Arizona Residents Respond to Tragedy with Prayer

By   •   July 10, 2013


Only God knows how many prayers have been uttered in the communities of Prescott and Yarnell, Ariz., in the 10 days since a wildfire took the lives of 19 firefighters and destroyed more than 100 homes.

Still, it would be almost impossible to set foot in either of the mountain towns without noticing they are both covered–saturated–with prayer.

A Prayer of Thanks

For one 88-year-old Yarnell resident, his prayer is one of thankfulness.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains Keith and Vera Benavides met the man Wednesday afternoon as they walked the winding streets of his burned-up neighborhood. He told them his heart-pounding story of a narrow escape from the flames that overtook his home.

“He took nothing and he got in the car,” said Vera. “And ash was in his car. Ash came in as he was driving away, and flames were up to the car. He just barely got out.”

When the chaplains approached him, he was standing next to a pile of rubble where his house once stood. All of his possessions are gone.

Still, he’s thankful.

“He was grateful that he was alive,” Vera said. “He saw the blessing.”

When Keith and Vera asked if they could pray for him, he immediately agreed. Together, they thanked God for his life.

A Cry for Help

A couple of neighborhoods over, a woman who found herself in the path of the fire was praying for help.

Displaced from her home and full of anxiety, she called the local emergency command center one night out of desperation. Keith and Vera were there, offering emotional and spiritual care to anyone who needed it.

“So they put me on the phone with her,” said Vera. “She was overwhelmed. She thought she was going to go crazy. She was scared.”

Vera did her best to reassure her. After talking for a while, Vera asked permission to pray for her, and she accepted.

“The Lord blessed it,” Vera said. “I knew He was going to take care of every detail, and I knew I just needed to come and be obedient.”

By the time they hung up, the woman had calmed down, and Vera promised to visit her once her neighborhood was open again.

A few days later, she kept her promise. The house was still standing, and the woman was inside.

“She said that the prayer really had helped her because she thought she was going to go crazy,” Vera said. “She won’t forget that the prayer gave her comfort that night, and I don’t think she’s a praying woman.

“It’s the Lord. It’s all Him. He’s there, and He cares about her.”

Praying for Peace

The entire region is filled with reminders of the fire. In Yarnell, one glance at the mountains tells the story.

“The top part of the mountain is black,” said Vera. “Everything’s burned. Then you see the slurry line, the red line of slurry. And below it it’s green. And that smell. You can smell the ash.”

Outside Yarnell, the story of the fire is told through the photos of 19 faces. A massive memorial site in Prescott is still growing. Flags, flowers, pictures, notes, candles, fire gear–it’s all carefully placed around a chain link fence across from the fire station.

Throughout the past week, Vera and Keith have had opportunities to talk and pray with grieving people at the memorial site, including firefighters.

“For so many of the firefighters, I was just praying for God’s peace and comfort, because I didn’t know what to pray for,” Vera said. “I know they’re hurting.”

Keith, who served as a firefighter in Albuquerque, N.M., for 20 years, knew it was also important to pray for healing.

“We prayed specifically that they would not be damaged by this,” Keith said. “That they be protected from being damaged spiritually, physically and emotionally from this. That they see a blessing.”

As the people of Arizona take small steps towards closure and recovery, the Rapid Response Team will be there as long as they’re needed.

They’re sharing the truth that God hasn’t forgotten about Yarnell or Prescott. He is close to the brokenhearted, and He hears every prayer.

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You can play a part in bringing the love of Christ shown by the RRT chaplains to hurting people. Please  give today and help us send the Rapid Response Team when the next disaster strikes.

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  1. Mary says:

    Thank you for all who have prayed for each family who have suffered loss of any kind. God is so good. BGE and Keith and Vera are a godsend.

  2. Bob says:

    I thank the Lord for the healing and loving grace he continually gives to those in need, whatever the need may be through those that follow his calling.

  3. Dorrie says:

    My prayer are with the families who lost family and homes etc. that as God replace everything and greater for Job, he will do the same for the families, just trust in him, he hears and answers all request

  4. Mitsugu says:

    Thank you for email every day.I am 73 years old and retired a job.I am fond of studying English through NLT life application study Bible.God bless you and Billy Graham's team.July 18 2013

  5. Helen says:

    I watched the memorial service for the brave 19 men. It was held in Prescott Valley, where I once lived. Those who spoke shared scripture, gave insight into the lives of these young men. One told of when firefighter Dustin Deford led others to Christ

  6. Lisa says:

    May our loving God heal (physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially) everyone affected by the fire. May all who help and pray (especially the chaplains) be blessed and may people still get to know Christ through this.

  7. Bob says:


  8. Gwen says:

    I am so touched by these heart breaking events. I can't help buthink about the Hebrew boys being thrown in the fire and one “like the son of man” being in there too. Only our savior can apply His healing balm and I trust He will. Jesus our strength

  9. Ethel says:

    I pray the Lord Jesus will bless you for your courage and your actions in helping those who have been displaced by the fire. Jesus loves all of you who took part in helping everyone. Without Jesus, we could not pray or feel the terrible burden.

  10. Beth says:

    Praise be to God for what he is doing in our communities during and after these disasters. I live in Prescott, and I thank you so much for coming here to help out as God directs. God Bless!