Victim Relief Ministries

Texas Baptist Men, like the Good Samaritan in scripture, are responding to the needs of victims of crime in a new way.

Through the development of a pilot program in Southwest Dallas coordinated by Texas Baptist Men, a new ministry - Victim Relief Ministries was formed. This new ministry is supported by staff and volunteers who are working to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support to victims of crime. Every crime brings suffering, pain, and loss. Victims, and their families, have immediate physical needs as well as long-term needs emotionally and spiritually, but little is done to help them in our present system. They often are left to deal with the aftermath alone - a home that is no longer secure, financial devastation, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear. They do not know where to turn for help. It is for the purpose of providing for the needs of victims of crime that Victim Relief Ministries was formed.

Gene Grounds, staff member of TBM and Director of VRM, began to recognize the need for faith based victim assistance as he listened to a presentation by Sgt. Jim Gillis of the Lockhart, Texas police department. As Sgt. Gillis described the model used by volunteers in their community, it became clear to Mr. Grounds that by adding the spiritual dimension to the model, the impact and results could be far greater in meeting the needs of victims. He has seen this become a reality as the first Victim Relief Volunteer Training and Coordinating Center in Southwest Dallas has begun operating. Through a pilot program with the Dallas Police Department, they have designed a dynamic assistance program to respond to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of victims of crime.

This is a ministry of compassion and is based on the Biblical model of the Good Samaritan parable described by Jesus in identifying how to "love our neighbor as ourself".

This new ministry is structured around a S.A.V.E. team concept; that is, Serving and Assisting with Victim Emergencies. Each victim that is referred to VRM is assigned a six member support team with a local church positioned in the center of the structure. This church will assign a VRM Coordinator to represent the resources of the church and will partner with five other team members. The team includes the referring agency, such as the police department or District Attorneys' office, a mental health counselor, a chaplain, and a S.A.V.E. Coordinator. Additional volunteers will be added to the team when appropriate.

The team responds first to any immediate needs; repair of doors, locks, and windows for securing a burglarized home; transportation to a rape crisis center or to a doctor, onsite clean-up of broken glass or general vandalism, short-term funds to pay rent, utilities, or provide a motel room; short-term funds for baby food, diapers, clothing, furniture, or for emergency shelter.

Long-term needs are then addressed. Sometimes the victim needs a job or to relocate. Almost always there is emotional trauma. Chaplains and mental health professionals partner with VRM and are on call as needed. The victim may need information about what social agencies are available. Local churches which have agreed to partner with VRM provide long-term support and friendship. The objective is to move the individual or family into a local church support situation.

In one situation, Grounds was called by a referring agency and told that a single mom sat alone at the hospital with her 3 year old daughter. The vehicle the mom was driving had been hit broadside by a drunk driver. VRM provided her with a motel room at no charge. Grounds then contacted volunteers from a local church who responded by spending time at the hospital with the mom daily, taking food and drinks to her as well as praying for her and the child. Two weeks later, the mom had to make the tough decision to take the child off life support and asked that VRM volunteers be there with her. The volunteers were there to comfort her at this difficult time. Then, at her request, volunteers were there to officiate at the burial of her precious little girl, and then connected her to a local church to continue ministering to her in the months ahead.

There are agencies regulated by the state to take care of the crime scene and paperwork, but VRM provides the reassurance that someone cares. They provide the compassion, love, and mercy of God brought through the faith community.

The goal of VRM is "to mobilize the faith community to partner with victim services organizations and law enforcement to assist in delivering appropriate physical, emotional, and spiritual support to any victim of crime in Texas" Its mission is "to provice a system of faith-based assistance from highly trained local church volunteers of all denominations reaching out to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of victims of crime."

When asked why they do this, the volunteers respond, "To exhibit the love of Christ." You can help by encouraging your church to be a partnering VRM church and be a volunteer yourself. You can help by praying for this ministry and by showing love to victims whenever you can.