Chaplains bringing Christ’s love, compassion to wildfire victims

By BGEAC | June 28, 2016

Residents watch behind a fence as disaster response workers comb through the ashes of their burned-down home. Rapid Response Team chaplains (in blue shirts) are present to offer a listening ear, encouragement and prayers.

Crisis-trained Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains are in Fort McMurray offering emotional and spiritual support to residents who returned home after a catastrophic fire caused the entire northern Alberta city to be evacuated.

The evacuation order lasted almost a month—from May 3 to June 1. More than 2,400 buildings, including hundreds of homes, were destroyed in the fire.

Thanks to donations from Canadians like you, our volunteer RRT chaplains deployed to the area on May 21. Since then, they have offered residents a comforting ear, a shoulder on which they can cry, and the offer of prayer together.

Our chaplains met these two Fort McMurray residents soon after the evacuation order was lifted. The group shopped for some sleeping bags, then joined hands and prayed outside. "Joe the plumber" (holding bag) expressed his thanks to God and our Association. In turn, we thank our supporters who make outreach work like this possible.

BACKGROUND
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.

We already had many opportunities to share the love of Jesus with returnees, including one municipal employee who was moved enough to rededicate his life to Christ.

Some residents found their homes destroyed or badly damaged. The dwellings of others have suffered little or no damage. But many residents are still traumatized by what they experienced during the evacuation, and/or by how their community looks today.

We expect the chaplains to be in Fort McMurray for until the end of July, making this the largest RRT response since the 2013 southern Alberta floods. Because of the size of this response, we need more donations to help as many people as possible.

While BGEA chaplains help to address Fort McMurray’s emotional and spiritual needs, our sister organization, Samaritan’s Purse Canada, is addressing residents’ physical needs.

Samaritan’s Purse has two of its specially outfitted Disaster Relief Units, plus a variety of other vehicles and equipment, in Fort McMurray. The Christian relief and development organization is partnering with local churches, their congregations, and other Fort McMurray residents who want to be involved in the clean-up and restoration.