Rapid Response Team put to work

Doris Fleck • City Light News • November 01, 2008

When the St. John River spilled its banks this past April, more than 500 families in New Brunswick were forced to seek emergency shelter. With over 1,300 homes flooded and 42 streets in the capital city of Fredericton under water, this disaster affected the entire region.

Not only was Samaritan's Purse one of the first on the scene to provide supplies and physical aid, but chaplains from the Rapid Response Team (RRT) were there as well, bringing emotional support and the message of God's love.

The RRT is a ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), a sister organization to Samaritan's Purse.

"I think the marriage of both ministries is amazing," said Melanie Neufeld, the RRT coordinator for Canada. "Samaritan's Purse does the physical work so these people are obviously relieved…When we come along, they're usually pretty open to have us pray with them and talk to them."

After the RRT left the flood-ravaged area, Neufeld received a special 'thank you' card from a couple who run a local diner in Sheffield, NB.

"In today's society when so many just turn a blind eye, it is just so very special to know there are some who care so much," they wrote.

The idea of an RRT first formed from the crumbled ruins of New York's Twin Towers. When the BGEA opened their Prayer Centre near Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it became clear that ministering to the emotional and spiritual needs of people caught in crisis was as crucial as meeting their physical needs.

The BGEA brought in experts in crisis counseling to train lay Christians to be chaplains, who could then be sent to disaster zones to provide prayer and the presence of Christ to traumatized victims.

Three years ago, Melanie Neufeld began building an RRT in Canada and facilitated the first training session in Calgary.

Since then, 350 individuals in five different cities have gone through the training and over 75 of those people are now approved chaplains.

The BGEA training course, His Presence in Crisis, is one Neufeld recommends everyone take. She explains it enables people to support friends and family, like an aunt who's going through cancer, a friend who's going through a divorce or somebody who's just had a car accident.

The BGEA also provides instruction to train churches to respond and mobilize teams in times of crisis, in their communities under their own church umbrella. The Canadian head office in Calgary will be hosting a Community Impact Seminar on November 9.

Neufeld is planning on taking these seminars to every major city in Canada in the next two years. The Vancouver area will be next on the list since Neufeld said the BGEA would love to have 500 chaplains on the ground providing encouragement, prayer, and comfort during the Olympics.

More information on the RRT or the Community Impact Seminar can be found at www.billygraham.ca or by calling 1-800-293-3717.