Epp has been an active, long-time Clark County resident and has served as minister in the community and an on-call trauma chaplain for more than two decades
BATTLE GROUND — Chances are, if you have lived around Clark County for any length of time, you know who Landis Epp is. Or, you know someone who does.
Epp has been an active, long-time Clark County resident and has served as minister in the community and an on-call trauma chaplain for more than two decades. His call and commitment in life has been to be there to help people when life hurts. He’s been present at hundreds, maybe even thousands of scenes with local fire and rescue teams serving as chaplain support for victims, and he has stood alongside families when they’ve learned that they have lost a loved one.
Epp has been the voice of comfort to many people during their times of tragedy and insurmountable devastation, and he’s conducted hundreds of funerals during his career. In each instance, he lovingly sits with families to learn more about their stories. Epp exemplifies compassion and he embodies what it means to show kinship to other human beings, no matter where they come from or what has happened.
Epp and his family moved to Battle Ground in 1979, where he worked as the pastor of Battle Ground Baptist Church. Three years later, he started volunteering as a chaplain for the Battle Ground Police & Fire Departments and it was here that he really fell in love with the role of serving people during hard times. After resigning from pastoral ministry in 1992, he decided to raise funds with a board of businessmen to start a nonprofit organization and he worked as a trauma chaplain with the organization until he retired recently at age 71.
Epp explains that a large percentage of people in the area do not have a church or religious affiliation, so when crises happen in their lives, they aren’t sure where to go for support or strength.
“Many have some sort of religious upbringing but are not in touch with a pastor or priest who can help. A chaplain can come in a non-threatening way to render help and support through the crisis,” says Epp.
He reflects that during his time as a chaplain, there were many varied calls from week to week.
“Sometimes there were calls to be there for a mother who was in distress over her child getting his finger caught in a bike chain,’’ Epp said. “There were calls for babies not breathing, which were always very hard calls. As time went by, I was called to do ‘death notifications,’ not only for the Coroner’s Office, but by out-of-state police. Then, there were the fatal accidents and follow-up calls of checking back with people a few days later to see how they were doing. Needless to say, there was never a dull moment.”
But, even in retirement, Epp is still working to serve people and their families in and around Clark County. He calls himself “semi-retired,’’ because even though he doesn’t carry a pager to respond to trauma calls, he is still called upon regularly by people who remember him and want him to be there to help support or provide funeral services.
“I continue to conduct a lot of funerals, and this month I have been working with nine families that have asked me to conduct a funeral for their loved ones,” shares Epp.
Epp goes on to explain that one of his greatest joys in his ministry as a trauma chaplain has been when people come up to him 20 years later in the strangest places and thank him for being there during their difficult times. He’s recently had three of those kinds of interactions and shares that one was especially meaningful for him.
Years ago, Epp had been called to a scene where a man had taken his own life. His wife was there and was clearly distressed, but Epp stepped in and was able to get her in touch with other family members while the coroner came, and the police wrote their reports. Epp stayed at the home after everyone was gone and helped clean the scene so the woman could return to her house, without any worry of doing it herself.
Last month, Epp ran into this woman at a holiday musical and she expressed that his help gave her the tools she needed to start her journey of healing after her horrible time of loss.
Epp shares, “Jesus’ ministry was to care for the needs of people who were broken and needed someone to help them in times of pain and suffering. Along with the police, first responders, and firefighters, we as chaplains get to be a part of the team that does just that.”
Some would say Landis is a community hero. Others would say he is an angel. Many believe he is both.