Ground zero chaplain moves training institute to Steamboat

Casey’s Pond resident survives battle with cancer from 9/11 toxins

Holly Haynes, CEO, Wayne Stover, chaplain-in-training, and counselor and founder Michael Haynes gather in a counseling room at the new headquarters of Faith Based Counselor Training Institute on Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs. The institute offers faith-based counseling by donations, as well as training for crisis chaplains and restorative therapists.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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

His time serving at the site almost killed him — taking him to the point of being placed in hospice care in Steamboat three years ago. The chaplain, author and former pastor was told he had only two months to live, one of thousands diagnosed with cancer from toxic exposure to the site.

Haynes arrived at ground zero on the third day with a small group of chaplains who had driven across the country at the request of the North American Mission Board to offer support to first responders.

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

One day, near a line of first responders searching for survivors, a man came to Haynes asking, “Chaplain, can you help me? I can’t take this anymore.”

“Let it go, man,” Haynes replied. “Don’t try to hold it in.”

The man broke down weeping, but later, he said, “I need to go back to work. Thank you for helping me.”

Haynes set up a counseling center on an upper floor in a nearby building to help victims’ families.

“We just worked with people and ministered to people as 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 at 79, after recovering from an eight-year battle with bladder cancer, including eight rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Haynes said he thinks God just wasn’t finished with him yet.

The counselor and his daughter, Holly Haynes, relocated his 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 meet and greet from 5-7 p.m. Jan. 10, which is also the chaplain’s 80th birthday.

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

The mission of the institute is twofold. A nonprofit arm offers faith-based counseling to the public on a donation basis, while a for-profit arm offers training to certify people to become crisis counselors or restorative therapists. Certification trainings are offered as a two-day, in-person course or self-paced online.

The Haynes family said the institute has certified some 16,000 people across the world to be crisis chaplains or restorative therapists. Many of those completing the training are nurses, pastors, church crisis-response teams or fire, emergency or police department employees.

“The training is open for anyone who has a heart for the hurting,” said Holly Haynes, CEO at the counseling institute.

According to the Haynes family, what makes faith-based counseling different is the three-part approach of treatment for body, soul and spirit. They say the institute fills a need for individuals who seek faith-based counseling but may not wish to visit a church or work with church staff who refer to the work as Christian counseling.

The institute works in such areas as grief and loss, chemical dependency, 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 hosted training sessions for first responders for many years and offers classes for continuing education units.

Michael Haynes now lives at Casey’s Pond, where he leads a weekly Bible study. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Haynes officiated his daughter and her husband’s marriage through the window at Casey’s Pond as the couple stood outside.

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

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

Pastor Troy Lewis at Steamboat Christian Center said Haynes is a nationally known speaker but a hidden gem locally.

“The pandemic has created a huge need for trained people willing to help their neighbors who are struggling with the effects of stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse,” Lewis added.

Haynes earned a doctorate in religion and philosophy from Christian Bible College in North Carolina, served as pastor at four churches in Texas and has written, co-written or ghost-authored 60 books, which include multiple titles available on Amazon.

Haynes spoke at Steamboat Christian Center, in 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.

For more on the Faith Based Counselor Training Institute, visit

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