“Spiritually, it was a very needy area. That’s what concerned the believers,” remembered Cliff Barrows from a previous interview about the 1959 Crusade. “God worked through the generations. Much of the Christian leadership in Australia that had been raised up over these last fifty years were people who made their decision to follow Christ during those 1959 crusades.”
Those months were the start of a relationship with that nation that spans generations. In March 2005, Franklin Graham held two Festivals there. His son, evangelist Will Graham, brought the Gospel to three different Australian cities as part of a youth event just last year.
Now, the Rapid Response Team (RRT) is continuing the work of sowing the seeds of the Gospel in that country during times of crisis. With an RRT response two years ago as a result of the bush fires, and more recently, the occurrence of the Queensland flooding, the need for an RRT base in Australia became apparent. As a result, RRT chaplain ministry is being launched through Sharing Hope in Crisis (SHIC) seminars this August in Australia. The SHIC seminars are geared to help equip churches to appropriately share God’s hope when the tragedies of life happen every day. Another goal of RRT leadership is to carefully select a team of crisis trained chaplains to respond to disasters throughout Australia.
“These events brought a keen awareness to the Australian church and government that there is a need for emotional spiritual care to be more readily available in times of crisis,” explains Jack Munday, RRT Director. “These needs surfaced with the 2009 bushfires. 11 fires merged into one on a day where the winds were 60 miles per hour. The huge fire was moving fast, and there was no warning for people. The victims were not only devastated, they were in shock because they had no time to prepare.”
Even in the two years that have passed since the bush fires, there continue to be reports of suicide happening where the grief and despair continues to grip their lives.
“It’s hard for them to capture the new normal, and it’s easy for many of them to get locked into that thought and be driven into depression,” said Munday.
The Queensland flooding of last year was a reminder to many of a Brisbane flood in 1974. Some of the buildings still have seven-foot markers on the exterior, indicating just how high the water became–and how devastated people were as a result.
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Munday believes this is but one example that shows that it doesn’t take much to trigger emotions and feelings over time. He described a conversation with one man in particular, who was telling him about the impact the mere smell of the bushfires had on him. Although the man is in his forties, memories if his near death experience in a house fire at age seven came flooding back to him.
It is for this reason that Australia is more ready than ever for RRT, and that the church is primed to be a light in the darkness. Munday recently met with denomination leaders and pastors in that country to talk about needs and make plans for near–and far–ministry.
“The churches represented in our meetings are ripe, ready and eager to be trained,” said Munday. “They are very evangelical and work very well together.”
Along with the excitement of working with RRT, the Australians involved feel honored to do ministry alongside the organization that bears the name of the man God used to sow seeds of the Gospel more than 50 years ago. According to Munday, the people involved in starting RRT in Australia are still talking about the 1959 Crusade, and the tremendous impact it had on the people.
“Even people walking along the street would approach me when they saw the RRT shirt I was wearing, which bears Billy Graham’s name, and just start talking to me–often about the 1959 Crusade,” said Munday. “In these days of uncertainty, our prayer is that we will continue to the sow the seeds of hope for the people of Australia.”