At the request of members of the Ferguson, Missouri, community, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has sent crisis-trained chaplains back to the city, following the shooting of two police officers at a rally early Thursday morning.
“Our prayers go out to the families of the officers who were shot, and to the community,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
“This is a tragic incident that has disrupted not only the lives of the law enforcement community, but the community at large, because when you look at the video, the protesters that were there, they’re running and scrambling, too.”
Early Thursday morning, someone shot two police officers from a distance as a rally went on outside the Ferguson Police Department. Both officers are alive but seriously injured. One has a bullet lodged in his head; the other was shot in the shoulder.
A few hours after the shooting, community contacts the Rapid Response Team chaplains made while serving in Ferguson called to ask chaplains to return to the city.
At the direction of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association President Franklin Graham, at least four crisis-trained chaplains are on the way to Missouri, and more may follow.
This will be the Rapid Response Team’s second deployment to Ferguson in four months.
From last November through the start of the New Year, chaplains had a continuous presence in the city. They went to Ferguson because the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot him, led to unrest and protests that were violent at times.
Over the course of six weeks, a total of 81 chaplains talked and prayed with more than 1,200 people in all parts of the hurting community, including law enforcement officers and members of the Michael Brown family.
“It is not possible to solve a community’s deep-rooted problems with a team of chaplains deployed for six weeks, and we knew that before we started,” Franklin Graham said. “But God used the chaplains to touch many hearts and to plant fruitful seeds in the community.”
The chaplains went to Ferguson to offer hope and peace, and to share the love of God with everyone they encountered. After setting up a mobile command unit in a visible and well-traveled part of the city, chaplains spent their days ministering to gang members, police officers and families from all walks of life.
“The Billy Graham chaplains came at the right time,” said Pastor Carlton Lee, whose congregation includes Michael Brown Sr., father of the late Michael Brown.
Vivian Dudley, founder of One Church Outreach Ministry said the chaplains “touched places that even people here in St. Louis for years have not touched.”
After a relatively calm winter, turmoil returned to Ferguson last week after a Justice Department report said there was racial prejudice within the city’s police department and local courts. Since the report came out, several top city officials have stepped down, including the police chief and the city manager, and a new wave of protests has begun.
After Thursday’s shooting, Jack Munday says tension and anxiety could hit new levels.
“What we saw before was a lot of anger and hurt and pain as a result of loss,” Munday said. “Now what we’re seeing is all those emotions, plus a new layer of fear, to know that there is a shooter loose in the community.”
Several chaplains who were scheduled to serve in Madison, Wisconsin, following a police shooting there, have been rerouted to Ferguson. They’ll be joined by additional chaplains from around the country.