Looking to God
May 1, 2005 - Rachel stood among the crowd of students listening intently to every word of the chaplain from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Rapid Response Team. As one of the teachers at a public school on the island of Grenada, she knew the words were directed to the 200 children gathered in the gymnasium, but she could not help but hear the words for herself. Years ago, Rachel had asked Jesus into her life, but she had not followed Him wholeheartedly. Now, she had a chance to rededicate her life to the Lord. That day, Rachel made a commitment to serve the living God.
by Erin Marteniuk
Hurricane Ivan, which hit this small Caribbean island on Sept. 7, 2004, inflicted unimaginable devastation and left many angry and confused—and questioning God.
Directly after the hurricane, several relief organizations responded to help restore Grenada’s infrastructure. Hundreds of homes were rebuilt and thousands of lives were touched. Volunteers helped with immediate needs, like clearing debris, installing tin roofs and constructing temporary shelters for displaced families.
Still, many more lives cried out for the love and compassion of Christians. The physical and spiritual needs remained great, and many feared that a hurricane would come again. In addition, the churches were overwhelmed with their own recovery.
In response to all this, in January, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployed teams of volunteer chaplains to assist pastors in meeting the spiritual and emotional needs in their communities. Four teams, each comprised of four chaplains, spent a total of eight weeks in Grenada ministering to the islanders.
Although the people have experienced tremendous devastation, Pat Karn, one of the lead chaplains for the Rapid Response Team in Grenada, said that he has never seen anyplace so open to hearing the message of hope in Christ. When the chaplain teams arrived, they found tremendous openness to the Gospel everywhere they went. The message of God’s love brought hope and assurance, and many made commitments to Christ.
Although Grenada is a nation comprised mainly of Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants, Karn said that local pastors and national leaders told him that there has been a great need for spiritual awakening in Grenada.
“Before the hurricane, the people of Grenada were concerned only with what material things they possessed,” said Michael Pierre, permanent secretary of education in Grenada. “But now, after the hurricane took everything away, the people are looking to God.”
The Rapid Response Team formed in response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City. Seeing the overwhelming need for spiritual guidance and comfort, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) made a commitment to help. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, similar needs are common throughout Grenada.
Elizabeth Cambridge remembers the hurricane all too well. Like many of the people in Grenada, Cambridge did not believe the hurricane was heading directly for the island and was not prepared for what would happen. When the sky grew dark and the wind gained strength, Cambridge and her family ran to the nearest concrete shelter—a community center located just steps from their home—and waited for nearly 24 hours until the storm subsided. It was the most terrifying ordeal of her life. Confused and uncertain of what could happen next, Cambridge returned to her home to find that everything her family had was blown away.
When the Rapid Response Team visited Cambridge in March, she was still in shock over what had happened. All her hope had faded, and the fear of more hurricanes remained. Immediately, the team set to action and began sharing with Cambridge and her family the hope and peace found through Jesus Christ.
“They were very grateful and open to us when we shared the Gospel,” Karn said. “They asked us to pray with them, knowing that God would bring them comfort and peace during this difficult time.”
Cambridge and her family are now living in their new home, built by Franklin Graham’s relief organization Samaritan’s Purse—and Cambridge has a renewed faith and hope in Christ Jesus.
Volunteer chaplain Richard Larcombe explained that one of the teams’ main responsibilities was to visit communities where Samaritan’s Purse had built homes. “It was an incredibly moving experience for all of us,” said Larcombe. “People told us what it was like to be inside their homes as the roof was ripped clean off. I visited with a man and wept as he showed me the pile of rotten wood that used to be his home.”
Almost 6,000 people in schools, churches and homes welcomed teams into their lives to share the message of hope and peace that Jesus brings—and more than 1,300 men, women and children made decisions for Him.
“We are extremely appreciative of the efforts of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse,” said Ann David-Antoine, the Senator for the Ministry of Health, Social Security, Environment and Ecclesiastical Relations in Grenada. “They are an ongoing encouragement to the people. ... That declares the faithfulness of God.”
In March, BGEA completed its work in Grenada, having affected thousands of lives by demonstrating the love and compassion of Christ.
The people of Grenada never know when a hurricane might come again, but they are learning that Jesus Christ can give them comfort and strength in times of hardship. For every person on the island, God has a purpose and a plan. The BGEA Rapid Response Team’s mission was to make that known to the people of Grenada.