Chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team are deploying to the Dallas Metroplex area, where as many as a dozen tornadoes ripped through Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
At one Flying J Truck Plaza in Dallas, 80-foot tractor trailers were thrown around like toy trucks and, according to the Red Cross, 650 homes have been destroyed, leaving many in need of comfort and prayer.
Remarkably, no deaths have been reported.
“We have chaplains ready to go and are assessing the situation to find the greatest need,” said Keith Stiles, deployment manager for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “Many of us saw the big twister live on television. Please don’t forget that it left a trail of despair, and the survivors need your prayers.”
The first wave of chaplains will arrive Friday, with additional waves coming this weekend, as Baptist churches in Lancaster and Arlington will serve as host churches for both Samaritan’s Purse and the Rapid Response Team.
“We’re looking for people who need help the most,” said Stiles. “We’re seeking those who are downtrodden, who can’t help themselves.”
The challenges of finding those in need is no easy task, he added.
“There are no signs up. You have to go and talk to people,” Stiles said. “You have to talk to the emergency responders. You have to talk to the churches. You have to talk to the agencies.”
And in some cases, like in Lancaster where nobody has been allowed in yet, the hurdles are even greater.
“Samaritan’s Purse has not been allowed into neighborhoods in Lancaster,” he explained. “We’ve got a lot of people standing around wanting to do things and we’ve got a lot of homeowners wanting their help, but law enforcement is not letting anyone in at this point.”
The Rapid Response Team initially will be there to provide encouragement and stability to an otherwise chaotic environment.
“Try to calm people down, try to stay focused on the Lord,” Stiles said. “Let’s pray before we go to this meeting. Let’s pray before we go to this check point.”
Hail as big as baseballs hammered the Metroplex area, with golf ball-size hail at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport grounding 400 flights.
About 14,000 homes and businesses in Arlington were without power on Tuesday as seven people were injured, including one person hit with a fallen tree.
Lancaster, a south suburb of Dallas, absorbed the brunt of the storm, with 10 people injured, including two severely, according to a police officer. At Cedar Valley Christian Academy, where the storm ripped off one of the exterior walls, 60 children took refuge by huddling in a windowless room.
A pastor at one Lancaster church saw debris swirling in the wind, then herded more than 30 children, some as young as newborns, into a windowless room to ride out the storm.
This marks the 10th Rapid Response Team deployment in the state of Texas, most recently late last summer when wildfires swept through the middle of the state, just east of Austin. Trained chaplains are deployed to help minister to the emotional and spiritual needs in the aftermath of a disaster.
A majority of the Texas deployments have been a result of hurricanes that hit the coast in 2005 and 2008. In February 2009, Rapid Response Team chaplains were deployed to Lone Grove, Okla., two hours north of Dallas, after three tornadoes claimed eight lives in that community.
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As the RRT deploys to Texas, we appreciate your help with this and other outreach efforts. Please give today to help hurting people at home and around the world.