In response to bush fires that are considered the worst natural disaster in Australian history, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployed a crisis ministry team on Feb. 13.
The team is responding to a request from church leaders in the state of Victoria.
News reports indicate that more than 1.1 million acres of land have burned and casualties could reach 300. Thousands more have been left homeless. In the small town of Marysville, located approximately 60 miles from Melbourne, it is reported that 100 of the 500 residents may have perished.
The RRT is providing direct emotional and spiritual care to the victims in the fire ravaged areas, and offer biblically based grief and trauma training for churches.
“The heartbreak caused by these fires is unimaginable,” said Jack Munday, director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “We will spend a week with the churches in and around Melbourne, offering training on how to appropriately offer emotional and spiritual care during such a tragic time.”
Leigh Brown, executive director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) of Australia, added, “Dr. Graham came to Melbourne 50 years ago, and 50 years later BGEA is helping again.”
Jack Munday, who is in Australia, reported that the team met and prayed with many victims at a Relief Center in Whittlesea, and received clearance from the police to drive into burned out communities. “We taught last night at a local church. Of the 52 people who attended, more than half either lost their home, or a family member, or knew someone who did.”
A firefighter who attended initially thought his wife was safe, but found her body that day. “Hearts are broken open for the Gospel!” Munday said.
A church leader in the affected region said, “When disaster strikes, the world responds to meet the physical needs of communities and people in crisis. We know that is very important. Yet, we are seeing that often the greatest need for the people suffering the deepest effect is a spiritual need.
“Chaplains specially trained in grief and trauma are the ones who can effectively help such people,” he continued. “Our aim is to support churches that have expressed a desire for us to bring the Rapid Response Team to Australia.”
Four pastors in one of the towns severely hit all said, “Yes, please come and help.”
Last month, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team conducted a similar deployment to Brazil to help the churches cope with widespread and deadly floods. Past international deployments have followed Myanmar’s cyclone, Kenya’s political upheaval, and hurricanes in Grenada and Grand Turk Island.