Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria have caused destruction and human heartache on a massive scale. The lasting impact on people and their lives is hard to fathom. Please continue to pray for those who are enduring so much suffering and loss.
First responders, rescue teams, and relief workers responded heroically to people’s emergency physical needs, and we thank God for them. People in crisis also urgently need emotional and spiritual care, and trained chaplains from our Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) have poured in to south Texas and Florida. They will deploy to Puerto Rico the moment conditions make it practical. Our chaplains minister to shattered lives through the power of encouragement, God’s love, and prayer—and to share the hope that can be found only in Jesus Christ.
A team of RRT chaplains has also deployed to Las Vegas in the aftermath of the horrific shooting massacre there.
We’ve all seen wonderful stories of people who were rescued from life-and-death situations while these disasters unfolded. Our chaplains are now seeing God at work in a different kind of rescue operation. As I write, chaplains have already ministered to tens of thousands of people affected by the tragedies and prayed one-on-one with over 19,000 individuals. We greatly rejoice that God has drawn hundreds from death to eternal life as they made a decision to trust Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us … according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4, NASB). The numbers grow by the day, and we give God all the glory.
It won’t be long before the news media move on to other things and the nation’s attention fades—but the devastation, crushed hopes, and personal struggles will remain part of daily life in many shattered communities for a long time to come, and the Rapid Response Team will stay where they are needed as long as necessary.
These chaplains are crisis-trained volunteers from all over the country who drop everything they are doing to respond when called. We are deploying hundreds in the aftermath of the hurricanes and the shooting massacre, and more are on standby to rotate in. We want to love hurting people, and we do it in Jesus’ Name.
In a city southwest of Houston, two chaplains sat down with a firefighter who was stretched to the limit after not taking a break in nine days. As they encouraged and listened to him, he opened up about a great inner burden he carried from a past tragedy—a sense of guilt he had never dealt with that was affecting every part of his life, including the way he handled his job during the current crisis. The chaplains shared God’s Word and spoke about forgiveness and the love and hope found in Jesus Christ. After more conversation and questions, the firefighter prayed for forgiveness, surrendering his life to the Savior and asking God to heal his heart. He then began to weep as he described the huge release he now felt inside.
Another pair of chaplains visited a man whose home, livelihood, and rental property were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. He told the chaplains he had served the Lord in the past but had grown distant from God even before the storm. Now, after all his loss, he was angry with God and didn’t want to pray at all. He planned to start over and rebuild his life on his own. The chaplains prayed silently as the conversation continued, and God worked. The man acknowledged that he had drifted from God when sin crept back into his life and took hold. Abruptly, he began to repent, confessing his sinfulness to the Lord in the presence of family members. With chaplains and family gathered close around, he prayed for a cleansed heart, spiritual restoration, and strength to make a new start in life in Jesus Christ.
People struggling through a storm sometimes ask, “Is God mad at me? Maybe I did something wrong, and God is judging me.” I don’t believe that. If there is sin in our lives, we urgently need to repent of it, but storms are going to come in life. Jesus Christ went through the storms of life. Storms often cause us to refocus our priorities, and that is important because our relationship with God is the highest priority. For those who put their trust in Christ, we know that no matter what the storm is—whether it’s a hurricane or a storm of cancer or grief or anything else—God loves us and He cares.
I am going back to Texas starting October 11 to share that truth as I preach the Gospel in seven cities for Decision Texas: The Lone Star Tour. This tour was planned long before the hurricane and floods, and we know that God’s timing is perfect. Even people in Texas who were not directly hurt by the storm’s devastation—and those watching from across the country—have been re-examining their priorities and asking hard questions about life. For many, “now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV).
If you are in the Texas region, I urge you to come to one of the events and bring people with you who need Jesus. They need to know that God loves them. It is not His desire that “any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And whether you live nearby or not, will you join us in asking God to open many hearts?
At each stop on the tour, I will call on people to stand together in prayer for storm victims, for their state, and for our nation. I’ll ask those who are gathered to pray with me for the president and vice president of the United States, for other national and local leaders, and for our law enforcement officers. We will also stand to confess the sins of our nation and silently confess our own personal sins to God, asking His forgiveness. This is so important if we truly want God to heal our lives and our land (see 2 Chronicles 7:14).
Repentance is an essential part of turning our hearts toward God, whether “a repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10) or repentance by a Christian who has allowed sin into his or her life. The Bible tells us over and over that God will forgive repentant sinners and welcome them home, no matter how grievous the sin.
I’m excited about a powerful new video program we have produced to share the truth and hope of the Gospel. It’s about 20 minutes long and uses four real-life examples to show the forgiveness and the wonder of restoration that come through repentance. These are candid personal stories of Christians who realized they had become ensnared in serious sin and faced up to it. The video is a clear and moving call to repentance, and I think any pastor would want to show this in church. You can also show it to your Bible study group, Sunday school class, or youth group. The video is titled Flying Blind, and it includes a call to salvation for those who have never given their lives to Jesus.
Along with Decision Texas, we have nine evangelistic Crusade events in the next ten weeks in places like Romania, Norway, India, Mexico, and Vietnam. We count on your prayers, and we also need your financial help. These events are free, as all our evangelistic events are, so that no one is hindered from hearing the Gospel. Your financial support and prayers make this work possible. We are grateful for your partnership.
May God richly bless you,