To date, more than 260 trained chaplains with the Rapid Response Team have traveled to the region to work with local churches, governments, shelters, and police in 15 different communities. In all these circumstances, many conversations have taken place, and the chaplains are finding hearts open to hearing God’s voice. More than 12,000 people have received prayer during counseling, and more than 480 have made decisions for Jesus Christ.
Hardest Hit Places
These BGEA team members have gone into some of the most devastated places, offering encouragement and a listening ear to many local officials, ministers, police officers, and health workers who themselves have been serving, often with little rest, in areas hardest hit.
In addition, the BGEA “Care-Line”–a toll-free phone number staffed by trained volunteers who counsel and pray with callers–has been established for workers who are in direct contact with hurricane survivors and others involved in critical incidents. Among the calls that have come in was one from a suicidal man who was immediately connected with an on-call pastor. He agreed to receive follow-up calls and was later put in touch with a local, trained counselor.
Often BGEA chaplains have set up next to distribution centers as Samaritan’s Purse teams, Red Cross workers, and National Guard servicemembers have given out supplies. The chaplains set up tables with Bibles and other encouraging materials and offer to talk, listen, and pray with people as they come through the lines. Many times team members have found themselves pitching in with these relief workers, unloading trucks, or running for needed supplies.
An Unshakable Hope
In Groves, Texas, the effects of Rita’s winds could be seen everywhere. Neighborhoods were dotted with blue tarps distributed by relief organizations to cover roofs in need of extensive repair. A woman named Latoya came in search of one for her damaged home and spoke with BGEA chaplain Les Palmer. She revealed that in the midst of trying to recover from the storm, she had been diagnosed with cancer the previous day.
After spending time sharing, praying, and receiving counsel from Palmer, Latoya prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior.
In Port Arthur, Texas, a man named Francis had been released after many years in prison just days before the hurricanes hit. Chaplain Palmer met him in a parking lot as Francis was walking through the town, looking at the aftermath and wondering about relief.
Palmer told Francis that he was with BGEA’s Rapid Response Team. At the mention of Billy Graham, Francis said he had been “running from you guys for 30 years.” Palmer replied that he felt called by God to go to Texas just so he could talk to people like him and tell them that God knows each of them and loves them dearly.
Francis broke down, got on his knees, and prayed to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. His story mirrors that of hundreds of hurting people who are reeling from these storms and looking for comfort.
BGEA’s Rapid Response Team has been there with words of healing and the eternal, unshakable hope found in Christ.
The Rapid Response Team has previously responded to emergency situations in Florida following Hurricanes Charley and Frances in 2004 and in Louisiana and Georgia following Hurricane Lili in 2002. The Rapid Response Team was created in 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, when a prayer center was set up near Ground Zero in New York City.