Dozens of officers lost their homes too, and one officer in the Santa Fe area said they had not even seen their own chaplain. Trained Rapid Response Team chaplains visited local police departments this week and spent time with officers who are depressed and downtrodden in the aftermath of the storm.
Altogether, 16 Rapid Response Team chaplains are working 24/7 to minister to victims of Hurricane Ike. They have counseled approximately 350 people and will remain in the area for weeks, visiting homes, hospitals and damaged areas and bringing the healing love of Jesus Christ with their presence.
Sept. 17, 2008–Five days have passed since hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast with winds exceeding 110 miles per hour, and for many, life will never be the same.
Tens of thousands of people who evacuated with their families have gathered in public shelters in the Houston area, awaiting permission to return to their homes, or what is left of them.
When the dark wall of hurricane Ike’s eye descended on Galveston, Texas, floodwaters in certain areas reached over 12 feet, washing homes, boats, trash, debris, roofs and hazardous material into the rising waters.
During the mayhem, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains loaded up the RRT trailer and headed southwest from Charlotte, N.C., to Alta Loma, Texas, to stand along with those who suffer. Alta Loma is a town 20 miles outside of Galveston. No one is allowed into Galveston yet because of the extensive damage there.
“I don’t think they expected it to be this bad. It’s heartbreaking, ” says Marilyn, a chaplain coordinator, who is in Alta Loma now with other RRT chaplains.
This is Marilyn’s fifth deployment this year with the RRT. After hurricane Katrina, she volunteered in Biloxi, Miss., for nearly two years to minister to the people of that community. Now, without any electricity, the RRT has arranged a station in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church off Highway 6.
Ministry in the First Days
“Today has been a real day of ministry,” Marilyn says. “People have been coming into the parking lot dazed. They have that wide-eyed look; they don’t know where they can go for help.”
Yesterday, a 72-year-old woman came to the RRT station for help. Marilyn shares the story: “She was a widow and had three trees down in her home. She had no money to get the trees removed, so she started crying, and I just ministered with her and cried with her. I was a widow for 12 years.
“We went out to her house yesterday afternoon and met with her a bit more to see the damage. I took her a Bible and just spent some time with her. That’s what we’ll be doing every day. When you’re a widow, it’s hard because you don’t want to ask for help. She was desperate; you could see it all over her and feel it in her voice.”
Remembering the Urgency and Need
While thousands embark on the long road to recovery in Texas and others stand waiting in shelters, national attention has shifted from hurricane season to focus on stock market losses, high gas prices, a struggling housing market, and the presidential election. Yet the hurricane Ike death toll continues to rise, millions do not have power, and some have lost everything.
Authorities say the clean-up process may take a year, and they are concerned about the unsafe drinking water. Step by step, the process begins with the first responders; Rapid Response Team chaplains are counseling homeowners while Samaritan’s Purse volunteers remove fallen trees and debris from homes, driveways and yards.
“They are very willing for us to pray for them,” Marilyn says. “It’s an honor to have those people stand there and pour out their hearts to you and just cry.”
Chaplains are working with other first responders to have an understanding of the area so they can direct people to find food, ice and other necessary supplies. The work will intensify in a couple weeks when authorities will allow homeowners to journey back to Galveston to piece their lives back together.
“We’re looking forward to being over there when they do go back in so that we can just be there,” Marilyn says. “I know its going to be devastating for them.”
A Difficult Year, a Vital Ministry
In an unprecedented year of disaster, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has been deployed 24 times to bring a ministry of prayer, presence and hope to those experiencing the first aftershocks of tragedy. Hurricane Ike is another opportunity to be the loving arms and listening ears of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“It’s a situation where people have been so devastated, I’m not sure when they’ll see daylight,” says RRT director, Jack Munday. “I mean, the sun will come up this morning, but for them, their lives have totally unraveled.”
BE PART OF RESPONDING TO HURRICANE IKE: