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    Ground Crew

    Once the jets land, airport chaplain Major Ron Trickett is there to meet spiritual and emotional needs. October 17, 2016 by Ken Ramstead
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    One Sunday morning, Major Ron Trickett received a call from Vancouver International Airport, where he serves as a chaplain.

    “A 21-year-old was going home on vacation from university in Ontario,” Major Trickett says. “He thought his father was meeting him at the airport but, unbeknownst to the son, the father had died that morning while the son was in flight.”

    Now, the young man's sister, mother and grandmother were waiting at the airport chapel and Major Trickett was asked to meet the student and give him the news.

    “That was probably the toughest thing I ever had to do,” Major Trickett says, “but you have to expect the unexpected when you're an airport chaplain.”

    Reaching Out
    The sign outside room C2154 at the Vancouver International Airport reads: “Vancouver Airport Chaplaincy—Services to Airport/Airline Staff; Travelling Public; Immigrants/Refugees.”

    This concisely describes the ministry that the chaplaincy services have provided at the Vancouver International Airport for more than 25 years.

    With more than 24,000 employees and thousands of travellers passing through each day, there is a need for spiritual counselling and direction. Many have no church or faith connection and look to the airport chaplains for help when all hope seems lost.

    Recently, Major Trickett received a call for assistance from the manager of a bank branch located in the airport. An airport employee was attempting to secure a loan of several thousand dollars to repay a debt that she had incurred without her husband's knowledge. When the bank was unable to make the loan, the employee, feeling she could not face her husband, expressed thoughts of taking her own life.

    “The woman was born Catholic and so I was able to use her faith to draw her out and talk to her,” explains Major Trickett. “We were able to get her into counselling, and she is now back at work and paying down her debt.”

    Sunrise Service
    Major Trickett has been an airport chaplain since 2004, the year after he retired. There's no “average” day for him. In the morning, he might be called on to deal with a refugee situation. In the afternoon, he could be summoned to assist a passenger with special needs. Sometimes, he'll just walk around the airport chatting with people.

    After more than a decade on the job, he's developed a ministry with the staff, particularly those volunteers at the information desks set up at the entrances for domestic and international arrivals.

    “I've become their pastor in a very real sense,” Major Trickett says. “When they are sick, I visit them when they're in the hospital. I've conducted funerals and I've officiated at weddings.”

    Major Trickett was once called in to conduct the wedding for a daughter of one of the airline agents. “They'd wanted to get married in Cuba but ran up against some unexpected paperwork, so I was called in at 7:30 in the morning to tie the knot before they left,” Major Trickett smiles.

    “A Ministry Blessed”
    Not all of Major Trickett's interactions are of a happy nature.

    Sometimes a death in-flight occurs and Major Trickett is asked to meet with the waiting families, and he often shares in the debriefing of the airline crew.

    “We receive many referrals from the Canada Border Services Agency to assist immigrants and refugees who are stranded at the airport,” Major Trickett says. “There are times when Canadian citizens, for various reasons, are deported from other countries and are sent to Vancouver. Landing here, they often need a place to stay until they make other arrangements.”

    One such incident occurred when the chaplaincy office received a call from Ottawa. A Canadian citizen was being deported from Mexico. Her parents were in China and her family in Toronto wanted nothing to do with the matter.

    “I was able to find a place for her at The Salvation Army's Belkin House,” says Major Trickett, “and they were able to work with her and help her get the support she needed.

    “This truly is a ministry blessed and used by the Holy Spirit to bring comfort, aid and spiritual guidance to many.”

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