Ground Zero chaplain moves his training institute to Steamboat


Holly Haynes, CEO, Wayne Stover, Chaplain-in-Training and Advisor and Founder Michael Haynes meet in a boardroom at the new headquarters of the Faith Based Counselor Training Institute on Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs. The institute offers faith-based counseling through donations, as well as training for crisis chaplains and restorative therapists.
Suzie Romig / Steamboat Pilot and Today

If anyone has the expertise to train crisis chaplains, it’s Michael K. Haynes, a Steamboat Springs resident and Christian counselor, who spent a year as a chaplain at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.

His service at the site nearly killed him – leading him to the point of being placed in hospice care at Steamboat three years ago. The chaplain, author and former pastor learned he had only two months to live, one of thousands diagnosed with cancer as a result of toxic exposure at the site.

Haynes arrived at Ground Zero on day three with a small group of chaplains who had driven across the country at the request of the North American Mission Board to provide first responder support.

“I had seen bad things before in my life, in the ministry and in the work that I had done, but I never saw anything like it,” Haynes recalls. “The first thing that blew me away was the stench. … People were running around in such a chaotic state. They had different expressions of fear and despair. It looked like sheer hell.

One day, near a line of first responders looking for survivors, a man came to Haynes asking, “Chaplain, can you help me? I can not stand it anymore.

“Forget it, man,” Haynes replied. “Don’t try to hold it back.”

The man collapsed crying, but later said, “I have to go back to work. Thank you for helping me.”

Haynes has set up a counseling center on the top floor of a neighboring apartment building to help the families of the victims.

“We just worked with the people and took care of the people the best we could,” he said.

Crisis chaplain Michael K. Haynes (center) is shown with first responders near the 9/11 Ground Zero site 20 years ago.
Courtesy photo

Now 79, after recovering from an eight-year battle with bladder cancer, including eight cycles of chemotherapy and radiation, Haynes said he believed God had none still finished with him.

The counselor and his daughter, Holly Haynes, moved their faith-based counselor training institute to Steamboat this fall.

The institute, which was originally established in 1996 in Temple, Texas, will host a grand opening meeting and host from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on January 10, which also marks the chaplain’s 80th birthday.

The institute’s office is upstairs at 1475 Pine Grove Road, Suite 207.

The institute’s mission is twofold. A nonprofit branch offers faith-based counseling to the public on a donation basis, while a for-profit branch offers training to certify people to become emergency counselors or restorative therapists. Certification training is offered as a two-day in-person course or online at your own pace.

The Haynes family said the institute has certified some 16,000 people around the world as crisis chaplains or restorative therapists. Many of those who complete the training are nurses, pastors, church crisis response teams, or fire, emergency, or police service workers.

“The training is open to anyone with a heartache,” said Holly Haynes, CEO of the consulting institute.

According to the Haynes family, what sets church counseling apart is the three-part approach to treating body, soul and spirit. They say the institute fills a need for people who seek denominational counseling but may not wish to visit a church or work with church staff who qualify the work as Christian counseling.

The institute works in areas such as grief and loss, chemical addiction, marriage and family, and stress and anger management. The organization plans to offer free public classes on topics such as stress, signs and symptoms of suicide, and marriage for all seasons.

A former firefighter and EMT, Haynes has run training sessions for first responders for many years and offers courses for continuing education units.

Michael Haynes now lives in Casey’s Pond, where he leads a weekly Bible study. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Haynes celebrated her daughter and husband’s wedding outside the window of Casey’s Pond as the couple stood outside.

Casey’s Pond Social Services Coordinator Katie Keller, a registered clinical social worker, believes the institute is a good addition and option for the area.

“Our community needs diapers,” Keller said. “The mental health community could use support from all perspectives. “

Pastor Troy Lewis of the Steamboat Christian Center said Haynes is a nationally recognized speaker but a locally hidden gem.

“The pandemic has created a huge need for trained people ready to help their neighbors who are battling the effects of stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and drug addiction,” Lewis added.

Haynes earned a doctorate in religion and philosophy from Christian Bible College in North Carolina, pastored four churches in Texas, and has authored, co-authored, or written 60 books, including several titles available on Amazon.

Haynes spoke to the Steamboat Christian Center, during a service recorded on the church’s YouTube channel, about his experiences at Ground Zero as the church remembered the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

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