Billy Graham Mobile Command Unit Offers Retreat for First Responders

By   •   June 3, 2014

Rapid Response Team deployment manager Al New interacts with locals from Louisville, Mississippi, in front of the new Mobile Command Unit.
Chaplain coordinator Mike Mattingly talks in front of the Mobile Command Unit at the Louisville Coliseum in Mississippi.
Chaplain coordinator Mike Mattingly talks in front of the Mobile Command Unit at the Louisville Coliseum in Mississippi.

Mike Mattingly wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t quite this.

The chaplain coordinator with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team—who has deployed more than 20 times since Hurricane Sandy in 2012—spent almost a month in Louisville, Miss., where the Mobile Command Unit was first utilized after a late-April tornado ravaged the area.

“I don’t know who had the vision for that thing,” Mattingly said, “but that thing turned out very well.”

Parked next to the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Unit, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team’s Mobile Command Unit provides a place for first responders to come and get away from the chaos of the disaster.

It’s also a place for refreshment, both spiritual and physical, with cold water and hot coffee at the ready.

“One of the main reasons [for the Mobile Command Unit] was to give a respite to first responders,” Mattingly said. “We always had coffee [Peets Coffee] or water or iced tea and people would come in and sit down and visit and talk and we’d pray with them.”

In a month’s time, 29 crisis-trained chaplains serving in Louisville prayed with more than 1,600 area residents. Many of them were first responders and other residents who came by the Mobile Command Unit, parked at the Louisville Coliseum, which served as the city’s major distribution center for supplies.

“It’s some of the best ministry we’ve had because that command unit was there,” said Al New, deployment manager with the Rapid Response Team. “I think just having the Billy Graham name on the side of the truck attracted people.”

Mattingly concurs:

“That name [Billy Graham] on the side, it resonated with people,” said Mattingly, who deployed with his wife, Pookie. “You would see the name on the side of that command truck and there’s no question that brand carries an image and everybody seemed to know it.”

Often times, after picking up supplies and food from the shelter, Louisville-area residents would stop by and want to share their story. A common opening included an experience from a Billy Graham Crusade, either in person or watching on TV.

“Most everyone who came had some kind of recollection,” Mattingly said. “Or they had a mother or father or grandmother that spoke highly of Billy Graham.”

The Mobile Command Unit parked in front of the Samaritan's Purse Disaster Unit.
The Mobile Command Unit parked in front of the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Unit in Louisville, Miss.

The command unit is hard to miss. It’s painted black with a logo for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in bold red and white lettering. It’s also large in scope with seating for 27 people inside and includes tables to work on, which several first responders took advantage of.

“One was a state police sergeant who would come in and do his paperwork on the desk,” Mattingly said. “We got to be good friends with him.”

Several firefighters and EMT workers also came by, but it was the police department where word spread quickly. Many were in search of a well-deserved break from directing traffic and chaos around Winston County, where hundreds of homes were destroyed and nine people lost their lives.

“First responders are right in the thick of it,” Mattingly said. “They simply need some place they can go where it’s quiet and they can get away from the struggles and crisis.”

The key to utilizing the Mobile Command Unit, according to both Mattingly and New, is location. Being welcomed to park at the location of the distribution center opened so many doors.

And, of course, timing is always of the essence.

“Those first two weeks are critical in getting yourself exposed and connected with people,” Mattingly said. “Getting people back up on their feet. That’s when they’re hurting the most and that’s when you can do the most good.”

Where is the Rapid Response Team? Click here for an updated deployment map. 

mobile unit

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  2. Jack Woltz says says:

    The word of our GOD, Needs to be spoken to al who will listen, Bible study is good, But it also needs to be in groups, Having classes of all the words, And the works of JESUS CHRIST, Yes he is our GODS SON, HE IS OUR SAVIOR, HIS CROSS, HIS DEATH, AND HIS RESERRECTION, , Plus all the MIRECLES, And all the words HE SAID, Please remember, That all of this Needs to be passed on, To all who will LISTEN, And accept, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER GOD ALL MIGHTY, LOVES all of his children, And we need to take HIM AT HIS WORD, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, AND HE WILL HELP US MORE, THEN ANY OF US COULD IMAGINE, GOD BLESS ALL.

  3. Sarah Garrett says:

    I hope this unit will be at the Chaplain Conference for a day at “The Cove” next week. It is a great addition to the RRT work. As an RRT Chaplain I would love to see it first hand. God always blesses us on every deployment with everything we do. I praise him for giving us this additional resource through our wonderful benefactors. Thank you, dear Lord.