As their ministry in and around Ferguson, Missouri, winds down this weekend, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains praise God for all He has done since they were deployed shortly before Thanksgiving. And they join pastors and other Christian leaders in praying that God will bring lasting peace and reconciliation to this divided, yet hopeful community in 2015.
RRT chaplains began arriving in Ferguson on Nov. 26, two days after rioting and looting erupted when a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Chaplains immediately circulated among the local community, providing emotional and spiritual care—touching lives, from people on the streets to police officers, fire fighters, military personnel and government officials.
Throughout their nearly six-week deployment, these crisis-trained chaplains have served long hours, occasionally in the rain and the cold. They’ve engaged residents at the RRT mobile command post set up at a highly visible location. They’ve also traversed up and down West Florissant Avenue, visiting workers and managers at restaurants, shops, gas stations, department stores and other businesses, sharing the hope of Jesus. They’ve shed tears with people in their homes upon hearing their stories of pain and loss. And their hearts have broken as burned-out or boarded-up buildings remind them daily of the inhumanity of man.
Through it all, God’s goodness has prevailed. A total of 81 RRT chaplains have prayed with more than 1,200 people and communicated the Good News with dozens, many of whom made decisions to follow Christ.
The Right Time
Now the final group will soon head home, rejoicing that by God’s grace they’ve have made a difference for God’s Kingdom. Follow-up and discipleship, in concert with local churches and ministries, are next.
“The Billy Graham chaplains came at the right time,” said Pastor Carlton Lee, whose congregation includes Michael Brown Sr. and his wife Calvina “Cal” Brown—father and stepmom to the late Michael Jr., the 18-year-old man shot. “They offered healing and the gift that keeps on giving—Jesus Christ Himself. From day one, they wanted to see Jesus glorified.”
Vivian Dudley, founder of One Church Outreach Ministry, said she found it refreshing that the RRT chaplains simply wanted to serve. “That’s just blowing people away,” she said.
Dudley said she has seen chaplains in the community do everything from helping people recommit their lives to the Lord to taking part in a wedding.
“They’ve touched places that even people here in St. Louis for years have not touched,” Dudley said.
Hope in the New Year
In an interview with Moody Radio, RRT international director Jack Munday said: “God is changing hearts, and people are finding hope in Christ. I think we’re going from unrest to unity in the community like we’ve never seen before.”
One person in whom the chaplains invested is a man named Kenny. He committed his life to Christ while in prison. Almost from the outset, Kenny hung around the RRT command post, helping in any way he could, including cooking his savory sweet potato pies. He listened when the chaplains opened up God’s Word and taught how to have a Christ-centered marriage. Kenny’s marriage was fractured.
On the Saturday before Christmas, Kenny brought his wife to the truck, and together they talked and prayed with two RRT chaplains. The couple took concrete steps toward reconciliation. Afterward, tears flowed. Later in the week, Kenny showed up when a distraught mother and her three children came asking for food. He took them to his house and fed them a home-cooked meal.
On a different night as the Chaplains were leaving, a man named Fabian pulled up. A friend of his had hung himself. The chaplains prayed with Fabian. The next day, he started showing up at the truck, joining the chaplains in proclaiming the Gospel to people who stopped by. He led a teenager to Christ before the boy hopped on a bus with his dad.
“God is here and moving,” Fabian said. “He can take anything broken and fix it. That’s why I’m hopeful for our community. As my pastor said, Ferguson is going from ruin to revival.”
Revival is definitely on the heart of Michael and Cal Brown, who voiced their thanks to the RRT chaplains for showing them Christ’s love during the past few weeks. The Browns have a dream of hosting an All Lives Matter Peace Fest next summer in downtown St. Louis.
“We want to bring people together to the city,” Mike said. “Everyone will be welcome.”
Cal added, “We teach our kids that love has no color. We want to help people get closer to God and have a better relationship with Him. We must rely upon Him for peace and reconciliation.”