When chaplain Kelly Burke’s phone rang, he had no idea who was on the other line.
His name was Scott, a former NFL player who had been living in his van in New Jersey.
That is, before Hurricane Sandy barreled through the northeast in late October.
“He lost everything,” said Burke, a chaplain coordinator for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “His van was washed away.”
So, when Burke first asked him if he needed any help on his home, the answer was met with a quick no thanks.
Scott, who had since the storm been living in temporary housing provided for him by the government, did have one request that struck the heart strings of chaplain Burke.
“Do you have any socks?”
More than 10 days had passed by since the storm’s surge, and Scott had been wearing the same pair of socks, initially soaked by the flooding.
“Something with this guy stirred me,” Burke said. “He just got my heart.”
But how he got Burke’s phone number is still a mystery. He told him one of his friends, a former linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, had suggested he call the number for help.
“Scott told me that the guy who gave him my number has been talking to him about the Lord for 10 years,” Burke said.
Burke knew exactly where to go to ask for some dry foot coverings — the church that’s hosting both Samaritan’s Purse and the Rapid Response Team chaplains in Tom’s River, N.J. Thousands of pounds of donated clothes have come through the facilities at the Church of Grace and Peace.
In no time, chaplains had a bag full of socks — and other clothing — delivering it to Scott in the name of Jesus.
Scott was moved by the gift and started conversing with the chaplains. By the time they prayed with Scott, he wanted to follow Christ and prayed to receive Jesus into his life.
“I feel like dancing,” Scott told the chaplains after his prayer.
“They blessed him like crazy and he received the Lord,” Burke said. “We just met his physical needs and God worked it out.”
Sandy Deployment Update
Ministry in four different New Jersey and New York counties continues, more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy devastated the coastal communities.
Thus far, 120 crisis-trained chaplains have been deployed in Nassau County,N.Y.; and in Bergen County, Atlantic County and Ocean County, N.J..
“They say it’s quote-unquote the perfect storm, with Sandy coming in from the east and a storm coming in from the west, and a cold front from the north and high tide,” Burke said. “But what we’re seeing in the aftermath is God’s perfect blend of his timing and resources to bring revival and change in this community.”
In Ocean County alone where Burke has been stationed in Tom’s River, there have been more than three dozen decisions made for Christ. In all four counties, chaplains have had the privilege of praying with more than 3,600 storm survivors, many like Scott who lost everything and without a home.
“Our chaplains are just blessed to be apart of it,” Burke said. “And it’s exciting to see people’s countenance change right in front of you.”
One couple came to “share time” at the end of the day with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and the Billy Graham chaplains.
“They came up, both were living in their truck,” Burke said. “They had no clothes at all. They both received the Lord and received some clothes that day.”
Perhaps the comment that has stuck with Burke the most was said by a woman who was driving by a home filled with orange shirt-clad Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who were cleaning out a home.
The woman wanted to know what was bringing out so many people, including several blue-shirt chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
When she learned these were two organizations volunteering their time to help both the physical and spiritual needs of homeowners who has lost everything in the storm, she was nearly at a loss for words.
All she could say was: “Are you guys real?”
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