Devastated Mississippians Experience Love of Christ Despite Social Distancing

By Chuck Cook   •   April 17, 2020

Following dozens of tornadoes that ripped through the Southeast last weekend, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is ministering alongside Samaritan's Purse in Laurel, Mississippi, as well as three other states. At least 36 people were killed in the massive storm—during a time when many communities were already losing loved ones to the coronavirus.
While Samaritan's Purse volunteers repair homes, Billy Graham chaplains talk with homeowners, as pictured here, while following CDC guidelines for the COVID-19 outbreak.
More than 90 tornadoes were reported in the Bible Belt between Easter Sunday and into Monday. In Mississippi alone, an EF4 tornado that was two miles wide had winds up to 190 mph. The twister touched down for nearly 70 miles, and is Mississippi's widest tornado on record—and the third largest in the United States.
"There's tragedy upon tragedy," chaplain coordinator Sharon Folsom (not pictured) shared in regards to the tornado devastation and coronavirus. She talked with one injured man that was just released from the hospital who lost his home in the storm. He told her that his wife was also injured and is in the hospital for at least three more weeks—but he can't see her due to hospitals not allowing visitors from COVID-19.
Since the chaplains can't safely give residents hugs, chaplain Sandra York crosses her arms over her chest to show her love to one resident.
In Soso, Mississippi—a small town just 10 miles from Laurel—crisis-trained chaplains Jerry Putman and Rand Bowman talk with a resident whose home was damaged. One resident (not pictured) told chaplains, "My family hasn't been here. My church hasn't been here. My neighbors haven't been here. I'm just feeling alone. I was ready to give up." Then Samaritan's Purse gave her a call offering to help, and the next day they were cleaning her yard and removing downed trees.
A Samaritan's Purse team carved a cross into the stump of a cedar tree on a damaged property. Even in the midst of crisis, they have hope in Jesus Christ. Have you placed your faith in God? Know Him today.
On Friday, two chaplains with law enforcement experience drove an hour east to Lawrence County, Mississippi, to offer a ministry of presence to the community where Deputy Sheriff Robert Ainsworth and his wife were killed. The sheriff died a hero, trying to shield his wife during the tornado. Chaplain Coordinator Sharon Folsom said the team was planning to attend a funeral and hopefully give a Billy Graham Training Center Bible to their loved ones. As each home is repaired during deployments, families receive one of these Bibles from Billy Graham chaplains and Samaritan's Purse volunteers.
"God is still moving, and we’re adapting and still having good fellowship and ministry even with all these [COVID-19] requirements," Folsom said.