A Listening Ear and a Word of Hope

Apr 14, 2020

With a stay-at-home order in effect for almost a month now, uncertainty continues to rise. Unemployment claims climb to record numbers, governors give daily briefings recounting numbers of lives lost and difficulties faced, and people are clamoring for human contact.

Netflix binges and quarantine snacks no longer hold us over. We’re in this for the long haul.

The Salvation Army is here if you want to talk. During times of crisis, the Army deploys its experts in disaster response to make sure people are safe, fed, and supported. And one of the most important parts of this operation is the Emotional and Spiritual Care (ESC) team. These individuals – pastors and trained volunteers – spend time with people sharing concerns and feelings, and providing prayer and spiritual guidance if requested.

In a time of social distancing, this service takes on a whole new look with an Emotional and Spiritual Care hotline (877.740.8829). The hotline connects callers to the ESC team to provide that listening ear and spiritual guidance, as well as to collect prayer requests and provide referrals to other Salvation Army and community support services.

“People are scared and don’t know what to do. We’ve been asked to socially distance and stay at home,” said Major Johanna Pook, The Salvation Army officer who started the hotline. “It is important – and more importantly, healthy – to talk about your concerns, to know there are people out there who will listen and support you.”

Since its launch, the hotline has seen a steady number of calls, now averaging 25 a day. And there is a range of requests coming in.

Envoy Scott Hurula, who is now running the ESC team, said there have been calls for prayer, calls for additional help such as financial assistance, and calls to thank the Army for its meal boxes. “On my first day on the hotline, I took a call from a woman who called to thank us for the support. I prayed with her, and then she asked to say a prayer for The Salvation Army’s team.”

Each team member asks how the caller is feeling and tries to determine if there is a support network the caller can lean on if necessary. Some callers do have a network or a church family they can call on, but are looking for additional support or referrals, such as help paying rent or utilities while on furlough. Some callers have expressed an increase in substance use and inquired after rehab programs. And some just want to pray. But mostly, they’re looking for hope.

“Being present for someone in a time of need has always been one of The Salvation Army’s missions,” said Major David Dalberg, director of The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division’s Emergency Disaster Services. “And during this time of physical separation, it is immensely important that we remain emotionally and spiritually present for others. It is a ministry we are called upon to provide, and it is our privilege.”

The Salvation Army launched a similar hotline in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and saw an immense response. 

The phone number is 1.877.740.8829. Staff are available 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and speak English and Spanish. Callers are encouraged to leave a message if they call after hours.

Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus

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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.

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