September 29 – They are trained to listen with sensitivity and help with practical needs. Along the way, Rapid Response Team chaplains end up showing the love of Christ and, many times, lives touched by tragedy are forever changed.
This week, for example, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains are ministering in suburbs west of Atlanta that were hard hit by recent flooding. Walking from home to home, they will stop and just listen to a homeowner in pain. Or, they will simply sit next to someone who has lost everything. Then they ask the person if they can pray.
Sometimes, a person will pray to accept Christ, but that is not a goal. The chaplains will share the Gospel if and when it is appropriate, but never in a manner or a time that would add to the person’s stress. The chaplains learn that compassion must precede evangelism.
And that is the case in Georgia. Serving alongside volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse they are now meeting with people and listening. Already, chaplains have prayed with 45 people.
Following are a few stories from the field:
Ivan and Liz where helping SP volunteers clean the mud and water from their house when two RRT chaplains arrived. Liz sat down on the front porch while sharing her story with the chaplains. She was very emotional telling about how fire department personnel rescued her and Ivan from their home from to the rising water. They even witnessed a truck floating by. Ivan (retired from the Navy) stated it was bad, but he knew the Lord would get them through. After some conversation about the Lord, the chaplains prayed for the couple with a promise to return for another visit.
Chaplains visited with Donald and Karen while SP volunteers removed mud from their home in Austell. Karen was very emotional and had been crying. She stated she felt she was cried out. After hearing Karen’s story, looking at pictures, and taking a tour of the garage area she was asked about her relationship with the Lord. Karen stated she believed but did not go to church because it’s so hard to find a good church. Karen was raised Catholic but felt the church was full of hypocrites so she left the Catholic Church. When asked if she knew where she would spend eternity if she died, she quickly stated “in heaven” and that she prays everyday on her way to work since it’s her alone time.
Donald also stated he had a good relationship with the Lord and would be in heaven if he died. He wanted to show the chaplains his model car collection he had cleaned and placed in the trunk of his 55 Chevy which had been covered in mud from the flooding. Chaplains prayed for Donald and Karen before leaving their home.
An Anniversary to Remember
Chaplains met Victor & Sandy at their home in Powder Springs. The house had been completely flooded, causing the loss of all their contents. The couple has been married 42 years, celebrating their anniversary this week with a visit to Burger King. They began to laugh stating they would never forget this anniversary.
Sandy was very emotional, crying each time she tried to share her story of the flooding. Victor stated she needed help. When the chaplain asked Victor about him needing help, he teared up and the Lord became the topic of the discussion. The chaplains focused on how to trust God to get them through all the mess of this world. The discussion led to prayer and the perspective of eternal hope and comfort in our Lord Jesus Christ. It became a worship service for all.
September 27 Update – “I’ve been amazed at the positive attitudes and hope-filled spirits of many that we’ve spoken with,” reports one RRT chaplain. “They have focused on the blessings in their lives more than the pain.”
As the flood waters in Georgia recede, chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) are showing the love and compassion of Christ to residents northwest of Atlanta.
Al New, the chaplain coordinator, describes the situation: “We went into a new area today, a cul-de-sac called Sweetwater Plantation. Twenty four homes were totally devastated–they are the worst we have seen on this deployment. The homeowners need your prayers.”
When the chaplains spent time with the residents, “emotions were released and God was working.”
More chaplains will arrive Monday evening, but a team on the ground this weekend ministered to a mother whose husband is in Iraq; an elderly lady who just completed her second round of chemotherapy; an elderly veteran who is permanently attached to an oxygen tank, and a father who is afraid to leave his house for fear that looters will steal the items he’s placed in his front yard
September 25 Update –Chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response are now ministering alongside volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those affected by flooding in North Georgia.
Samaritan’s Purse (SP) is the international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, who is also president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
SP volunteer teams have been clearing mud and debris from flooded homes, applying anti-mold treatments and helping to salvage victims’ personal belongings. The RRT chaplains are providing emotional and spiritual care to homeowners and also to other volunteers.
“Many families have lost everything that they’ve worked for, and it’s very common to feel devastated and hopeless during this time of great loss,” said Jack Munday, director of the Rapid Response Team. “That’s why it is very important that we come alongside them as they are going through this dark valley and offer them hope and compassion.”
Keith Stiles, the RRT deployment manager, describes the pain flooding typically brings, and how chaplains are helping: “The flood waters are so contaminated that you cannot salvage anything that’s been immersed; you really have to throw it away. With that, it creates a crisis because these are things people have gathered, or cherished, or had their entire lives, or the items may be keepsakes from their parents.
“When we take a load of trash to the curb,” says Stiles, “we are taking people’s lives to the curb.”
The RRT chaplains come in to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ, and try to share an eternal perspective. “We hope that we can get them connected or perhaps reconnected to God,” says Stiles, “and understand that things of this world are of this world. But what Jesus offers is eternal grace and sufficiency.”
Chaplains help the victims to get through the crisis. “People can’t turn on a switch or hop over the crisis,” Stiles explains. “They are going to have to work their way through it. But we want to be there with them – to suffer with them, to listen to their stories, and to give them the encouragement and hope that we all have through the love and salvation that Jesus offers everyone.”
In the last few weeks, downpours and thunderstorms saturated the ground from Alabama through Georgia into eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Hundreds of roads and bridges were under water or washed out in the Atlanta area and other parts of the state.
READ ARTICLES ABOUT GOD’S COMFORT IN LOSS:
Five Things a Storm Can’t Destroy »
How Do We Help the Hurting?
Peace in the Storm »
Why Does God Allow Suffering in the World?
A Journey From Sorrow to Joy »
God’s Comfort in Tragedy »
God’s Purpose in Our Suffering »