2018: A Look Back at the Rapid Response Team’s Ministry

By   •   December 27, 2018

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployed to Albany, Georgia, and Wewahitchka, and Panama City, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Here, chaplain Kater Zemke shares a hug with a local schoolteacher.

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”
—Psalm 57:1-2

In 2018, thousands unexpectedly faced a moment when their world turned upside down, whether from a man-made or natural disaster.

To be with those in the midst of massive pain, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) sent crisis-trained chaplains to offer emotional and spiritual care to those devastated by the loss of a loved one, their home or community.

“In a year where weekly it seems natural and man-made disasters were in the headlines, God blessed the RRT with the privilege and opportunity to share God’s hope with those in crisis,” said RRT Assistant Director Josh Holland.

Spanning from the East to West Coast—and even beyond to the Hawaiian Islands and Greece—the RRT was present in the wake of disaster for those needing a listening ear. With 40 deployments and more than 900 chaplain callouts, this marked the RRT’s busiest year since its start in 2001.

>> View an interactive map showing past and present RRT deployments.

“God was faithful to help us overcome our capacity to respond,” said RRT International Director Jack Munday. “I think so much of our ministry is reminding people in the dark what they learned in the light.”

While the year began with five responses to shootings, the team also issued a unique, ongoing deployment locally at Billy Graham’s gravesite at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a chaplain is ready to talk or pray with those visiting.

Throughout the year, various natural disasters hit with full force, including tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. California faced its deadliest and most destructive wildfire while Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle. Chaplains encountered many hurting people—some who were clinging to the hope of Christ and others who were trying to hold it together on their own.

“When people are still in a raw, shocked or angry place, it isn’t the time to preach, but compassionately offer emotional and spiritual care,” Munday said.

Lovingly, chaplains prayed with approximately 50,000 people in the past year, often asking for God’s peace and comfort in the midst of hardship.

In addition, the RRT provided chaplain training through their Sharing Hope in Crisis seminar in affiliate offices overseas, including Canada, the U.K. and Australia. They also expanded their reach by traveling to Seoul, South Korea, and Budapest, Hungary, to train others and develop global relationships for future deployments in these regions.

“The awareness of the RRT has far exceeded any other year past,” Munday said.

Going into the unknowns of a new year, Munday requests: “Pray that we would have an army of chaplains ready to deploy at a moment’s notice anywhere in the world.”

Despite knowing disaster is inevitable, Munday has faith in a God who goes before him.

“The Lord knows what’s to come next year, and we believe He’s preparing us for the days ahead,” Munday said.

Below is a list of 2018 Rapid Response Team deployments:


  • York County, South Carolina—Shooting
  • Benton, Kentucky—Shooting
Billy Graham chaplains listened and prayed with visitors at the memorial site for Detective Michael Doty, who was killed in the line of duty. “We’re here as servants of the most high God,” explained chaplain Leo Grabowski.


  • Richardson, Texas—Shooting
  • Westerville, Ohio—Shooting
  • Parkland, Florida—Shooting
  • Charleston, S.C.—Other
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains prayed with the Parkland community in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a former student took 17 lives on Valentine’s Day.


  • Southside, Alabama—Tornado
  • Jacksonville, Alabama—Tornado


  • Greensboro, North Carolina—Tornado
  • Gilchrist County, Florida—Shooting
  • Antioch, Tennessee—Shooting
  • Dallas, Texas—Shooting
  • Kauai, Hawaii—Flooding
chaplain comforting those in Hawaii
Chaplains ministered to those hurting in Kauai, Hawaii, after 50 inches of rainfall in 24 hours caused catastrophic flooding.


  • Keaau, Hawaii—Volcano
  • Rockport, Texas—Shooting
  • Santa Fe, Texas—Shooting
  • Gaston County, North Carolina—Community Crisis
Chaplain David Barlow wrote a personal note on one of ten crosses after a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.


  • Kansas City, Kansas—Shooting
  • North Haven, Connecticut—Tornado
  • Hidalgo, Texas—Flooding
Deputies Patrick Rohrer and Theresa King died after being shot by an inmate they were transporting to a courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas, on June 15. (Source: Kansas City Police Department)


  • Marshalltown, Iowa—Tornado
  • Asheville, North Carolina—Shooting
  • Mati, Nea Makri, Greece—Wildfire
  • Shasta County, California—Wildfire
The RRT ministered in Mati, Greece, after wildfires raged through the resort town. Nearly 100 people in the seaside village and surrounding areas lost their lives due to the infernos, and many more were injured.


  • Seneca County, New York—Flooding


  • Sauk County, Wisconsin—Flooding
  • New Bern, North Carolina—Hurricane
  • Jacksonville, North Carolina—Hurricane
  • Wilmington, North Carolina—Hurricane
Crisis-trained chaplains represent the Ultimate Comforter, Jesus Christ, to people going through tough times.


  • Socastee, South Carolina—Flooding
  • Florence, South Carolina—Shooting
  • Albany, Georgia—Hurricane
  • Wewahitchka, Florida—Hurricane
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—Shooting
  • Matthews, North Carolina—Shooting
  • Schoharie County, New York—Limo Accident
Dozens of chaplains deployed to Albany, Georgia, and Wewahitchka, Florida, to provide emotional and spiritual care to those facing the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. After a few days of offering prayer to those who came by a local church in Wewaw, a group of chaplains went to a house site where Samaritan’s Purse workers were busily cutting away trees, which happened to be the home of 94-year-old Ms. Vera.


  • Tallahassee, Florida—Shooting
  • Panama City, Florida—Hurricane
  • Thousand Oaks, California—Shooting
  • Butte County, California—Wildfire
A team of chaplains is ministering in California after the horrific wildfire outbreak.

Deployments Continuing into 2019

Interested in becoming a chaplain? Learn more.

Even in life’s storms, you can have peace through God. Find hope in Him today.