Violent storm systems spawned about 80 tornadoes across the Mississippi River Valley region in April, resulting in more than 30 deaths, leveling dozens of homes and bringing widespread flooding to south Florida.
And in the wake of the devastation, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT) chaplains were there alongside Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, ministering to storm victims in Jesus’ Name.
“We want to make sure residents know they are not alone and not forgotten,” said Josh Holland, international director of the BG-RRT. “In the midst of the storm, there is hope—that hope is in Jesus Christ.”
Throughout April and early May, more than 70 chaplains prayed with more than 2,900 people as dozens professed their newfound faith in Christ. Here are a few of their stories.
Two days after eight tornadoes struck overnight across Oklahoma, an engaged couple in Shawnee—about 40 miles outside Oklahoma City—were greeted by two chaplains.
The homeowner readily professed to be a Christian, but her fiancé questioned God’s existence. As the chaplains shared the “Steps to Peace With God” booklet, the man said God couldn’t forgive him for “all of the terrible things” he had done. But after the chaplains had presented the Gospel, he wept as he prayerfully repented of his sins and surrendered his life to Christ.
Rejoicing over her fiancé’s decision, the homeowner told the chaplains: “You have done in one hour what I have been praying for and trying to do for two years.”
When a chaplain couple couldn’t find another Shawnee homeowner at a residence following the completion of cleanup efforts by Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, they started looking elsewhere. Their search took them to the local laundromat, where they found the homeowner and gave her a Bible. And in the midst of the noisy and crowded laundromat, the chaplains led the young woman in prayer to receive Christ.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a single mom had huddled inside a closet with her three teenage children as several trees fell on her house. When chaplains asked her a couple of days later where she might be if the tornadoes had taken her life, the woman said she hoped she would be in Heaven. After hearing the Gospel shared by the chaplains, the woman accepted God’s gift of eternal life by trusting in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. She told the chaplains she couldn’t wait to share “Steps to Peace With God” with her children.
Chaplains going door to door in Little Rock met a family with a Muslim background. The grandmother, who lived in the house, was a Christian and had been praying for her family’s salvation for some time. Three times the chaplains began sharing the Gospel, starting over each time another family member joined the conversation. By the time they finished reading the booklet, two of the woman’s daughters and a granddaughter were ready to profess their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
In Wynne, Arkansas, when chaplains asked a homeowner how they could pray for her, she said “for all of my family to be saved.” After praying with the woman and her two sons, ages 19 and 21, the chaplains asked the young men if they knew they would go to Heaven when they died. Both sons said no. Then one of the chaplains said, “Why would you want to wait?” A few minutes later, both sons repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to Jesus.
During another visit by chaplains, a 76-year-old woman recounted how she thought she was going to die while lying down in a hallway and hearing trees snapping like twigs outside her house. When a chaplain asked the woman what she would have said if she had died and met Jesus, she talked about being a good person and a helpful neighbor. But after reading “Steps to Peace With God,” she tearfully repented of her sins and invited Jesus to be her Savior.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where about 26 inches of rain fell in 12 hours, dozens of residents experienced widespread flooding. When chaplains arrived at 93-year-old Paul’s house, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers had already removed rain-soaked carpet and drywall.
A chaplain asked Paul if he knew that his name was the same as a Bible hero. “He was a renegade, killing good people until God instantly changed him,” the chaplain said.
“I was a renegade too,” the homeowner admitted. The chaplain responded: “God can change you in an instant too. Do you know people are praying for you?”
“They are?” Paul asked surprisingly. “Yes,” the chaplain responded, “and one day, every person on this earth must kneel before God and confess whether Jesus is Lord of their life or not. Would you like to repent and accept Jesus as your Lord right now, and be ready when you face Him?”
To which Paul replied, “Yes, I would.”
And when chaplains returned to another Fort Lauderdale residence with discipleship materials for a man who had prayed to receive Christ the previous day, they met the man’s wife. Although she said that she, too, was a Christian, the woman couldn’t explain the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross being the bridge to eternal life with God, as illustrated in “Steps to Peace With God.”
Once the chaplains thoroughly explained how eternal life with God can only be experienced through trusting in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, the woman happily professed her faith in Christ. The couple asked the chaplains to give them more of the Gospel booklets to share with others. “I really want to share this with my daughter,” the husband said. ©2023 BGEA
Photo: Guy Lyons/Genesis Photos/©2023 BGEA