Panic struck a New Jersey community when a 12-year-old girl went missing last weekend.
Things just don’t happen like this in Clayton, N.J. This is a small town, some 8,000 residents, nestled just over the N.J. border about 25 miles south of Philadelphia. It has a strong reputation — Clayton High School was honored as one of the Best High Schools in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report.
So it was no surprise that news of the missing girl traveled so quickly as parents immediately began worrying about their own children.
But panic and worry turned to tragedy on Tuesday, when a parent’s worst nightmare came true and questions about this murder began piling up as fast as tears ran down so many cheeks in this tight-knit community.
“There’s a shock of ‘How can this happen in our community?'” said Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployment manager Al New. “An event like this not only affects the family but also the entire community.”
It’s at times like this and the horrific Aurora movie theater shootings—when answers are nowhere to be found—that the presence of Rapid Response Team chaplains is needed most.
Two chaplains from the Calvary Chapel Philadelphia church were immediately deployed—along with one of their pastors—underscoring the value of the Rapid Response Team’s network of more than 1,100 chaplains in 48 states across the United States.
“That’s the nice part about having chaplains geographically across the country,” New said.
Just like in Aurora, within six hours of getting news of the N.J. tragedy, trained chaplains were deployed to the scene. In this case, it was a vigil that suddenly had turned into a vigil/memorial and a local pastor with ties to the Rapid Response Team chaplains who requested extra prayer support to handle the fresh, tragic news.
“Once they found this little girl, the pastor felt like he needed some help to minister to the people in the community,” New said. “The pastor from Calvary Chapel said a lot of people who they did encounter had never hear of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, but were impressed they were there.”
Chaplains who have had the unique privilege of being on the very front lines of a tragedy where emotions are so raw will tell you it’s mostly “a ministry of presence,” as those affected are dealing with shock and are still figuring out how to process what has happened.
It’s a time where words are far more useless than just being there and showing the love of Christ.
“There are a lot of silent prayers going out,” said chaplain Becca Dowling, who was one of the first to respond in Aurora. “It’s not a ministry of a lot of words.”
Back to Gulf Region: Nearly 30 chaplains have prayed with at least 750 Hurricane Isaac victims in LaPlace, La., but on Wednesday ministry continued again for the BGEA Rapid Response Team. Two chaplains returned to LaPlace, along side Samaritan’s Purse, in what is expected to be a 10-day deployment.
Interested in becoming a chaplain? The Rapid Response Team has training in various parts of the country throughout the year. Click here to find out more.
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