working with other businesses and corporations, school, churches and universities. When tragedy happens he says that very few people get smarter. Emotions take over, everything is recircuted to basic primal parts of your brain for fight/flight. It is important to have a plan ahead of time to how we will respond to these types of situations. It is especially important for leaders. Whether it's the leader of a family, a business, a church, a school, in a community. This leader needs to think what people will need to lead them through such an event. People will get through anything but they do better when they are led well.

It is also helpful to have a personal plan. Bob says he has done a lot of research on who bounces back the best when tragedies happen. You can categorize people in 3 ways.

There's the group of people who remain victims. He says he is not putting people down but there are people that for the rest of their lives that becomes their identity. When they look in the mirror they see the issue they faced. They look out of the rear view mirror for the rest of their lives.

Another group of people are the survivors. It makes a huge difference to hear someone say they are a survivor rather than a victim. Survivors tend to bounce back quickly. They got flattened and sprang back.

There is another category of people "surthrivers". These people experience what's called post-traumatic growth. They tend to be people who suffer deeply and think and work through what the meaning of this tragedy is. Then later they find that they have grown from the tragedy.

When you put people into those categories you can figure out who is going to bounce back. Narcissistic people (me, me, me people) don't do that well but rather the first characteristic of people who survive are found by people who have a commitment and a belief in something greater than themselves, that motivates their life.

As Christians Bob believes we have a tremendous advantage here because we have the ultimate cause greater than ourselves. The Master of the Universe loves us. We can also integrate that faith into other things that are important. Our family, our profession, patriotism. Recovery is tough work and we need to be able to answer why.

They find that people who bounce back are connected in social relationships. They have access to social support. Whether that's family, their marriage, their community, their church. They have people that come alongside them and pump them up. Loners tend not to do as well. You will do better if you have access to a couple of good relationships.

A great prediction of how people will be after an incident is not how they rrreacted the day of the incident but how did they handle life challenges and grief, fear, disappointments, and sadness before the incident ever happened. You can start to do things preventably before a tragic event occurs.

PAX helps with disaster relief training. They worked with people after Hurricane Katrina and the theatre shooting in Colorado. They worked with churches in the area. That way they could openly pray with people. They did also work with businesses that were very secular and represented a lot of faiths and had they been that overt it would have been their last request for service. In those situations they need to pray and pray that the fruit of the spirit would be present with them and allow people to see Jesus when they saw them.

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