Rapid Response Team: The arms and feet of God's love in tragedy
April 30, 2008 - As the deadliest tornado season in a decade continues to bring death and tragedy across the United States, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed to multiple locations. See videos below and check back for news from the field.
June 5 Update — BGEA video producer Kevin Adamson reports from Parkersburg, Iowa: “The tornado annihilated the city the Sunday before Memorial Day. By Tuesday, we had sprung into action. People were arriving by Wednesday to help with the cleanup.”
Adamson describes the devastation: “Three story homes with basements are gone. There is nothing but a hole in the ground. Every single thing was wiped out. One home would be totally untouched and next to it, the home is obliterated like a lumber yard. You would come over the mountains and see that the city is gone. It didn’t matter how much money people had or what they were about. The tornado took everything.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) is trying to be the hands and feet of relief out in the field. Adamson reports that RRT is trying to put some order back into people’s lives who have been emotionally and spiritually devastated.
“Chaplains would meet with people who are struggling, give them a word of encouragement and pray with them. Then they would come back – not just meet with them once, but continue to be there for them for the long haul.”
According to Adamson, Parkersburg is Christian-based, very tight knit, and very family oriented. He saw many makeshift crosses and signs saying, “God is in control,” “Be still," and “God will take care of us.”
>In response to the tornadoes that struck the Parkersburg, Iowa area, RRT arrived on Wednesday, May 28. Chaplains are ministering to those directly affected by this disaster as well as first responders. This is the 13th deployment of 2008. The deployments in Suffolk, Virginia, and Greers Ferry, Arkansas, ended on Sunday, May 11.
“We tend to feel so safe at home, like tragedies will never touch us,” says Jack Munday, director of the Rapid Response Team. “But this year has shown us again that death and destruction can literally drop out of the sky.”
#PULLQUOTE1#He continues, “That newfound feeling of vulnerability adds exponentially to the pain the victim is already suffering after the initial tragedy. That’s why it’s so important to respond immediately with love, hope and comfort in the midst of the physical and emotional storm.”
May 29 Update — The RRT's first day was spent ministering and praying with first responders. While at the Disaster Relief Center (DRC), they had an opportunity to pray with 20 Firefighters, EMT's and police officers. Many expressed thanks to them for being there and providing a spiritual presence.
One EMT's home was destroyed, but her family was spared. Jina was returning home during the storm. As she turned the corner to approach her driveway, her car was hit by large pieces of debris, and the car was spun around by the force of the tornado. Her teenaged son and their dog were in the house as she watched parts of her home blow away before her eyes. God spared her life as well as the lives of her family members, including her son and dog, as they made their way to the basement. RRT chaplains prayed with Jina and thanked God for his protection and grace.
May 12 Update — The RRT is deploying chaplains today in response to devastating tornadoes this past weekend in Oklahoma and Missouri. There were 19 reported killed. The chaplains will serve in Picher, Oklahoma, where at least 7 were killed in a community of 800 people. Chaplains also arrived today in Macon, GA, another tornado touchdown site.
May 8 Update — RRT Chaplains deployed to Arkansas on May 3 in response to extensive damage following a reported 24 tornadoes in the region. They have prayed with approximately 119 people so far. The chaplains in Virginia have prayed with 129 and report one salvation.
#PULLQUOTE2#The Chaplain’s ministry has continued with a focus in Greers Ferry, Arkansas, while ministering in surrounding counties. In doing so, there has been tremendous support and appreciation given by government leaders, first responders and local residents.
RRT Chaplains met Ken and Heather at the Cleburne County Emergency Operations Center, where they reported their possessions were being looted following the storm. After listening to their story, the Chaplains were able to direct them to some free resources such as food and cleaning supplies.
As the discussion shifted to talking about Ken’s faith, he said he believes in God, but needed assurance of His love for him. The Chaplains were able to help him see that Jesus loves him and a prayed a prayer of assurance with him.
May 3, 2008 — Chaplains Heading to Arkansas— For the first time in the history of the Rapid Response Team chaplaincy ministry, RRT is currently responding to three separate tragedies at the same time, all of which were caused by tornadoes.
Chaplains are still working with students at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. following the tornado that tore through the campus in February, in addition to the deployment that began last week in Virginia.
“There is so much pain and suffering caused by these storms, especially this year with the vast destruction of so many repeated tornadoes across large swaths of our country,” said Jack Munday, director of the Rapid Response Team.
“Though tornadoes are the common thread," Munday continued, "each individual situation is different and the pain felt by each person or family affected by the storms is unique. We want each and every one of them to know that they are loved and are being prayed for during this difficult time.”
Chaplain teams arrived in Arkansas on Saturday and are assessing the situation on the ground to determine the number of chaplains needed and the potential length of the deployment.
April 29, 2008 — In response to damage caused by six twisters that tore through Suffolk, Va., the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) is on its way to the region.
"RRT Chaplains were deployed today to minister alongside Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Blessing,” says RRT Director Jack Munday. Samaritan’s Purse is a disaster relief organization also headed by Franklin Graham.
“We value our relationship with Samaritan’s Purse,” says Munday. “In most tragic situations like this, there are many needs: physical, emotional and spiritual. When our two groups work together, it allows us to respond in a comprehensive way to all of these needs.”
The team also will work in collaboration with the Emergency Operation Center and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
According to a report from the Associated Press (AP), the haphazard destruction stretches for 25 miles: Row upon row of homes reduced to sprays of splintered lumber, shopping centers stripped to bare metal, parking lots turned into junk yards. And yet no one died.
"The only thing I can say is we were watched over and blessed," Fire Chief Mark Outlaw told the AP.