CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ANS) — Teams of crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) are on their way to El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, following a pair of shootings over the weekend.
News reports say 20 people have died and 26 others were injured in El Paso. In Dayton, an additional nine people were killed and 26 people were hurt. RRT chaplains at both sites will work alongside government officials, churches, first responders and with the community at large to provide emotional and spiritual care.
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“This is such a difficult time for both of these cities,” said Jack Munday, international director of the RRT. “In this time of shock, anger, brokenness and incredible loss, we can’t imagine the pain and suffering people are feeling from these senseless acts of evil. Yet, we know God hasn’t forgotten them, and seeks to heal the brokenhearted and bring comfort to those who grieve.”
Initial reports of an active shooter in El Paso began around 11 a.m. Saturday morning, and El Paso police told reporters they had a person in custody by 1 p.m., ending the lockdown of the Walmart and other area businesses. The Dayton shooter, who opened fire while wearing body armor, was stopped by police in less than a minute, potentially saving hundreds of lives.
“Please join me in praying for the grieving families whose loved ones were killed today and for the nearly two dozen more who are injured and being treated in nearby hospitals,” Billy Graham Evangelistic Association President Franklin Graham said on his Facebook page following the first incident. “Even the youngest of children were not spared from this senseless evil. Unbelievably, all at a local Walmart. I join with Governor Greg Abbott who said, ‘We ask God to bind up the wounds of all who’ve been harmed.’”
The RRT also has chaplains in Del Rio and Laredo, Texas, where they are offering respite and comfort to those who have been granted legal access into the United States. The organization already has connections to the Dayton area, having sent a team of 22 chaplains following a tornado that ripped through the area in May of this year.
Christian Emergency Network (CEN) says the unprecedented mass shooting attacks in El Paso, Texas and in Dayton, Ohio prompted investigations by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The El Paso, Texas law enforcement have confirmed that 20 people were killed and 26 were injured and it is now being investigated as a domestic terrorism incident. Sadly, in Dayton, Ohio 9 people were killed and 27 were injured.
In an interview by CEN Public Information Officer Deputy John Phelps earlier today, CEN Founder and President Mary Marr said: “While there is no known specific threat to the Christian church nationwide at this time, CEN will continue to monitor our federal, state and local sources and advise accordingly. This tragedy is a reminder for Christians in the U.S. to pray fervently for revival to heal our land; to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement promptly; and to care for those affected by this tragedy sensitively sharing the Hope of Christ in the weeks and months to come.”
Marr also stated: “While we are on higher alert especially in soft target spaces like theatres, schools, malls and churches as part of our daily routine now, God’s Word in Acts 4:29-30 reminds us: ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ This is a time when Christians need to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically resilient. Again, let’s be Aware, Ready and There sharing Christ together!”
Christians are being urged to ‘Stand ready’ to respond as Jesus would to protect your own congregation as you share the Hope of Christ with those who are hurting. (Habakkuk, Chapter 2)
- Review your ReadyChurch Emergency Plan
- Review the Soft Target and Crowded Places
- Notify local law enforcement when you see anyone who is:
Loitering around your facilities or parking lots.
Conducting surveillance around the facility.
Not following security entry and exit protocols.
Tampering with heating and cooling systems.
Working with children without a background check.
Acting suspiciously wearing bulky clothing.
Leaving packages unattended.
Calling, emailing or texting threatening messages from outside sources.
Breaching your intrusion systems.
Tampering with gates or locks of facilities.
Driving vehicles into crowded non-secure areas.
Marr urges believers to pray:
- Christians will respond with the love and Hope of Christ as others may ask “Where is God in this?” regardless of faith affiliation.
- First Responders will be protected and vigilant both in El Paso and Dayton as in all cities around the country.
- CEN will be supported to minister even more closely with first responders on behalf of the Christian community, particularly in the areas of timely actionable information sharing, training, as well as incident prevention and mitigation.
Furthermore Marr suggests:
- Review your ReadyChurch security plan and insure your congregation is reporting suspicious activities in and around your church facility to you and law enforcement.
- Report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement, inside and outside church grounds, as these reports have substantially reduced incidents in the past two years according to the FBI.
- Demonstrate the love of Christ with all those He places in your path.
She also asks that believers share:
- Words of encouragement with your local first responders who put their lives on the line every day for our safety and recovery.
- ReadyChurch with your pastor and staff for your own congregation to be ready spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically when there is any incident, whether large or small, at your church.
- ReadyCity with your Christian city leadership to form a citywide response team ready to respond to incidents like these in a manner which Glorifies the Lord.