BGEA Sends Experienced Chaplains to Connecticut

By   •   December 15, 2012

In the initial stages of a tragedy — like the horrific mass shooting that took place Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — the emotions are incredibly raw.

 “Shock and denial,” is how Al New, the Rapid Response Team deployment manager described it.

 Jack and Becca Dowling, two of the most seasoned Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains, have witnessed this first stage of grief many times as first responders of this ministry.

 Less than 24 hours of the 2010 Haiti earthquake hitting, the Dowlings were ministering in Port-au-Prince. Within hours of the movie theatre shooting this summer in Aurora, Colo., the Dowlings were able to drive up from their station at the Colorado Springs wildfire to begin providing emotional and spiritual care by 7:45 a.m. that morning.

 After news broke of the mass school shooting, the Dowlings were quickly in their car, heading down from their home in Maine to help in any way they can. Jack is a retired police officer.

“It’s mostly a ministry of presence,” Becca Dowling said of a chaplain’s main value in the initial stages after a tragedy. “There’s a lot of silent prayers going out. It’s not a ministry of a lot of words.”

In the hours after the Aurora shooting, Becca described the scene as “incredible intense grief,” filled with “cries and sobs and screams.”

“We don’t have the answers,” New said. “We can’t even begin to understand.”

 So when a tragedy of such magnitude struck on Friday, the Rapid Response Team quickly went into motion.  There is a network of more than 1,000 chaplains in 48 states across the U.S., who are all trained in CISM (Crisis Incident Stress Management) courses, recognized by Homeland Security.

 But an event like Friday’s mass shooting is unique and sensitive and the best response needed to be immediate.

“We’re sending some of our most experienced chaplains to Connecticut,” New said. “These chaplains have experience dealing with shootings.”

The Dowlings were called down from Maine. Four chaplain coordinators (Dennis and Ginger Sanders and Ray and Suzanne Thompson) were summonsed from their stations in New York and New Jersey, where ministry to Hurricane Sandy victims is still ongoing.

 Al and his wife Toni New, along with Leo and Barb Grabowski, flew up from Charlotte, N.C., and by Friday night 10 chaplains were in Connecticut and will be doing whatever they can to minister to those dealing with immense pain and grief, through prayer or a listening ear.

The Rapid Response Team will deploy in Connecticut for days or possibly weeks —”until God tells us it’s time to go,” New said.

  “We just try to provide them some hope,” he said.

Franklin Graham Statement on Shooting

Recent Rapid Response Team Deployments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published but you will receive our next BGEA ministry update. You can opt out of future emails at any time.


  1. Jill says:

    Praying these victims find hope through your counselors, and through our loving God.

  2. Mary says:

    I didn't know this team existed but I'm so thankful to learn of it. Will be praying for you daily. May the Lord richly bless each one of you and give you discernment and wisdom and strength.

  3. Roger says:

    Extreme times like these provide extreme opportunities to minister hope and encouragement. May God give you chaplains His thoughts and words to accomplish eternal things.

  4. Matt says:

    Jesus Christ is great. That is the only thing I can hold on to in this evil world. Praise Jesus!

  5. sorin says:

    that is a sign the second coming of Jesus is near the human been crossed all the lines,have faith in God and stay strong this will be a warning for humanity,i pray God to bless you with his peace and faith you will meet them in heaven

  6. Rebecca says:

    God bless you for your ministry at such a time of devastating loss. I will pray for you as you minister to the families of these lost in such a tragic way. I pray the God of all comfort sends His love and comfort to strengthen you and the families.

  7. nicole says:

    Amen!!!!! They need Christ now more than ever!!!!

  8. how does one become a rapid r says:

    As a former teacher and retired counselor I was hit both with sadness for the families and teachers, I then as a Christian wanted to step out and do something. With the skills I have the Lord has often taken me to places I never thought I would go.

  9. Elsa says:

    Thank you Lord to have Crisis Incident Stress Team serve You!May God comford Newtow, Conn.May God bless America!

  10. Diana says:

    The presence and words of Billy Graham himself would really console the grieving parents,families.How I pray He goes…