“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”
—Lamentations 3:21-22 NIV
It’s been weeks now since Hurricanes Florence and Michael pummeled the Southeast, claiming 70-plus lives and racking up a destruction tab well into the billions. And yet, there’s still hope.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has seen it in the smiles and felt it in the hugs during six deployments in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Just getting to know and encourage people walking through some of their hardest times—with some families still unable to go home—has been an honor. During the last three months of ministry, chaplains have prayed with more than 14,000 people and praised the Lord as more than 250 made decisions for Jesus.
Below are six stories of hope from these deployments. Please continue to keep these communities in your prayers.
Making the connection: Chaplains were talking about faith with a family in Wilmington, North Carolina, when the father indicated he didn’t really understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. His wife and two daughters had surrendered their lives to the Lord prior to Hurricane Florence, but he struggled with the concept, even though he was interested. The chaplain shared the “Steps to Peace with God,” and the illustrations helped, but the gentleman said he just couldn’t make the connection. The chaplain pulled out his smart phone and showed the “Gospel Graffiti-Bridge to Life.”
“I want that,” the father said as the 4-minute video came to a close. His family and the Samaritan’s Purse work crew cheered loudly to welcome their new brother in Christ after he finished the prayer of salvation.
Shielded by His Word: In the midst of the devastation in Mexico Beach, Florida, chaplains met a homeowner who shared that she wrote Bible verses on her windows before Hurricane Michael. The lady returned to find every window intact despite the historic Category 4 storm that made landfall in Mexico Beach with peak winds reaching 155 mph.
Peace after trauma: Hurricane Michael was especially traumatic for one Albany, Georgia, homeowner, a quadriplegic who requires constant care. He was injured in 1985 at age 29 after a diving accident. To this day, he remembers looking up and seeing sunlight through the water as he continued to sink down. He was resuscitated and woke up in the hospital, but couldn’t move his arms or legs.
Today, he suffers from depression, and the hurricane heaped on even more trauma. He wanted clarity on his faith and spent time talking with the chaplains about Heaven. After the chaplains shared the “Steps to Peace with God,” he chose to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
“We laid hands on him and prayed as we wept through the (salvation) prayer,” one chaplain recounted. “And he said as we left, ‘I look forward to seeing you both in Heaven and the day of swimming across the Jordan River and walking out the other side!’”
Just As I Am: A Jacksonville, North Carolina, man was angry because Hurricane Florence had destroyed the home he wanted to give his wife. The chaplains listened patiently as the man explained that his grandfather had been a pastor. He knew a lot about God, and he firmly believed after living the way he had he did not deserve to be saved. The chaplains shared about God’s grace, but the man thought he had done too much wrong. He wasn’t worthy.
Then he remembered aloud watching Billy Graham on television when he was young. “Do you remember the song that played at the end of every Crusade?” the chaplain gently asked.
“Just As I Am,” the man responded. He paused thoughtfully.
“I am ready,” he told the chaplains, and he prayed with them to accept Jesus.
Tears of joy: The man couldn’t stop crying, and he continually apologized to the chaplains for being so emotional. His house was among the many that had been flooded in South Carolina’s Horry County after Hurricane Florence, and he was trying to figure out how to get help with the clean-up. When he saw the orange-shirted Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, he pulled into the drive. The chaplains happily helped him submit a work order, and then listened as the man shared why he was so upset.
Just two days prior to the storm, the gentleman’s wife had died. The flooding meant he hadn’t been able to hold her funeral. He admitted that he needed Jesus and prayed to accept Him as his Lord and Savior. The chaplains also prayed for this man and plan to stay in touch as he needs support during the funeral process.
Wrong turn, right way: Chaplains were trying to find a particular street in Wewahitchka, Florida, but they took a wrong turn. Down this street, they encountered a lady checking her mail and soon learned that while she had lived there for 50 years, she was unable to live there now. Mold and downed trees from Hurricane Michael made it uninhabitable. She invited the chaplains to her front porch and shared that her husband had just passed away in September. It had been a tough time so she welcomed prayer, noting that she once attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Tallahassee.
Chaplains gave her a copy of Billy Graham’s “Answers to Life’s Problems,” and she was overjoyed. She hugged the chaplains and thanked them repeatedly for stopping by.
Would you like to know the comfort of God in life’s storms? Find peace with God today.