Running out of propane heat in the middle of the night?
When it comes to Rapid Response Team deployments, it quickly becomes clear that the saying “God works in mysterious ways” is not just a cliché. Add Monday morning’s example in Harrisburg, Ill., to the seemingly endless list.
The search for propane hit overdrive after both the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse needed more propane for their temporary living units.
Charlie Clark, one of the Rapid Response chaplains, thought he had found the perfect spot — a combination propane tank refill station/U-Haul rental/BBQ restaurant.
“So we pull in,” Charlie said. “And I’m looking around trying to find where to get the propane.”
Turns out, propane service was no longer on the menu, but BBQ was and the owner and one of his female employees came outside to break the bad news.
But Charlie had some Good News to deliver.
After talking about the recent EF-4 twister that killed six people and left 100 more injured in this town of 9,800 people, the conversation turned to spiritual matters: What would have happened to you, had you not survived the storm?
“It’s God’s providence,” he said. “There was a bigger need than propane. There’s no doubt God set that all up.”
The two chaplains split up and shared the Gospel with each worker and the woman didn’t hesitate at the chance to give her life to Christ.
“She prayed outside the BBQ Shack,” Charlie said. “Right next to the grill.”
Deployed to Four States
Charlie, one of six chaplains deployed to Harrisburg, left Tuesday morning to join the deployment in West Liberty, Ky.
The Rapid Response Team has deployed in four different states to five different cities — Harrisburg, West Liberty, Madison, Ind., Henryville, Ind., and Charlotte, N.C.
Over a three-day period, tornadoes killed 45 people in six states, stretching from Alabama to Ohio, leaving thousands of survivors injured.
“It’s impossible to overstate the pain and despair caused by tornadoes,” said Jack Munday, director of the Rapid Response Team, which has deployed to more than 125 disasters since the ministry launched in 2002. “One minute your life is normal, the next it’s been turned inside out. Please pray for these dear people as they grieve and mourn.”
‘I Can Do This’
Jeff admittedly is a skeptic.
But after a trip to the southernmost tip of Illinois, for a man who lives in the northern part of the state there’s one uncertainty he can cross off his list.
Jeff met John Galvin, a Rapid Response chaplain from St. Louis, in what can only be described as “the middle of chaos.”
Over a dozen men were working feverishly — and loudly — on the home where Jeff’s great aunt lives. But these two men were as focused on the conversation as if they were sitting at Starbucks.
“It was a pretty hectic situation,” said John, who is deployed with his wife Suzanne. “But we started talking about the fleetingness of life.”
John’s eyes sprung wide open when Jeff told him, “You can never be sure where you’re going to end up. You just hope you’ve been good enough.”
The door had flung open and John shared with Jeff how he could be 100 percent sure where he would spend eternity if he accepted Christ as his Savior.
John saw the aha moment in Jeff’s face — “you could see a change in his eyes” — and he prayed to give his life to the Lord.
“He said, ‘I can do this, can’t I?'” John said. “He said ‘I bet God’s got a purpose for my life.'”
Just then, Jeff’s wife came up, asking what the two were talking about.
“I said, ‘Jeff just gave his life to the Lord,'” John said. “She said, ‘Really? You know, he’s a very skeptical guy.'”
Watch a Video Report About Jeff Here:
‘Like an Atom Bomb’
The sound was so loud, Keith thought his head was going to explode.
A piece of drywall from the ceiling woke him up, hitting him on the head, when the roar became louder.
“Like an atom bomb,” Keith described the noise. “The vibrations just shook my head.”
But hearing glass shattering in the distance, he grabbed his covers and pulled them over his head before registering what might be going on.
“Then, kaboom,” Keith said. “It was outrageous.
“Before I could say ‘what in the world,’ I was getting wet.”
The roof had ripped off, just like many of his neighbors, but Keith had survived. “I felt like Bruce Willis in ‘Unbreakable,'” he said. “But after a day and a half, I realized I’m human and I’m going to die someday.”
He also realized God spared him for some greater purpose. Despite losing his garage and most of his belongings, Keith is grateful to God for His provision.
“I thank God He saved me,” he said.
‘Their Hearts Are Open’
Dan and Deb Drissell of St. Louis, on their first Rapid Response deployment, spent Tuesday following up with home owners who were helped by Samaritan’s Purse. They found a myriad of ministry opportunities. They also realized no two situations were alike.
Earlier in the day, they met Mike and Janice, a middle-aged couple who had been believers for nearly 15 years, but had never experienced such a spiritually-draining event before.
By the end of the conversation, both were emotional as the Drissells prayed for their strength, as they encouraged others.
“They’ve been carrying around a burden that they should be doing more,” Deb said. “We shared with them that they have to realize it’s OK. It’s by faith, not by might. When they heard the Word, they realized they can’t do everything.”
God brought the Mayor of Harrisburg in the Drissells’ path by chance and they were able to encourage him as he leads this town down the road of recovery.
“We tried to encourage him in his faith,” Dan said. “And how these people need something that can soothe their pain and that something is Christ.
“This community has been very receptive and it seems like their hearts are open right now.”
One of their final stops Tuesday was not a homeowner but a renter, who seemed searching for answers and didn’t have one when asked about how sure he was of his eternal life.
“I almost met the Harley dealer in the sky,” Larry said. “Or at least that’s what I’m hoping for.”
When told he could be assured of an eternal life in Heaven with the Lord Almighty, Larry was non-committal, but the Drissells felt a seed was planted as he agreed to accept a “Peace With God” book.
There’s still so much to be done here and in the other communities where lives were uprooted by the recent tornadoes.
People are shocked, grieving, looking for answers. But as the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains share the love and hope of Christ, one thing is clear: God is here, at work, changing lives for the better. He can use a tornado, a propane shortage, or a chance encounter. And whenever and wherever possible, BGEA chaplains will be there.
Be the Hands and Feet of Christ
During 2012, the Rapid Response Team will continue to bring God’s love to people touched by disasters. You can play a part through your prayers and donations. Please give today to help hurting people at home and around the world.