Tornado in Mena, Arkansas
In response to the tornado that touched down in Mena, Ark., destroying 200 homes and damaging another 800, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) and Samaritan’s Purse have deployed to the area.
The RRT began operations on April 13 and the school board has requested that RRT chaplains counsel children in the public schools. Efforts are just beginning at this point. A three-week deployment is projected.
North Central Texas Wildfires
In response to a request by the Texas Mass Care Coordinator, the RRT sent two chaplains from San Antonio to assess the situation in Northern Texas. Chaplains arrived in the area on April 11, 2009. The RRT chaplains ministered to and counseled a number of the firefighters involved with bringing the fires under control.
With approval from the city manager and fire chief, RRT chaplains conducted an Easter service for 40 firefighters at one of their fire stations. The State of Texas did not have to establish mass care shelters, thus the RRT deployment ended on April 14.
Earthquake in Italy
Jack Munday, director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, will leave this week for Italy at the request of evangelical church partners there. He will lead an emergency response briefing this weekend to assist the churches with emotional and spiritual care following last week’s deadly earthquake.
A Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team is also in Italy, working with a network of more than a dozen evangelical church partners to provide aid for people impacted by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region of the country on April 6.
The death toll from the earthquake that struck central Italy continues to rise. The latest report listed 293 killed in the disaster. Official estimates give the number of homeless at almost 40,000, with an estimated 24,000 living in emergency camps and 15,000 given shelter in hotels or other people’s homes.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, a ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that was developed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is a nationwide network of more than 3,000 chaplains who are specially trained to appropriately offer emotional and spiritual care during crisis situations.