Within hours of deadly shooting rampages in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) were ministering to victims’ families and first responders in those cities, as well as residents who were trying to process the tragedies.
The shooting at a Walmart in El Paso on Aug. 3 by a 21-year-old male inspired by white supremacist ideology killed 22 people and left at least 24 more injured, as of press time. In Dayton, a 24-year-old gunman was shot dead by police after he killed nine people, including his 22-year-old sister, and injured dozens more in the early morning hours of Aug. 4.
Franklin Graham said on Facebook: “The Word of God tells us to ‘mourn with those who mourn,’ and that is what our nation is doing. We grieve the tragic and devastating loss of life in El Paso and Dayton this weekend. … each mother, each father, each sister and brother, each wife and husband is also a victim—a victim of the heinous and senseless evil unleashed by two murderous gunmen. … As we mourn with these families and communities, let’s continue to sincerely lift them up in prayer before the Lord. He is the only one who can comfort and wholly heal their broken hearts.”
In Dayton, RRT chaplains, with already-established relationships from a deployment last spring following deadly tornadoes, were able to help care for the community after the shooting. A dozen crisis-trained RRT chaplains were also ministering in El Paso.
Joe Soto of El Paso was on the phone with his wife, waiting in line at the McDonald’s inside Walmart, when shots rang out. He scrambled toward a wall, then led a group of elderly shoppers into a storage room, hoping and praying the gunman wouldn’t find them, all the while thinking of his four children.
Luis Mancilla, a resident of El Paso and BGEA’s south regional manager who was serving with the RRT chaplains, said, “This is a wake-up call. God had mercy on us.”
Above: A group of people, including RRT chaplains, gather around a row of crosses, each representing a life lost during the El Paso shooting.
Photo: 2019 BGEA