Alumnus Counsels Houston Survivors of Hurricane Harvey

Author: 
Mat. Deborah Belonick

Father Raphael Barberg, Alumnus, M.Div., Class of 2010
11 September 2017

This week, as our nation commemorates the terrorist attack of 9/11 and reels from the tremendous economic, ecological, and emotional destruction wreaked across the southern part of the U.S. from both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, one particular alumnus needs to be recognized: Father Raphael Barberg, who is Associate Pastor at St. Elijah Orthodox Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Why? Because he was a first responder both at Ground Zero sixteen years ago, and in Houston shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit on August 25 this summer, as a Team Member of the International Orthodox Christian Charities’ (IOCC) Emergency Response Network known as the “Orthodox Frontline.”

During the aftermath of 9/11, Father Raphael utilized his counseling expertise in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both while at Ground Zero and in the family centers set up around New York City.

In Houston recently, Father Raphael showed up onsite in various locations to meet volunteers and to provide homeowners with emotional and spiritual care (ESC), while occasionally offering a helping hand with the continuous grunt work of repairing damage done to dwellings. He spent the majority of his time at the Red Cross shelter at George R. Brown Convention Center providing ESC, and both his pastoral training and experience as a former Police Training Instructor and a former Police Lieutenant in the City of Buffalo helped him to serve others in a unique way.

While in Houston, he posted several bits on his Facebook page, which provide a brief but fascinating, touching, and sometimes humorous log of his days and nights there:

  • August 29: Left Oklahoma City this afternoon and currently in Dallas rendezvousing with other IOCC Frontline clergy. We are planning our entrance into Houston tomorrow. Prayers requested.
  • Sept 2: People are asking how I am doing in the work we are doing. Thank God it is a blessing to serve others. Don't have time to reply to all the nice notes. My apologies for not being able to give you more at this time. But the situation is improving here.
  • Sept 4: Flood victim Mustafa Herby: “The worst day in Texas,” he said, practicing his drawl, “is a better day than anywhere else in the world.” God bless these folks!
  • Sept 4: I missed being at St. Elijah's yesterday, but what a blessing to be with the good people at St. George, in Houston, as they lick their wounds and minister to their community.
  • Sept 4: The parishes here, which are victims themselves, are not letting anything stop them from serving their neighbors.
  • Sept 5: Nathanael turns 7 today. I'm sad to be away from you buddy, but Poppa loves you and will be home soon....
  • Sept 6: Can't say enough about cleanup buckets. Received joyfully and gratefully from residents who need every little bit of hope we can muster to give them.
  • Sept 6: Our team's gutting homes. Hard dirty work, but what a blessing to the victims.
  • Sept 7: [Eve of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos] "Thy nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe! The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has shone on thee, O Theotokos! By annulling the curse, He bestowed a blessing. By destroying death, He has granted us Eternal Life!"
  • Sept 8: Hygiene kits are still desperately needed. And deodorant. LOTS of deodorant.
  • Sept 8: Missing Liturgy for the Feast due to “logisticizing.” If you can go to Church, please do so and pray for me. Heading home later today.
  • Sept 9: Back home after a 10-day deployment with IOCC. I cannot be prouder of the work being done down there, and trust that the Bravo team will continue that foundation. Folks, I've seen first hand how the money donated to IOCC makes a difference. I've seen the hygiene kits and muck-buckets received eagerly and put to good use. The good work you do, does make a difference in your neighbor's lives!
  • Sept 9: Our partner Church World Service has informed us there is a tremendous need for hygiene kits and clean-up buckets to replenish the supply at the warehouse. Instructions on creating and shipping kits can be found here: iocc.org/kits.
  • Sept 11: The following list of Orthodox Christians who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks may not be complete, but it is the list that has been most widely circulated during the past decade. “With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of your departed servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting!”

Our seminary community thanks Father Raphael for his inspiring example, and we wish him Godspeed and Many Years!

P.S. Father Raphael also offered counseling following the traumatic mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, and in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.

P.P.S. Our seminary community is still collecting for IOCC’s work in Texas, following Harvey’s harsh landing, and we’ll announce the final figure representing donations soon. If you would like to donate to IOCC, which is doing its part to assist all those adversely affected, please visit www.iocc.org.