The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT) deployed two Mobile Ministry Centers Thursday morning from its Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters, bound for southwest Florida following Hurricane Ian’s landfall. The storm struck shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday with winds exceeding 140 miles per hour.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described the Category 4 hurricane’s impact on the Sunshine State as “basically a 500-year flood event” with more than 2.5 million power outages reported in the state. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno has estimated storm-related fatalities in his county in the “hundreds.”
“We know that Hurricane Ian is one of the strongest storms in Florida’s history,” said Josh Holland, international director of the BG-RRT. “As we learn of its magnitude, our hearts are heavy and we are earnestly praying for the people in the path of this hurricane. We are sending our crisis-trained chaplains to provide emotional and spiritual support during this time of crisis.”
RRT chaplains are expected to be ministering in storm-stricken areas by Friday with as many as 20 chaplains on site by Monday. Multiple deployments are expected over the next several months.
Speaking to Greta Van Susteren on NewsMax TV Wednesday evening, Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, said deployments to Georgia and South Carolina are likely even as the hurricane had been downgraded to a tropical storm by Thursday morning.
“We certainly pray for the [Florida] governor and lieutenant governor and all the first responders,” Franklin told Susteren. “They’ve got a huge job on their hands. And they need our prayers.”
Franklin said in the coming days that Samaritan’s Purse would also be deploying shower trailers, food trucks and other tools, generators and machinery to help residents remove fallen trees off their homes and clean out their flooded residences.
“We’ll be going in the Ft. Myers area,” Franklin said. “There are several churches we’ve worked with in the past. And that’s probably where we’ll start.”
Forecasters warn of tropical-storm force winds and life-threatening storm surge through Friday along the coasts of northeastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Hurricane Ian is tied with 2004’s Hurricane Charley as the fourth-strongest hurricane ever to hit Florida.