A total of 20 crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team are in Dallas offering a ministry of presence in the wake of Thursday’s deadly officer shootings.
Twelve officers were shot, five fatally, when snipers opened fire from an elevated position toward the end of a Thursday night protest in downtown Dallas. Two civilians also were caught by sniper fire in what Mayor Mike Rawlings called “peaceful protests until this happened.”
The protests, which reportedly drew almost 800 people and were manned by 100 officers, were held in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were both shot dead by police earlier in the week. Parts of the two shootings were captured on video, and the conversation has escalated quickly on social media.
“It’s hard to know what to say in the face of all of the violence we’ve seen in recent days. Our hearts are broken,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “Please pray for this entire situation, stretching from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge to Dallas.”
The chaplains are offering emotional and spiritual care to law enforcement officials and community members alike in the Dallas area, notably at vigils and memorials.
The first vigil was held at 12 p.m. on Friday in Dallas’ Thanksgiving Square after Rawlings encouraged prayer during a Friday morning press conference. Thousands attended, including BGEA chaplains who offered a ministry of presence while there.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who also addressed the media Friday morning, asked for the community’s support. Per the Dallas Police Department’s Twitter feed, two squad cars have been set up as memorials outside the police department’s headquarters in honor of the fallen officers.
“We are heartbroken,” Brown said. “There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred in our city. All I know is that this must stop. This divisiveness between our police and our citizens.”
BGEA President Franklin Graham cited Psalm 131:3 in his Friday morning Facebook post, when he encouraged followers that “Jesus Christ alone is the only hope for a sinful nation and people enraged with evil.” On Twitter, he urged people to pray:
“Pray for the families of the officers killed in Dallas last night and for the recovery of those ambushed and wounded at the protest,” he posted. “Join me in praying for the loved ones of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling as well as their communities in Louisiana and Minnesota.”
The Rapid Response Team is also requesting prayer for the chaplains as they offer a ministry of presence in the Dallas area. Some in this group have deployed previously to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland; others have offered emotional and spiritual care in the wake of recent terrorist events in San Bernardino, California; Paris, France; and Brussels, Belgium.
“We’re just so thankful that God has provided [these chaplains] for us to be able to represent Him,” Munday said, “and to share God’s hope in a time like this.”