The First 48 Hours: Spiritual Caregivers as First Responders by Jennifer S. Cisney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As a volunteer ambulance chaplain, I was given this book by my senior chaplain (thanks Paul!), and I am very glad to have read it. In two words: highly recommended.
Before I describe why, however, there is one bugbear to note – questionable use of the Bible.
I’ve often seen that Christian books dealing with counselling or other personal helps tend to read their pastoral situations back into texts of the Bible, and thereby determine what they think a particular Bible verse means.
So here we read of disciples, ‘Struggling with direction, full of doubt and fear, they believe they are alone’ (p.20) – this sounds more like one of the authors’ crisis care situations than an accurate portrait of Matthew 28:18-20. Yes, there are elements of this, but not as much as is claimed. And so Jesus’ closing words (‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age’) become comfort. There is, undoubtedly, an element of comfort. But also of challenge: the one with all authority has given a command and is with us!
This is important because the Bible word lives and is powerful. When Christians adopt powerful emotional ties to wrong interpretations, it’s an unstable help. One of the authors mentions how Hebrews 12:1 is a great comfort to him after his father’s death: believing that the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ witness us, rather than bear witness to the faithfulness of God (p.120). I could not help but think he will be painfully discomforted when someone points him to a more accurate reading of Hebrews 12.
Noting this point, though, I still highly recommend this book.
It has a clear focus on the first stages of helping people in crisis. It has helpful definitions (for example, the difference between critical event and crisis). And it is so very realistic – speaking of the first 48 hours as a first aid-type involvement. That is, first responders don’t need the advanced skills of fully-trained psychologists or psychiatrists.
With presence, sensitivity, compassion, one’s own life experience, and a few fundamental skills caregiving is possible.
The First 48 Hours names these skills, as well as illustrating them with real life examples. Perhaps most importantly, it generously encourages Christians to provide this type of crisis care.