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The Open Door


Chaplain Kenneth Koon asks the question, “If you saw a friend or family member, a co-worker or a neighbor who was hurting, what would you do? What if you thought such person was having suicidal thoughts? Would you ask them?”

These are questions Chaplain Koon raises in his “I Will Intervene Challenge.” In 2014, more than 1,200 individuals accepted the challenge, gaining skills that are saving the lives of those most at risk. The 3rd annual “I Will Intervene Challenge” is fully underway throughout Georgia with 277 community caregivers trained since January 1.

Perhaps you don’t think the tragedy of suicide could ever impact you, your neighbors, or your loved ones. A few years ago, Janice and I enjoyed a friendship with a delightful young lady. We were aware that she had faced numerous challenges in her life, including a difficult marriage that she was currently experiencing. I have to say that I had no idea the depth of her depression.

When I heard the news that she had taken her life, I was devastated. I had never had anything that affected me quite like that.

On numerous occasions, she and I would talk about the Bible study in which she was involved. She frequently had questions about certain Scripture passages she was studying. I could tell that she was searching for peace. I just had no idea how deeply she was hurting and struggling.

She shared with me about her love for Christ and her desire to grow in His Word. I had no doubt that she was a Christian. After her death, her family asked me to conduct her funeral. It was one of the saddest moments I have experienced in ministry.

I still think of her and wonder why I did not see her suicide coming and wish I could hit the rewind button on life and go back to those days so I could intervene and perhaps prevent a tragedy.

Recently the Pulaski-Bleckley Baptist Association hosted the one-day “I Will Intervene Challenge” workshop in Hawkinsville. The workshop curriculum emphasizes active listening for signs of risk, learning the reasons why a person is at risk, and leading the person to move toward life-promoting activities that will enhance resilience and reduce risk. The workshop makes CEU credit available to mental health professionals.

I still think of her and wonder why I did not see her suicide coming and wish I could hit the rewind button ...

Since the inception of the “I Will Intervene Challenge,” Fayetteville First Baptist Church has led the way in partnering with Armed Forces Mission to train community caregivers. The pastor, Dr. Jim Thomas, said, “It has been an honor to host the ‘I Will Intervene Challenge.’ This workshop provides the necessary tools to ‘stand in the gap’ in helping others consider life. I highly recommend this workshop for pastors, lay leaders, and anyone who serves as a caregiver in the life of the local church.”

Chaplain Koon states, “As a U.S. Army Chaplain, I have had the honor of working with more than 24,000 soldiers to build personal and spiritual resilience; many suffered with PTSD. However, PTSD is not the exclusive domain of deployed soldiers.

“Trauma is no respecter of persons; it affects us all, causing many to have thoughts of suicide. We are particularly concerned with the increasing rate of loss among young people, which has more than tripled over the past 40 years. In the past 10 years a total of 249 confirmed suicides have been reported for the counties of Bleckley, Dooly, Dodge, Pulaski, Wilcox, and Houston.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with Pulaski-Bleckley Baptist Association in an effort to build stronger community and reduce the risk of loss for all people. We are also extremely thankful for the faith community partnerships within our hometown of Fayetteville. Since the founding of Armed Forces Mission, Fayetteville FBC, Lisbon Baptist, and Dogwood Church have been faithful battle buddies in the mission.

“We are particularly grateful in 2015 to join forces with Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation. Through the support of the foundation we will be able to offer more workshops throughout the state. To register for the workshop or learn more about bringing the workshop to your community visit