A team of Billy Graham chaplains deployed to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday during the city’s third day of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We have deployed chaplains to crises all over the world and now we have a crisis in the backyard of our headquarters in Charlotte,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “God is the ultimate healer and our chaplains have now responded in their community with a ministry of presence, offering peace and hope in a dark and difficult time.”
On Saturday, city leaders issued a state of emergency for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County area due to “civil unrest” after protests turned violent. Authorities say that the purpose of the order is to “protect life and property by granting each [governmental] agency the authority to direct resources throughout the community as needed.” So far, no curfew has been enacted.
“When I left this building [yesterday] at 5:30 p.m., I had no idea that by 8 o’clock, [we] would be in the situation that we were,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said during a virtual press conference on Saturday broadcast live from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. “The first group that I pulled together was our city council members, because they represent everyone in the city. And the second group … was a pastor’s group. Perhaps I needed a little more support, prayer, faith and candor at the same time. We’ll continue to look and seek those groups out.”
The following day, Lyles posted photos to her personal Twitter account of a prayer vigil she attended at her church, Friendship Missionary Baptist, in Charlotte. “In the midst of all this turmoil, we must hold even closer to our faith,” she added to the post. “We are not alone in this. Please stay safe. And keep praying, as will I.”
A dozen crisis-trained chaplains have mobilized in the streets of downtown Charlotte alongside leaders of the city’s faith community. Sunday afternoon, more than 50 Charlotte-area church groups peacefully demonstrated and sang hymns together at First Ward Park. At one point, the crowd grew to more than 2,000 people, according to Charlotte Agenda.
Twelve RRT chaplains are also ministering in Minneapolis, where protests initially began over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police. The 46-year-old, unarmed, black man was forcefully held down in a knee-to-neck lock by police officer Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Chauvin, who had a history of complaints against him in a 19-year career, was fired and has been charged with manslaughter as well as third-degree murder in Floyd’s death.
In the midst of escalating protests around the country, Franklin Graham called churches to participate in a national time of prayer on Sunday.
“The greatest weapon and the most powerful defense we have is prayer,” he said. “Our country needs prayer in a critical way.”
“The only One who can heal the racial divide is Jesus Christ, who has the power to transform the human heart,” he said in an earlier post.
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2020 BGEA