WV churches help grieving families

After news that 12 of 13 trapped miners were dead, a small community is determined to stay together through rough times.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BUCKHANNON, W. Va. | January 4, 2006

After the news that 12 of the 13 trapped miners were found dead, a small community is still determined to stay together through the rough times.

At Bethany Baptist Church in Buckhannon, members had already been praying via the congregation's prayer chain - and now one member says they will do anything else they can to help the families.

"We're going to step up to help the families more later on," said Evelyn Karickhoff, superintendent of Bethany Baptist. "They have plenty of food and supplies right now, but we will be ready to help when they need it later. I imagine we'll help find money to help pay their bills. That will probably be one of the biggest things we'll try to do for them."

Karickhoff said a brother of one of Bethany's parishioners is one of the lost miners, and the whole congregation is feeling the pain. Karickhoff knows the pain of losing a loved one to a mine accident firsthand as well. She lost her first husband in a mine accident years ago.

"I've been there and done that, I know what those families are going through," she said. "It's something you never get over."

She knows that the support for the families will be needed for a long time, especially since the lost miners are usually the main money-earners in the family.

"When I lost my husband, we had just built a new home that was not paid for and I had two small children. Those families will need help with bills, and they'll have funeral expenses. They might get insurance money from the mine company, but when? We'll help as we can."

Much of the community will gather for a prayer vigil Wednesday night at Queens United Methodist Church in Tallmansville.

Local clergy also continue to provide support to the community. Pastors will be available to students on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon. And some church leaders are lending support to the clergy who've been with families since the mine explosion early Monday.

Dennis Sparks, executive director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, said he is checking in with clergy to make sure everyone is taking care of themselves too. Sparks said he will also be taking part in the prayer vigil Wednesday evening, and will chat with pastors then.

"Clergy are in their 'clergy care' mode right now. It's later when they will crash and need someone to talk to themselves. Yet they don't always recognize that."

While he's never had to support clergy after a mining disaster, he does know it can be similar to the aftermath of other disasters. "We've worked extensively in flood recovery and we've spoken a lot about how do you support clergy who are dealing with their own need while helping everyone else?" Sparks explained. "Pastors don't always see their own needs, and I think there will be similarities here."

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