BGEA Chaplains Shine Light of Christ on a Dark Night for Charlotte

By   •   September 22, 2016

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is requesting prayer for the United States and the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, in the wake of violent civil unrest. Please also pray for the chaplains as they decide how to best minister to the community.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
—John 1:5

A saying popped into Kelly Burke’s mind late Wednesday night.

Standing in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters after a night of outreach in the ministry’s backyard of Charlotte, North Carolina, he said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”

Burke, a manager with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT), will readily admit he’s paraphrasing, but the words attributed to late Pastor Adrian Rogers did bring some comfort after a challenging evening. Crisis-trained chaplains with the RRT deployed on Wednesday to Uptown Charlotte in the aftermath of violent civil unrest triggered by a fatal officer-involved shooting on Tuesday.

The incident happened near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus, and in the hours that followed, violence ensued. Protesters threw rocks and bottles at police officers. Many officers and residents were injured, some sent to the hospital.

That violence on Tuesday night prompted Dr. Leon Threatt to organize a group of local pastors to come together and call for peace. The former Charlotte police officer invited the media, along with other local clergy, imploring residents to respond peacefully, and to pray.

“Our city is a good city,” said Threatt, pastor of Christian Faith Assembly and a Rapid Response Team chaplain who deployed with the ministry to Baltimore in 2015. “Our people are good people. I don’t know how we’ve gotten to this point. I know that we’ve had the tragedy, the death of a young man, and it’s tragic for all of us.

“We cannot take this route of terrorizing our community.”

During the daylight, peace wasn’t far from the minds of those in uptown Charlotte Wednesday. Chaplains prayed with many in the area, and two people made decisions to commit their lives to Christ. The RRT’s Mobile Ministry Center was parked in front of First Baptist Church, where many stopped by. Two asked for prayer within minutes of the RRT pulling into the parking spot.

Chaplains hugging Charlotte residents
Within minutes of arriving in Charlotte, people approached chaplains for prayer at the Rapid Response Team’s Mobile Ministry Center.

“The ones we were able to pray with, we could tell the Holy Spirit was stirring their hearts,” chaplain Pookie Mattingly said after walking the area with fellow chaplain Suzanne Galvin.

Jeanne LeGall spread out a mat near Marshall Park, site of the evening Rally for Justice, with her own agenda for peace. A member of the Million Youth March of Charlotte, she planned to pray for the city, just as the group did when civil unrest erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

“We never wanted that to happen to Charlotte,” Jeanne said, sitting on her mat. “We didn’t want to be on CNN with the name Charlotte and riot in the same sentence.

“Our forefathers did not die for us to be acting foolish like this,” continued the grandmother of 19. “They turned to the churches. They went inside the sanctuaries and they unified and they did something peaceful. They didn’t go out into the community and do all this foolishness you see today.”

Emmanuel Threatt, Leon Threatt’s son and a patrol officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, turned the spotlight back on the body of Christian believers.

“We have to have a bigger role [as a church],” said Emmanuel, who’s also a minister at Christian Faith Assembly in Charlotte. “That’s the only way to get this resolved really, is that we are examples to the community of unity as a church. There’s no other place. They’re not going to get that anywhere else.

“I don’t expect for the community to understand,” he added. “They don’t understand hope. But we [as Christians] do. We should be the beacons of hope that shine so bright that it takes the scales right off their eyes because they’re seeing exactly what we’re about.”

As the night wore on and the violence intensified, police put on their riot gear similar to what they wore during Tuesday's violent unrest.
As the night wore on and the violence intensified, police put on their riot gear, similar to what they wore during Tuesday’s violent unrest.

Hundreds gathered peacefully in Marshall Park for what they called a Rally for Justice for Keith Lamont Scott, the man killed Tuesday in Charlotte. Chaplains offered emotional and spiritual care, praying with people who wanted to do so. When the rally concluded, the chaplains exercised a ministry of presence while safely shadowing the protesters.

“The main focus of our ministry tonight was a ministry of presence and just praying for calm, praying for peace and praying for God’s spirit to overrule and override any spirit of darkness and just for His light to shine,” RRT manager Kelly Burke said.

The scene was peaceful—for a moment. Then everything changed.

“We were close enough to hear the shot,” Burke said, talking about the gunshot that reportedly left one person in critical condition. The victim died Thursday night in the hospital. “Darkness fell, and the atmosphere totally changed.”

Police started putting on their riot gear, complete with gas masks, as the violence escalated and looting began. People on motorcycles, quads and dirt bikes zoomed aggressively, revving their motors through the streets.

During this time, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency and called upon the National Guard. All the while, the chaplains were praying, albeit from a distance as the violence escalated. Still, Burke knows better than to discount the power of the light in the darkness.

“It’s easy to go out sometimes and think, ‘They’re still burning and looting,’ and say it was a failure,” Burke said.

“But we have no idea what God did tonight.”

Chaplains visited with members of the community throughout the evening, sharing the hope that only Jesus Christ offers. Please pray for those who heard the Good News, the community as a whole and for the chaplains as they minister in Charlotte.


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  1. Conrad Wayne Ware says:

    It’s sad to say that we, in recent years, have been slowly walking away from God, our Creator and Protector. God has every right to be angry at us, but He is not. He is right here, with us and will answer our prayers. Please everyone, let us get back to God and prayer. Amen

  2. Joan Neutel says:

    I do not know what has happened to the world that violence seems to be the norm. Have we all forgotten what peace is like? Men and women go to war to stop violence and yet here it is in our cities and towns. When did we forget that God is the Master of us all? I pray that people will start to believe again and turn to Christ for redemption. God Bless You All who are trying with the BGEA and hopefully people will come to their senses.

  3. Becki Stevens says:

    I’ve thanked God for BGEA since I heard of your mission; from my grandmother and my mother. Now in my 6o’s, serving the Lord in work and through my church, I have a lifelong dream/goal of meeting Dr.Graham. i knew in my heart – even as a child – that his ministry was anointed. Thank you all for your service! Becki Stevens. Florida

  4. adele mandagie says:

    Praying for the people eho have heard the Gospel. That they receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Praying for the rapid respobse team. That many souls be helped through them.

    1. adele mandagie says:

      Thank you Rapid Response Team of Billy Graham.

  5. Glenda says:

    Thank you BGEA for being in downtown Charlotte that night to witness and pray for those rioters. I pray for you, and for God to work in the hearts of those who show hatred.

  6. Deborah says:

    Thank you for spreading the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I stand in prayer with your team for peace and lives turned over in humility to Christ.
    Stand strong!!!
    In Christ’s love,

  7. Paula Mazurek says:

    I have heard on the media that rioters are being bused in to cause trouble. Praying for your chaplains and the city

  8. Debra Davis says:

    Thank you to all the the people of faith, who are shining the Light in the darkness that has come upon our country. I was thinking Martin Luther King Jr this morning. I was afraid that his dream of equality, peace and a color blind society was dead. I now know there are many people working to keep his dream alive! Bless you all, we should never let his message die. I wish everyone would listen to his speeches and take them to heart.

  9. Doug and Kathy Forbes says:

    Thank you for your wonderful ministry to our hurting world. We are praying for you!

  10. Betty rea says:

    Am praying
    For all in Charlotte as the BGEA ministry continues outreach I lift you up from the quiet of my home.