Wildfires Ravage Southern California

By   •   October 23, 2007

BGEA has trained several chaplains in California to respond appropriately to victims of tragedy, and the number of Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains has grown to 174. These chaplains have now comforted more than 1,600 individuals, listening to them and sharing the hope of God’s everlasting love through Jesus Christ.

San Diego, Cal., November 12–As more Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are trained and deployed, ministry in Southern California increases. A total of 146 chaplains have now spoken and prayed with more than 1,296 people in the area affected by the recent wildfires.

San Diego, Cal., November 8–A few days ago, a Rapid Response Team chaplain prayed with a highway patrolman and asked him to call if he ever needed a chaplain. That morning at 3:30 a.m., the chaplain’s phone rang. The patrolman’s voice requested that he come to the hospital, where the victim of a car accident was in critical condition.

Upon arriving at the hospital, the chaplain prayed with the victim and her husband, and he held the victim’s hand as she died. The husband was very grateful to have a chaplain present during the difficult time. The chaplains’ God-given ministry is reaching beyond just the wildfire tragedy and touching the entire community in times of need.

Please pray for emergency and medical responders in Southern California as they continue to face everyday incidents in addition to helping the community recover from the destructive wildfires.

This week, a team of chaplains visited the San Diego Burn Center where they prayed with more than 20 people who were injured in the fires. Family members and doctors also requested prayer and received the chaplains graciously. Several Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) were eager to pray with the chaplains and ask for God’s strength as they continue to treat those who have been harmed.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains have now spoken and prayed with over 850 people in the San Diego area. More than 100 chaplains continue to travel throughout areas of Southern California that were damaged in the recent wildfire disaster.

San Diego, Cal., November 5–This week, 102 Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are serving the greater San Diego area and counseling those who are suffering in the aftermath of the recent wildfires. In the past weeks, 89 chaplains have prayed with over 580 people in Southern California.

San Diego, Cal., October 31–The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team’s deployment to California continues, and 68 chaplains have prayed with 465 victims of the wildfires. After spending time with the chaplains, several people have made a life-changing decision to follow Jesus Christ.

When a team of chaplains stopped at a fast food restaurant for a cup of coffee, one chaplain noticed a young woman sitting by herself, reading a book. The chaplain and the young woman spoke for some time about the book and the recent fires. The chaplain then spoke of having a personal relationship with Christ and assurance of eternal life. The young woman looked at the chaplain and said, “That’s what I want,” and prayed with him to commit her life to Jesus Christ.

Local churches have asked the Rapid Response Team to train 160 ministry workers to serve as RRT chaplains so that they, too, can help meet the emotional and spiritual needs of their neighbors. This plan enhances the ministry of bringing God’s hope and comfort to victims of the tragedy, and it will equip the local church for ongoing ministry in times of crisis.

Today, Franklin Graham is in San Diego to serve alongside the chaplains and speak to community about God’s hope in the midst of disaster.

San Diego, Cal., October 29–This weekend, 27 Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains spread out in several Southern California neighborhoods that were destroyed by fire.

In one neighborhood, two chaplains began praying with two people near the ashes of their homes, but one-by-one, others in the neighborhood noticed and joined in, forming a 17-person prayer circle in the middle of the street.

This week, chaplains are waking up before dawn to accompany families as they journey to see their destroyed homes for the first time since the fires.

October 26-28, 2007–With 25 chaplains on the ground this weekend, the Rapid Response Team will be spread out through Southern California neighborhoods to comfort and counsel victims of the fires. Chaplains will serve in the San Diego area for 4-6 weeks.

October 25, 2007–*Unhappy with her life, Mary recently moved from New Jersey to Southern California to find a new start. But she found herself uprooted once again this week when–because of the wildfires–she was forced to evacuate her new home and find shelter in Qualcomm Stadium with thousands of other evacuees. Without hope, Mary decided it was time to end her own life.

As she walked to her car while reciting suicide plans in her mind, Mary spotted a man nearby who was wearing a blue shirt that read, “Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplain.” Tears welled up in her eyes as she began telling the chaplain that she felt hopeless. “What can you do for me?” she pleaded.

The chaplain spoke with her about the comfort of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, who gives hope and assurance that the world cannot give. After she spoke with the chaplain for a long time and prayed with him, Mary made a decision to invite Jesus into her life. The chaplain connected her with local support groups and churches that will continue her journey of healing.

Serving in Southern California, 10 Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains have prayed with nearly 100 people, and 15 more chaplains will join them in the next week.

More than 19,000 people remain in shelters, and over 450,000 acres of land across seven counties have been ravaged by fire. Rescue workers and firefighters have gained control over several of the fires today, winds have died down, and many people have been permitted to return to their homes.

Still, many residents face devastation when they return home. More than 2,000 homes have been completely destroyed.

Please continue to pray for the firefighters in California and for the thousands who are displaced.

October 23, 2007–As more than a dozen wildfires spread quickly in southern California, over 500,000 people throughout San Diego County have been evacuated from their homes.

In response to the tragic displacement and destruction, two Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are already present in San Diego County. Five more chaplains will arrive tomorrow, and more will join them in the coming days. Rapid Response Team chaplains are specially trained to bring God’s love and comfort to those experiencing all stages of grief.

The fires–fed by drought-ridden land, high winds, and warm temperatures–have burned at least 335,000 acres of land. Nearly 40 people have been seriously injured by the blazes, and at least two people have died as a result of burn injuries. More than 650 homes and 100 businesses have been completely destroyed, and firefighters and rescue workers are overwhelmed as they continue to evacuate people from their homes and stave off fires at the same time.

Dry, windy conditions will continue through Wednesday, and over 65,000 homes and residences are being threatened. Chaplains will be on the ground to help comfort the thousands who are anxious and distressed. Please pray with us that the many displaced people will find hope and rest in Jesus Christ. Pray that the fires will be contained and that no one else will be harmed.

Samaritan’s Purse is sending five Disaster Response trucks that will arrive in California tomorrow to assist in recovery.

Volunteer Rapid Response Team chaplains were deployed four years ago in Southern California when wildfires raged. They have served in many places including Minnesota after the bridge collapse over the Mississippi River, Alabama and the Midwest after tornado tragedies, and Virginia Tech after the tragic shootings in April.

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