Each box, about to journey with the chaplains to tornado-ravaged areas of North Carolina, just a few hours down the road, was filled with Bibles, Billy Graham sermon brochures, the book Hope for the Troubled Heart, and literature on grief and suffering.
“The boxes are filled with encouragement for people to get through the struggles they will inevitably face,” said Stiles, as he loaded the final box onto the trailer. He would know about the struggles. Stiles has ministered to people after countless disasters—from Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake in Haiti—in his role with the Rapid Response Team.
“People can’t jump over or go around these struggles,” Stiles explained. “They have to walk through them. We are there to walk through the struggles with these people. We will encourage them with the hope and love of Jesus Christ every chance that we get.”
And while he considers it important to convey his own compassion for the hurting, he said it is far more important to let them know God loves them.
Chaplain Ken Sides agreed. “I want to be able to help folks who have gone through devastating loss–and some of them have lost everything–some of them have lost loved ones.
“When we can come alongside and share the love of Christ with them,” Sides said, “and let them know they are not alone, that He has not forsaken them, that He is with them through this long recovery—it is such a great reward to me.”
In the years since becoming a chaplain in 2003, Sides has met “many, many people and your heart just breaks for them. As you see them beginning this long recovery that they are about to begin, we want to help in any way we can.”
For Stiles, Sides and each person at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the “backyard factor” makes this disaster a little more personal. “We don’t want to lose sight of going around the world and not going around the corner,” said Stiles. “We care very much about the state of North Carolina—it is our home as well—and these people are our neighbors. We want to reach out to them and not lose sight of the roots that Billy Graham has here in North Carolina.”
Preston Parrish, executive vice president of ministry for BGEA, said this deployment is “absolutely in keeping with the example and the command that our Lord has given us. We begin where we are, sharing His love, demonstrating His love, proclaiming His Gospel–and we go to the ends of the earth.”
Human need, whether it’s physical or spiritual, is human need, Parrish added. “At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we are committed to responding in Christ’s name, wherever that need might be—whether that is around the globe or around the corner.”
As for the length of this deployment, Parrish said, “We’ll be assessing the situation regularly and we’ll be there as long as the need remains. We are very mindful that there are very good churches in these areas and ultimately, that’s where those who have been hardest hit by the storms can find the ongoing comfort and support that they need.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Pray: We need people to pray for our chaplains as they go into these situations, and to pray for the workers from Samaritan’s Purse. We also need people to pray for those have been hit hard by the storm, especially those who have lost loved ones.
Volunteer: If you are interested in becoming a part of the Rapid Response Team, find out about training so that in future situations, you can deploy with us and help people in the name of Jesus Christ.
Love Your Neighbor
As the RRT continues to minister in North Carolina, Japan and other regions, we appreciate your help with this and other outreach efforts. Please give today to help hurting people at home and around the world.