By BGEA | First Published: June 27, 2016
On May 3, Fort McMurray, Alberta was evacuated due to a massive wildfire that engulfed the city of 80,000.
Over 2,400 buildings were destroyed in the fire. Residents have begun returning since the evacuation order was lifted June 1. Our Rapid Response Team chaplains have been helping since the outset. Municipal authorities have invited us into the city to provide support, encouragement and prayer to all who need it.
On the surface, it seemed like nothing more than an accident.
Two Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains went to a home in the fire-ravaged Alberta city of Fort McMurray to follow up with a recently evacuated homeowner who had his fridge (filled with rotten food) removed by Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.
The homeowner wasn’t there, but at that moment, one of the neighbors happened to be outside unloading his car.
The chaplains—Cherie Sims and Gena Small—introduced themselves and asked how he was doing after a catastrophic wildfire forced him and other residents to leave for nearly a month.
The man saw the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association logo on their blue shirts and proceeded to share how, as a child, his father trained to become a pastor, yet at the same time physically abused his son.
This turned the man away from faith in Jesus Christ, yet he continued conversing with the chaplains and allowed them to use a pamphlet to explain how to have peace with God. He declined the invitation to commit his life to Christ, but asked to keep the pamphlet.
Even as Cherie and Gena quietly rejoiced over a seed planted—and how this accident was really a God moment—Gena was moved to ask to speak with his wife, Ruth (name changed to protect her privacy).
She came out of the house and engaged in two hours of sometimes-rambling conversation with the chaplains.
“Through her conversation, Ruth basically told us how to relate to her,” said Cherie. “Gena walked her through the Steps to Peace With God (pamphlet) and she responded. She came alive when we asked if she wanted to say the prayer of salvation.”
As the God moment continued, Ruth spoke the prayer and committed her life to Christ.
“There seemed to be an alertness that wasn’t there before,” said Cherie. “Ruth had clarity in her thoughts, especially when she saw the Bible we gave her. She told us ‘I have to start reading again, and this is the next book I’m going to read.’”
We praise God for how He worked through our volunteer chaplains to accomplish His glorious purposes in Fort McMurray, even with residents who had no previous interaction with our chaplains or with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who are helping homeowners clean up.
You can be part of this Kingdom work through your prayers and donations. Please join us in telling Fort McMurray residents about the One “who knew no sin [but became] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV).