Friday, September 30, 2005

Scientologist teams assist in storm relief

The Baton Rouge Advocate published this piece yesterday.

Many of my friends are in Louisiana or have been there are are there now, helping as Scientology Volunteer Ministers

LAKE CHARLES -- Mixed in with the Red Crosses and various military units giving help in coastal Louisiana now, one might also see the bright yellow shirts of the Church of Scientology.

On Wednesday, a crew of four Scientologists was doing its bit in Lake Charles, offering direct hands-on help to local officials by helping clear and organize government buildings in the city still recovering from the onslaught of Hurricane Rita last week.

T.J. Hensley was supervising the crew, which he said was part of an overall count of about 300 Scientologist volunteer ministers pitching in across the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Another volunteer minister, Chris Parodi, said the four-person team had come over from helping the Katrina cleanup about two days ago, offering their services wherever and however needed.

Hensley said the contingent of Scientologists who have come down to the area are also offering aid specialized to their discipline to help people deal with the trauma of what they've experienced in the wake of the devastating storms.

That's taking the form of what the Church of Scientology refers to as "assists," which look to people not familiar with the process like a light massage.

Hensley said the ministers are using the assists to help hurricane victims and emergency workers recover from the mental and spiritual strain they are dealing with.

The "assists" are meant to help cleanse some of the pain and stress from the people they are provided to, Hensley said.

The ministers have also recruited volunteers to help out with the "assists," for which the Scientologists have detailed, step-specific procedures, he said.

Parodi said that at least half the team working with the ministers is made up of volunteers from outside the Church of Scientology.

Before volunteers can perform such "assists," they are drilled on the proper way to carry them out, Hensley said.

He pointed out that the ministers are not trying to convert others to Scientology, but simply trying to help get people through trying times.

Hensley said a basic tenet of Scientology is that people are free to choose their faith, and that applies to this situation, as well.

He said some people have drawn back from aid offered by Scientologists, but that's not a problem.

"We always have an open door," Hensley said.

I also found an interesting posting on
that tells of the experiences of one Volunteer Ministers who went to Baton Rouge right after Katrina.