There’s chaos and destruction all over Japan.
People are still trying to rebuild from the Haiti earthquake.
But you don’t always have to go halfway around the globe or catch an international flight to make a difference in troubled times.
That’s exactly what the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are finding out in the Wayne, N.J., area, where hundreds of homes have flooded.
Families are homeless. Many have lost all of their personal possessions.
No, this isn’t on the same global scale as the recent events unfolding in Japan or the tragedy in Haiti.
But for each displaced family, the heartbreak is just as real.
“To this flood victim, that is their Katrina,” said Jack Dowling, whose first Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployment was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “That is their tsunami … it’s the worst thing, in some cases, that’s ever happened in their life and they are open to the things of the Lord as a result of what they’ve been through.”
Hearts have been softened as a result of these floods, creating an opening and a condition so ripe to hear The Good News that only Jesus can offer.
“When I initially approach someone who’s gone through a disaster, I approach them with a loving countenance, a friendly face and open arms and ask them to tell me their story,” Rapid Response Team’s Judy Tefft said. “And they are usually longing to tell their story to someone, to anyone who will listen.”
A compassionate ear in a time of tribulation is often times the bridge to deliver the message of Christ and the New Jersey floods were no exception.
“So as I listen, I’m listening with my heart. I’m asking God to give me ears to hear what he wants me to hear,” Tefft said. ” And as we talk, I ask if I can pray for them and as I pray for them, I feel the softening of their hearts and after that time, then the doors are open so I can ask them about their faith in Christ and I tell them about our hope that we have in Jesus. And I share the way we find that hope in Christ.
And the response?
“They are so open and receptive because they want that (hope) so badly,” she said.
Becca Dowling, deployed more than 30 times, has made five trips to Haiti with her husband Jack, including the first wave of response that was on the ground less than 24 hours after the earthquake hit.
Her passion for this line of work is quite simple:
“We want to be where God is,” Becca Dowling said. “And we know that God always works in disaster areas.”
Seeing Christ meet people at the doorstep of destruction, time and time again, makes serving victims in crisis that much more real and rewarding.
“I think that’s why we come because we’ve seen Him work so many times. And that’s where we want to be,” she said. “We’ve seen a change in people as we talk with them about Jesus.”
And that change is most palpable during a time of prayer.
“His Spirit takes over and gives such a peace and that’s exactly what the people need to deal with the situations that they’re going through.”
And in parts of New Jersey, that’s the reality that everything they’ve worked for is gone forever.
“When people carry their possessions out to the curb, they’re carrying their life out there,” Tefft said. “So many folks have put so much emphasis on their personal things that to lose them is like losing a part of themselves, a part of their memory, a part of their family. And it hurts.”
And often times that hurt is piled on an already trying situation.
“One lady just lost her young son just this year. Another lady, her husband died in December,” Jack Dowling said. “They’re going through all kinds of difficulties, job loss, financial difficulties, then you add on a flood. And it literally takes some people right over the edge.
“That’s why we’re here to minister to their emotional and spiritual needs and we do that in the name of Christ and through Christ and they respond to that love.”