Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains providing hope and comfort following deadly attack
By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
LAS VEGAS, NV (ANS – Oct. 2, 2017) – The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed chaplains to Las Vegas following last night’s horrific mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.
The attack, which took place at a country music festival near the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, is now the deadliest mass shooting on American soil in modern history.
“We mourn for the families that lost loved ones, especially in such an evil and violent manner. We grieve for the survivors who will carry the emotional and physical scars the rest of their lives. The terror that took place last night in Las Vegas will forever be etched in the minds of those who were present,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “We will be there to talk with and pray with the hurting, offering the hope and comfort of Jesus Christ in these dark days.”
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, posted to his Facebook page: “This morning we awoke to the tragic news that at least 50 people were killed and over 200 wounded last night in a mass shooting at a Las Vegas outdoor concert. Please join me in praying for the families of those killed and for all the injured.”
An initial group of chaplains will arrive today and tomorrow to minister at memorial sites. Additional chaplains will be on stand-by to respond as warranted.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has a long history of offering hope and comfort following shootings and terror attacks both domestically and internationally. Thus far in 2017, the ministry has dispatched chaplains in response to terror attacks in Quebec, Canada; London, England (March and June); Manchester, England; and Barcelona, Spain. In 2016, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team brought hope following terror attacks in Belgium, France and Germany (Munich in July and Berlin in December).
In June of 2016, 40 crisis-trained chaplains prayed with and comforted more than 1,600 mourners in Orlando, FL., following the attack at the Pulse night club. The organization has also responded to mass shootings in San Bernardino, CA., (2016); Umpqua Community College in Oregon (2016); Newtown, CT., (2012); Aurora, CO., (2012); Northern Illinois University (2008) and Virginia Tech University (2007), among others.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team was developed by Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It has since grown into an international network of chaplains in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia who are specifically trained to deal with crisis situations. They have deployed to more than 270 disaster sites, including shootings, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes.
For more information on the ministry, including videos, photos, news articles and an interactive map of former and current deployments, visit www.billygraham.org/rrt . Updates can also be found at www.facebook.com/RRTChaplains.
www.CBNNews.com said what started as a country music concert turned into a bloody massacre overnight, and it’s now being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
The shooting happened late Sunday night as 22,000 people gathered to watch country music artist Jason Aldean perform for the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert in the streets outside the Mandalay Bay Casino.
At least 58 people were killed, and Las Vegas police report more than 515 people were injured and taken to area hospitals.
The gunman has been identified as 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, a retiree with no criminal history, from Mesquite, Nevada. Police say he had as many as 10 guns with him, and he was killed during a confrontation as police raced to confront him on the 32nd floor of that casino.
ISIS (Islamic State – IS) is claiming responsibility for the attack, saying Paddock had converted to Islam, but the Islamic terrorist group provided no evidence and officials say they have not discovered any ties.
Witnesses on the ground described the shooting as a chaotic scene of screaming and weeping with blood everywhere.
“My friend was like ‘I just got hit,'” one witness said. “He got hit three times and people started diving for the ground and it just continued, it was chaotic.”
Footage from the scene shows people falling over each other to get away.
In other videos from the concert, many concertgoers aren’t even aware a shooting is taking place as the “pop-pop-pop-pop” of the gun can be heard in the distance. Some say they thought it was fireworks.
“We refused to believe it was a shooting until it kept going and going and then Jason Aldean left the stage and then everyone started fleeing,” one witness said.
Concertgoers used their personal vehicles to try and get shooting victims to the hospital. SWAT teams were sent to the resort, clearing out the 29th floor and working their way up.
“Through investigation and response we determined there was a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. Officers responded to that location and engaged the suspect at that location,” police say.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying, “The President has been briefed on the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. We are monitoring the situation closely and offer our full support to state and local officials. All of those affected are in our thoughts and prayers.”
President Trump tweeted about the shooting saying, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you.”
Off-duty police officers who were at the concert are among the dead. Two more officers were also hurt.
An Islamic State propaganda video targeting Las Vegas was released in May – but as the investigation began, police said they didn’t believe this was an act of terrorism. Still, no one could say what was behind this deadly mass shooting.
Country music artists started praying for injured fans and workers after the concert attack near Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas Monday.
Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Lee Brice, Dylan Scott and Luke Combs were among those who performed at the concert.
“Gun shots were ringing off of the stage rigging and road cases. No one knew where to,” Owen wrote on Twitter.
“Praying for everyone here in Vegas,” he wrote on Twitter. “I witnessed the most unimaginable event tonight. We are okay. Others aren’t. Please pray”
Jason Aldean later posted an emotional post on Instagram asking for people to pray for the victims.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight,” he wrote in his post. “It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night,” he wrote.
Christian Leaders, Entertainers React to Las Vegas Shooting
Leah Marieann Klett reports for The Gospel Herald (www.gospelherald.com) that Christian leaders and entertainers have issued a call to prayer after at least 58 people were killed at a Jason Aldean concert on Sunday night.
According to reports, dozens were killed and more than 500 people injured after Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire into an outdoor country music festival from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Monday morning that authorities believe Paddock killed himself before police entered his room.
At least one off-duty Las Vegas police officer was shot, and several other off-duty police officers are believed to be among the dead and injured. The Route 91 Harvest Festival bills itself as “three days of country music on the Vegas Strip,” and Sunday night’s performance was the last of the festival.
Using the hashtag #PrayforVegas, hundreds took to social media to express their shock and horror at the incident, which has been described as the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
Here are the reactions of 11 Christian leaders and entertainers, in no particular order.
Tweeted country artist Carrie Underwood: “Woke up to such horrible news. We are praying for the victims and their families. May the Lord bring some comfort to them.”
Paula White-Cain, evangelical advisor to President Donald Trump, tweeted: “I am praying for everyone affected by the tragic shooting in #LasVegas last night! I look to God for peace and strength! #prayer.”
Wrote actress Candace Cameron-Bure: “Oh Lord…Evil doesn’t take God by surprise. He knows we will suffer in this lifetime and His heart breaks with ours. But He’s also still sitting tall on His throne, not pacing back and forth nervously. He’s already won. He’s already overcome. The evils we endure in this world are indeed painful…but they are temporary. With a broken heart for the lives lost and the families and friends affected by this tragedy, I pray with very few words. But, I rejoice because God hears our prayers and holds us all tightly in His grip. #prayforlasvegas #prayforvegas Don’t let political correctness get in the way of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Tweeted author Beth Moore: “Oh Las Vegas. We are sorrowing & praying for you. Psalm 7:9 echoes from my morning reading: ‘Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end.’”
Tweeted CCM artist Matthew West: “As the number of casualties rises this am, I’m just so sad for all the victims in Vegas. Praying for tis broken world and all who are hurting.”
Passion City Church Pastor Louie Giglio tweeted: “ //mercy// Heart heavy. Prayers rising.”
How Do We Pray Now, Going Forward?
Ed Stetzer, writing for The Exchange column at www.christianitytoday.com says this morning, most Americans are waking up to news of another mass shooting –this time in Las Vegas –and, this time, the worst in our country’s history.
“We will sit in front of the TV, our regular morning routine put on hold as we see the all-too-familiar images of police setting up barricades, victims being evacuated, and a slowly increasing casualty count scrolling across the bottom of the screen. In our shock, we often default to news consumption, waiting on every bit of information:
** Who was the shooter and why did he do this?
** What about the wounded?
** What does this mean moving forward?
** What needs to change in our country?” Stetzer wrote.
Stetzer said: “These questions are important questions, but let me propose for Christians that after we have learned of the shooting, we turn away a moment from news consumption and turn towards prayer.”
Statezer said he wrote in response to San Bernardino that prayer is often depicted as “not enough” or, even worse, as political posturing.
“But Scripture both models and teaches that prayer is central to the Christian life. Regrettably, #ThoughtsAndPrayers was already trending this morning on Twitter, but not in a good way.
“Some will criticize politicians for their prayers today, calling them to action. But, I’m not a lawmaker and I think prayer is action. Not the only action needed, but a good one right now in this moment. I don’t know all the details and I am not in Las Vegas, but I do have a heavenly father who hears my prayers as I cry out to him.”
Here are three things you can pray for this morning as you process these news stories.
- Pray for the Victims
- Pray for Our Civic Leaders
Regardless of our political divisions and how personally difficult it is to pray for certain civic officials, our faith demands that we submit ourselves in humility to praying for our leaders. You can join me in praying for Las Vegas sheriff Joseph Lombardo, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, and President Trump.
Pray honestly and fervently for their wisdom in navigating the treacherous roads ahead. Pray that they’d make wise choices for the safety of our nation and its people. Pray that they would have wisdom and discernment during the crisis so as to bring unity and leadership to those in need.
- Pray for Las Vegas Churches
Stetzer said Las Vegas is often known as “sin city,” and “(surely) some fool will say this is the judgement of God, forgetting that Bible-belt Houston was just hit with a hurricane. And, of course, some in the media will make that person that no one has ever heard of into a nationally prominent voice.
“As Christ-followers, our place is not to judge, but to humble ourselves in unity with our brothers and sisters who are grieving.”
He continued: “We must pray for the churches in Las Vegas to be ministers of the gospel in the midst of this loss. As Paul asked of the early church in Colossians 4:3, we must pray that God would open a window for us to share the love of Christ in the midst of the pain. Just as God’s church has led the response to hurricane relief, pray that it would now again be a light in Las Vegas. They need all of our encouragement and support during this time.”
Just a couple of weeks ago, Stetzer visited with his friend Vance Pitman of Hope Church in Las Vegas. “Their church has been, as their name says, a bearer of hope for many years in Las Vegas, but that word takes on new meaning now. And many other churches will bear that hope as well. And, we pray they will.”
“Going Forward on Our Knees”
“Now,” said Stetzer, “we must do more than pray. Issues, some controversial, must be addressed. But, all of us can agree to pray in this moment.
“Let’s pray for comfort for the hurting, echoing the words of Paul speaking of God, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,” (2 Cor. 1:4).
Stetzer concludes: “Then, we can pray the words of Jesus: ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will done, on earth as it is in heaven,’ (Matt. 6:10). Clearly, the world is not as Jesus desires it to be, and we pray for him to make all things right. God’s kingdom is one that is holy and right and without pain and suffering. Lord Jesus, this is what we long for today and always.
“Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord, and fix this broken world. For us, #PrayForLasVegas is not a political act. It’s actually a powerful one.”
Photo captions: 1) A gunman opened fire as singer Jason Aldean performed on stage at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas late Sunday night, killing 50 and injuring at least 200. (AP Photo via Gospel Herald). 2) Officers return fire in Las Vegas. (NBC News). 3) Pray For Las Vegas. 4) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelIrelandMediaMissionary.com, and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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