Billy Graham trauma chaplains, Christian groups bring comfort to distraught families of 150 missing in Florida tower collapse

People view a makeshift memorial near the site of the residential building collapse in Miami-Dade County, Florida, the United States, on June 26, 2021. The death toll from the partial collapse of a 12-story residential building has risen to five while the number of missing people rose to at least 159, local media reported on Saturday. | Monica McGivern/Xinhua via Getty Images

As rescue crews carry on with their search for survivors, trauma counselors with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and other Christian groups are ministering to the families of 150 people who remain missing and nine people who have died after a 12-story beachfront condo building in Florida partially collapsed Thursday night.

The fifth body was pulled out of the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside near Miami Saturday, the Miami Herald reported, adding that police had identified three of the victims as Stacie Fang, 54; Anthony Lozano, 83; and Gladys Lozano, 79.

Among those missing are a retired Miami-area teacher and his wife, Orthodox Jews from Russia, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, and many others from South America and Israel, according to CBN News.

Tragic stories of survivors are being reported, which include rescuers saving a child whose parents are feared dead and a mother and child being saved after the mother’s leg was amputated to pull her from the rubble.

Personnel are working around the clock with hopes that they may still find people alive in the debris. | Billy Graham Rapid Response Team

As the community grapples with the tragedy, crisis-trained chaplains from the BG-RRT are in the area “to offer emotional and spiritual care to first responders and the heartbroken community,” the ministry said.

“Our crisis-trained chaplains are available to listen, and we want all of those who were impacted — including the first responders who are part of the search-and-rescue efforts — to know that God still loves them and cares about them, even in the midst of such pain and sadness,” CBN News quoted BG-RRT assistant director Josh Holland as saying.

“Rescuers are risking their own lives working below ground and some are being hit by falling debris,” Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook. “Let’s lift these workers up in prayer, asking God to help and protect them. Also pray for every missing person and their family members awaiting word. This catastrophe has devastated so many.”

Graham quoted Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Religious organizations, like a synagogue in Skylake, are asking for donations to help the families of those impacted. So far, their online donation fund has raised more than $728,000. 

Catholic clergy in Miami have said they will hold mass for all those affected by the collapse of the building.

With so many loved ones still missing, family members and friends have created a memorial wall one block west of the 12-story building. | Billy Graham Rapid Response Team

A reunification center has been set up at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside, about six blocks from the partially collapsed tower, where families are waiting for any news about their loved ones.

On Saturday morning, 16 South Florida members of the Christian faith-based organization Legendarios arrived at the center with donuts and beverages for the families and police officers. They also formed a prayer circle outside the hotel and prayed together with officers before walking over to the site of the collapse.

“The community has come together in tremendous ways. We just wanted to add the prayer part to it,” Mauricio Jaramillo, a member of Legendarios, was quoted as saying. “We’ve talked to a couple of people about what’s been going on, not knowing what’s happening. There’s a lot of questions. People want answers and we are here to pray.”

Local churches and the Shul of Bal Harbour, a synagogue that has at least 13 members among those still unaccounted for, are collecting donations to be dispersed as needed directly to the victims and families.

Their online fundraiser had raised nearly $1 million as of early Sunday. “This tragedy has shaken the Miami community to its core. … Our hopes lay in finding those still missing, but the window is becoming slimmer. As the news continues to unfold, it has become apparent that the needs of the community are growing, so while search and rescue efforts continue, we must continue our efforts to raise financial support for those affected,” it says.

Meanwhile, town officials have noted that a 2018 report about the Champlain Towers shows that an engineer had flagged a “major error” dating back to the building’s origin where lack of proper drainage on the pool deck had caused “major structural damage,” the Herald reported.

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