(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)
A group of crisis-trained chaplains deployed by the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team announced that it has officially completed its ministry in Newtown, Conn., the community where 26 lives were taken during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The announcement came last Friday, three weeks to the day when one of the most horrific tragedies this country has ever seen took place. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team had chaplains on the ground within hours to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of the first responders, teachers, family members and the community at-large.
Officials for the team report that 830 people were prayed with and comforted by the chaplains.
"Though the memorials have been taken down and our chaplains are heading home, I speak for all of our folks when I say that our hearts will always be with Newtown and the first responders, teachers, children and families there," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
"Things will never be the same, but we ask you to pray as the kids return to school and the community begins to seek 'the new normal.' Most of all, please continue to pray for the families of those dear little children and the teachers and administrators who died that day. They need our prayers as much as ever."
During the deployment, the chaplains had the opportunity to reach out to those who saw first-hand the tragedy inside the elementary school, as well as be a part of counseling teams set up to help the grief-stricken. They attended every funeral held in the area in support of the families, and were with the families as they collectively visited the memorial sites.
While in the area, Munday led a grief response training attended by approximately 200 people at Calvary Church in Southbury, Conn. "Our ministry is designed to bring hope and comfort in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, but the grief continues," said Munday. "Our prayer is that others will now be equipped to continue offering emotional and spiritual care to their neighbors, co-workers and family members long after we're gone."
In 2012, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployed chaplains during some of the nation's worst tragedies and disasters, including throughout Colorado and New Mexico during the summer to help contain the wildfires and assist evacuees in coping with homes lost in the devastating natural disaster that swept several Western states. Also, the team was quickly deployed to the U.S. East Coast to people suffering in the devastating aftermath of superstorm Sandy hitting in late October.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is a nationwide network of Christian chaplains across 48 states that are specifically trained to deal with crisis situations. Since the ministry was launched in 2002, it has responded to more than 150 natural and man-made disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and shootings. For more information on the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, visit www.billygraham.org/rrt. For videos, photos and news articles from recent Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployments, visit www.billygraham.org/crisisresponse. Ministry updates and photo galleries are posted at www.facebook.com/BGRapidResponseTeam.