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Anexos / Arquivos

Challenge for chaplaincy in the 21st century: Spiritual support after natural disasters

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CUNHA, David Carvalho [1]

CUNHA, David Carvalho. Challenge for chaplaincy in the 21st century: Spiritual support after natural disasters. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. 04 year, Ed. 07, Vol. 03, pp. 77-89. July 2019. ISSN: 2448-0959


The large number of occurrences of natural disasters in Brazil, especially in the last two decades, has presented itself as a challenge for chaplaincy before people who have had losses of material goods and in the lives of family members. Thus, the following question arises: how to speak to someone who lost everything, of a loving God, but who "did not prevent" disaster or "did not help" them during the moment of what happened? The present study aims to present four foundations, through biblical arguments, on which effective spiritual support after natural disasters should be made possible. Qualitative data research was conducted from the bibliographic research. In the conclusive, we highlight God's love as justification for his way of acting, and the basis for an assertive approach to be made by the chaplain in order to present to his assisted the true understanding of the purpose, will, permissions and god's providences.

Keywords: Natural disasters, chaplaincy, God, love.


Tragedies of all kinds and categories are constant facts in the history of mankind and the frequency of natural occurrences of tragic magnitudes has increased considerably in recent decades bringing large evacuations, mass demobilizations, losses irreparable materials and human lives. In this context, the service of post-natural chaplaincy emerges in order to lead the chaplain to meet people who have experienced tragedies of this nature and offer religious assistance, which comprises the collection of food, clothing, clothing, basic items for rebuilding a new home and spiritual support.

However, more important than reavering material goods, property or riches that cost some achievable price, is to obtain the healing of a trauma, emotional happiness and the real pleasure in getting back to love something and someone without the fear of losing it, that is, it is assign value to what actually represents relevance. Physical marks can certainly be solved over time or with natural artifices, but there are issues that only God will cause man to overcome and achieve the full sense of living. And here we discover the importance of God's strategy regarding the chaplain's call in this context, for even a city could be rebuilt, but if citizens do not undergo an internal reconstruction consequently in vain they will have worked the buildingers.

Therefore, the great dilemma rests on the supposed paradox that God would be fully able to predict and prevent a tragedy, but does not necessarily do so, that is, while he has incommunicado attributes to man, such as omniscience and omnipotence, he it's also love. So how to talk to someone who lost everything, of a God who loves them, but didn't stop the disaster or didn't help them in the moment of crisis? With this, what would be the Christian arguments necessary for the chaplain to be able to effectively approach someone who has experienced this fact?

This study aims to present biblical arguments that can contribute to the chaplain developing effective spiritual support after a natural disaster. For this, at first, we will define natural disasters, as well as their causes and consequences, conceptualize chapelins and chaplaincy after disasters and finally biblically support the four bases that will support the chaplain's approach.

The method used in the research was the bibliographic, using books and electronic websites as the basis for obtaining conceptual definitions, collecting information and statistics, and also, the Holy Bible was used as a source for the construction of principles necessary for the establishment of the proposed approach to chaplain, and some details of the character's story called Job are also highlighted, which for the content of this research may be the best example of someone who has experienced a catastrophe and succeeded in God rebuild his life.


All the problem that involves a great tragedy needs to be addressed in order to enable the establishment of harmony between loving God and the needy man. Thus, the relationship between natural disasters, post-disaster chaplaincy and their biblical principles to be proposed will be presented below.


Castro (1998, p. 52) defines catastrophe or disaster a[…]s: " Result of adverse events, natural or caused by man, materials and/or environmental and consequent economic and social damage […]. And, as reported on the unknown facts website the five worst disasters that occurred in this century, totaling approximately 450,000 dead, were the tsunami in Indonesia in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, the haiti earthquake in 2010 and the typhoon in the Philippines in 201[2]3. Even more current examples occurred in 2019 in Brazil, are informed on the exame site where the disruption of the Brumadinho-MG dam stands out on 01/25/2019, the storm in the city of Rio de Janeiro-RJ on 06/02/2019 and the landslide in the city of Mauá-SP on 16/02/2019[3].

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO Publishing House, 2015), some of the most common risks classified as causing natural disasters are meteorological (hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, lightning and fires), hydrological (sudden floods or floods and tsunamis), geological (volcanoes, earthquakes, mass movements such as falls, landslides, depressions), astrophysicists (meteorites), biological (epidemics and pests), and, anthropic (conflicts fires, pollution, lack of infrastructure or collapse, social clashes and terrorism). And yet, many natural disasters originate due to reckless human actions, notin[…]g that the number of natural disaster occurrences has increased by approximately five times since the 1970s, and [4]also about 4 billion people in the last two decades needed some kind of humanitarian assistance because they were homeless and homeless, injured or in an emergency situation, where more than 1.35 million people have lost their lives in the last 20 years[5].

The facts above reveal the directly proportional relationship that exists between human actions carried out in nature and the increasing increase in occurrences of natural disasters. These human interventions aim at technological development in all areas through the construction of industries and dams, the manufacture of automobiles and airplanes, the exploitation of natural resources, etc., however, the disastrous consequence of these actions is the exposure of society to meteorological, hydrological, geological, biological, anthropic risks, etc.

As described in the Bible (1993, Job, 1 and 2), Job lived in Uz, a region of Mesopotamia, had a structured family, many animals, being the richest man in the East and highlighted by God himself as an integral, straight, fearless and deviating from evil. However, he came upon him, about his 10 children and his many animals multiple disasters (biological, anthropic and meteorological), causing Job to lose all his assets, all his children and his health […]. It is worth mentioning in this catastrophic context an important statement about Job: "in all this Job did not sin, nor attributed to God lacks any." (BIBLE, Job, 1:22)


Chaplaincy represents a great divine strategy regarding the performance and reach of lives in all aspects and environments of society. Alves (2017, pg 234) agrees stating that the chaplain's area of activity goes beyond the four walls of the church leading him to the meeting of the assisted, thus enabling the reach of people who will not be in the congregational environment of the church[…] . This strategic exit carried out by the chaplain in an unconventional way aims to bring the truths of the Holy Scriptures and the comfort of God following the path "the church going to man" and not "man going to church". Religious assistance in public and private institutions, and the reach of patients in hospitals, inmates in prisons and military personnel, according to Art, are guaranteed. 1st Law No. 9,982 of July 14, 2000 (BRAZIL, 2000).

In order to improve the performance with the most varied needs, chaplainnia was divided between the various areas of society. In this context, post-disaster chaplaincy appears acting in religious assistance in particular or with public agencies, private companies, NGOs, etc. A practical example of the interest of chaplainnia in improving in the face of the need observed in the post-disaster context can be represented by the National Post-Disaster Chaplaincy Service (SENCAP), created through a non-profit Christian association , aiming to guide, train and train volunteers to act in preventions, emergency preparedness and disaster response in our territory[6].

Although not directly formalized as a religious assistance, the Bible (1993, Job, 4 to 26) shows that Jó received the visit of four men, three of them classified as his friends. And these three friends start to dialogue with Job seeking to interpret the reasons for the tragedy that occurred and guide him as to the possible means for his solution and restoratio[…]n.


When we find ourselves in extremely critical situations involving irreparable losses and almost uncontrollable emotions, we will most likely come to the conclusion that at such moments human words will become indifferent, failures and unable to minimize all the pain felt. That's because they represent human attempts at solace. However, the Apostle Paul teaches tha[…]t: " the God of all consolation, comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may also be able to comfort those who pass through any tribulation" (B[…]IBLE, 2 Corinthians, 1:4), and the psalmist declares, "sent them his word, and healed them, and freed them from their tribulations" (BIBLE, Psalms, 107:20, our griffin), so we are convinced that there are people prepared by God to bring comfort, healing, and deliverance upon any and all tribulation through the word of God. Therefore, the Bible is the instrument sufficient for the chaplain to transform the attempt of explanation and comfort in the success of explaining truth and applying comfort in the midst of chaos. Only through the Bible can the human being understand why God allows situations and how he provides facts for the realization of his purpose and his will. The Bible (1993, Job, 40:3 to 5) reveals that Job answered the propositions of his friends, but when God began to speak, that is, when the word of God came to be heard, Job recognized his insignificance and shut up to only listen and understand[…].

With this, it is necessary to highlight God's love as being the sufficient element that guarantees the preservation of his purpose and the immutability of his will for creation, providing strategic permissions and restorative measures in the history of Humanity. Then, we will develop these four principles as a subsidy for the realization of a conscious approach aimed at clarifying and transforming lives.

The Apostle John proclaims the result of such great love: "For God loved the world in such a way that he gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life." (BIBLE, John, 3:16), and ye[…]t, "for God is love." (BIBLE, 1 John, 4:8)


God is the unique reason for the existence of the universe and the supreme power of his word is sufficient to make his will real. The biblical writer of the letter to the Hebrews says that "By faith, we understand that it was the universe formed by the word of God, so that the visible came to exist from things that do not appear." (BIBLE, Hebrews, 11:3, our griffin). Accordingly, the writer of Genesis presents us with the creator's approval after concluding his creation: "God saw all he had done, and bebehes that he was very go[…]od" (BIBLE, Genesis, 1:31). And yet, making a prophetic reference to the period after Babylonian exile, the prophet Isaiah states: " the G[…]od who formed the earth, who made it and established it; who did not create it to be chaos, but to be inhabite[…]d" (BIBLE, Isaiah, 45:18). Therefore, on this panorama God reveals the great purpose for the creation of the universe: the dwelling of the human being. A gracefully loving purpose was cleverly planned and carefully executed, resulting in a perfect environment for our dwelling. As an example, on this perspective, one can highlight God's care for Job's life which motivated the words of the adversary: "Chance, did you not surround him with hedge, to him, his home and to everything he has? The work of his hands blessed, and his goods multiplied on earth." (BIBLE, Job, 1:10)

With this, we present here the first point to be considered by the chaplain for his approach in a catastrophic context: The loving purpose of the creator in relation to his creation. Then, at that first moment the chaplain will present to his assisted God's initial purpose for his creation.


The Bible (1993, Genesis, 3), explains that once the universe was created, established the necessary conditions for the preservation of life and formed man, the problem of sin in the human race occurred. The disobedience of the couple (Adam and his wife) before God's express order brought disastrous consequences to all the kingdoms of creation (mineral, vegetable and animal). With this, the power of sin imprisoned all creation and cursed the earth causing thorns and weeds to be produced. Then death became a harsh reality for humanity as a direct result to the sin committed[…]. Faced with this reality, once man has placed himself in opposition to the fulfillment of the original purpose of creation, God reveals that his love is fully able to preserve his good, pleasant and perfect will. God is holy and completely immune to our acts, whether they are positive or negative. That is, there is nothing we can do good for God to love us more or evil so that he will stop loving us. Being God omniscient, the Bible (1993, 1 Peter, 1:19 and 20) will reveal that before performing creation he should decide to forgive us and provide for our salvation, for he was already knowledgeable of the realities not yet occurre[…]d. Inspired by the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul reveals that even: "c[…]reation itself will be redeemed from the captivity of corruption, for the freedom of glory of the children of God." (BIBLE, Romans, 8:21).

With this, we present the second point to be considered by the chaplain for his approach in a catastrophic context: the creator's saving will in the face of the sin of the human race. Then, in this second moment the chaplain will explain during his assistance the reality of sin and God's plan of salvation for humanity.


It is noticeable that among us human beings there is a false sense that God would react positively or negatively in correspondence to our acts. And without a doubt, this feeling would directly imply the existence of an unjust God before those who consider themselves worthy of receiving good gifts. On the other hand, the Bible (1993, Job, 3:25) clarifies the fact that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people[…]. As we will see, the example of Hurricane Patricia corroborates this statement. As reported on the website of Veja magazine this was the largest and most powerful phenomenon of the kind ever recorded in history, and the name given to this phenomenon deserves even greater attentio[7]n. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations (UN) agency, is responsible for organizing and updating the list of names[8]. It is curious the relationship that exists between the origin of the words Patricia[9], Homeland and Father, that is, the name chosen for the greatest and strongest hurricane in history relates to the word father and this may represent the deepest feeling that the human being has about the cause of a great catastrophe: God (the Father) must be solely responsible for the care of his children (human beings). Therefore, from this point of view, God should be responsible for creating good things or for allowing bad things. According to the Bible (1993, Job, 4 to 26), this theology of retribution was defended by Job's three friends, according to his speeches, in an attempt at comfort and hel[…]p.

However, the great truth is that man must be responsible for his choices and not to attribute any blame to God for its consequences. Although God is completely able to prevent tragedies, the fact that he does not stop them does not make him guilty. The Apostle Paul teaches t[…]hat: "for what man sows, it will also reap." (BIBLE, Galatians, 6:7). Going through a lifetime indifferent to God and in the end attributing to him the bad events would be at least incoherent. Sin causes separation between man and God, and when God decides through grace to pave the way for reconciliation, it represents an action at every possible opportunity. And, there are definitely specific moments when man will be more receptive or sensitive to perceiving, listening, and understanding God's purpose and will. In Job's case, this moment came only after some time of post-catastrophe reflection, where he declares, "I knew you only to hear, but now my eyes see you. So I abhor myself and regret dust and ash." (BIBLE, Job, 42:5, and 6).

The Bible (1993, Romans, 1:19 and 20) teaches that nature is one of the means of revelation to man about knowledge about God, i[…]n this case, the greatest and most tragic physical phenomena of nature must also bring revelation about the creator. The story of the Hebrews' liberation from Egyptian slavery, described by the Bible (1993, Exodus, 7 to 12), describes ten natural plagues or catastrophes sent by God so that the king of Egypt could recognize and free his people[…].

With this, we present the third point to be considered by the chaplain for his approach in a catastrophic context: God's strategic permission in the occurrence of some facts aims to enable his action in man's history. Then, in the third moment and certainly the most delicate of the whole approach, the chaplain will clarify that man's sinful actions bring reflections to this world and induce answers of nature as a consequence of these actions. And even if God does not like or does not desire such consequences he undoubtedly allows it to happen with a greater plan, allowing natural phenomena to make him known and reveal his will.


God always chooses the right time to act, for for his purpose and will to fulfill his actions must be understood. As soon as Job understood that for everything there is a purpose and a sovereign will he can declare: "I know that everything can, and none of your plans can be frustrated." (BIBLE, Job, 42:2). The correct understanding of what the almighty does needs to be directly related to what he wants to do. The Bible (1993, Job, 42) says that Job obtained divine restoration when he heard God's voice, understood his plan, and prayed for his friend[…]s. It is a fact that God interacts with our history and the very chronology of human history shows that the birth of the Lord Jesus was the initial milestone (having on the cross his consummation), of the union of two realities (the holy God and the sinful man) then separated by sin.

With this, we present the fourth point to be considered by the chaplain for his approach in a catastrophic context: God's restorative providence obeys a graceful plan. Then, at that last moment the chaplain will ensure that his assisted has understood God's purpose, will, and permissions for humanity, thus leading him to a condition in which God can provide his restoration.


The Chapelan represents the legal opportunity, strategically established by God, to guarantee the right to religious assistance beyond the four walls of the church. And, in the current context in which the occurrence of natural disasters has increased considerably, post-catastrophe chaplaincy appears as a specialization in this critical area of activity.

Considering that there is among human beings the false sense that the primary cause of every environmental tragedy is in God or at least God allowed it to happen, four points have been developed to enable the chaplain to make approaches strategies aimed at ensuring perfect spiritual support for these cases. These points are based on God's purpose, will, permissions, and providences.

The first point establishes the creator's loving purpose for his creation, since this environment in which we live has been carefully prepared for our perfect dwelling.

The second point reveals the consummation of the creator's saving will, since the reality of sin is present and has harsh consequences.

The third point clarifies that God's strategic permissions on certain occasions do not reveal the hardness of his punishment before a sinful humanity, but the power of his love even if humanity is sinner.

The fourth point takes care of God's restorative measures, since god's purpose, will, and permissions are clear, in order to create in his assisted the condition in which God can provide restoration.

Job's story clearly demonstrated that after the occurrence of tragedies and attempts at religious assistance provided inappropriately, God acted by demonstrating that he always provides means to reveal himself and to enable his transformative action. And through the restoration in all areas of your life Job can still enjoy for years of the new joy in your home […].


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[1]Engineering with emphasis on electronics (CEFET-RJ) ; Interconfessional theological seminary (Uninter); Postgraduate in Chapelia (Faveni); Postgraduate in History of Religions (Faveni).

Submitted: June, 2019.

Approved: July, 2019.

5/5 - (2 votes)
David Carvalho Cunha

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