A woman broke down crying after walking into the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team’s Mobile Ministry Center in Key West, Fla.
So much was going on in her life even before Hurricane Irma roared into the area on Sept. 10. Her marriage had ended in divorce. The home she’d lived in with her former husband already needed to be sold but now was torn up by the hurricane.
She told a chaplain she had contemplated suicide before seeing a sign reading “Need To Talk?” outside the Mobile Ministry Center.
The chaplain comforted her and shared the Gospel with her through the Steps to Peace with God evangelistic tract. The woman prayed to receive Christ and said that she now felt a peace and hope that had been missing in her life.
She was among nearly 500 people who prayed to receive Christ with Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains through Oct. 9 in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma in August and September. These were two of the most damaging storms ever to hit the U.S., yet the Holy Spirit was moving, bringing many to eternal life through faith in Jesus.
More than 300 RRT chaplains from across North America were deployed to five Texas locations, where Harvey made landfall, and three places in Florida where Irma hit. The hurricanes, both Category 4, killed dozens and caused catastrophic damage with winds, storm surges and rain, including extensive flooding in the Houston area.
The chaplains partnered closely with Disaster Relief volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse to address the material, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of storm victims. This included home cleanup, repair and rebuilding projects—and addressing deep emotional trauma and concerns, much of which, chaplains noted, existed before the storms ever hit.
Through Oct. 9, chaplains had prayed with more than 20,000 people in the two states.
“We thank God that we’re able to come here and minister in Jesus’ Name,” BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham said in a video posted on his Facebook page.
Here are some examples of how God moved through the RRT chaplains’ ministry and prayers:
At the Key West Mobile Ministry Center, a family of four, including an 11-year-old girl, visited after spending four nights sleeping in a car because of storm damage to their home. Chaplains prayed with them, and the girl responded to the Gospel by asking Jesus into her life.
In Fort Myers, Fla., a Samaritan’s Purse team made home repairs at the dwelling of an elderly widow. Chaplains arrived the next day. The woman explained that her husband had died three months earlier from a heart attack. Chaplains prayed with her, comforted her and eventually led her in a prayer for salvation.
In Naples, Fla., a man whose home was severely damaged by Irma told chaplains how he had received Christ at age 13 while watching a Billy Graham Crusade at a drive-in movie theater with his parents. The chaplains were delighted to hear the story and asked him if he had any prayer requests. He asked them to pray that the power and water services at his home would be restored. After the chaplains finished the visit and were starting to drive away, they heard the man excitedly yell out that the services had come back on.
In Houston, chaplains visited a family of three who had escaped flood waters three times through the rescue of strangers. The chaplains explained that God also has a spiritual rescue plan, and each of them prayed to receive Jesus.
In Rockport, Texas—30 miles north of Corpus Christi, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25—chaplains visited a family of three whose home had been damaged by the storm. Each member of the family—parents and a daughter suffering from a chronic illness—replied affirmatively about receiving Christ after chaplains explained that Jesus died to forgive us of our sins, to win a place for us in Heaven and to rescue us from hell.
“Texas is hot enough,” the father said. “I don’t want to spend any time in hell.”
In Pearland, Texas, where Harvey dropped an estimated 51 inches of rain, chaplains visited a couple whose home had been flooded and filled with mud. One homeowner asked why God would let such a terrible thing happen to them. The chaplains explained that they didn’t know why, but that the Lord offers eternal peace through Jesus. The husband and wife prayed to receive Christ.
In Victoria, Texas, one of the first places Hurricane Harvey hit, an 86-year-old man explained how he and his wife had to move room to room in their home during the storm because their roof was being torn away, and how they narrowly missed being struck when their chimney fell.
The man was very interested in spiritual matters and described himself as religious, but upon hearing the Gospel from the chaplains, he realized that he did not have a personal relationship with Christ. So he prayed to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior and then, with tearful eyes, pointed to his heart and said: “I feel different right here.”
Information from Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployment reports.