Melanie Howington loves people. When Texans on Mission responds to a disaster, Howington’s love draws her toward the hurting people.

Howington, a member of First Baptist Church of Nocona, is volunteer state chaplain coordinator for TXM Disaster Relief. She is one of about 40 active Texans on Mission Disaster Relief chaplains.

“I think to be a chaplain, you have to have a love for people, and you have to be able to just sit and listen to people,” she said. “You’re there to love on them and encourage them through the hard stuff, let them get through the hard stuff and then just love on them some more.”

She took a break recently in Fritch, Texas, after visiting with a local rancher who was partnering with TXM volunteers in distributing hay to ranches affected by the Panhandle fires. Howington and the rancher, a woman named Roper Cox, had already developed a strong bond in a matter of days, a bond strengthened by the crisis.

For Howington, being in Fritch was one way to answer God’s call on her life to minister to others in times of crisis. She called being a chaplain in times of crisis “a ministry of presence. It means just being there, and sometimes there’s no words spoken, and you have to be comfortable with that silence.”

She said many survivors of crises “are ready to talk; you just have to be ready to listen. And we always remember, It's not about us, and it's not about our stories. It's about Christ.”

During her deployment to Fritch, Howington found some crises experienced by survivors pre-dated the fire. One family member called on her to help smooth over a family dispute at a local aid center. With tensions running high, she said, she invited the family member and other aid workers to pray for the situation.

Howington challenged the family member to “move through” the dispute while encouraging her and praying for her. “When she left the (aid center) that day, there was a smile on her face and she was telling everyone thank you.

“That's a story that's kind of well outside of (a chaplain’s) job description,” she explained, “But you know, God puts you in the right place at the right time. We're not just chaplains to those who are affected by crisis; we're chaplains to the whole community.”