Colorado Wildfire Sees Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Aid Victims

Colorado Fire Declared a 'Disaster' by President Obama; at Least 1 Person Killed

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed chaplains throughout Colorado and New Mexico to help contain the wildfires and assist evacuees in coping with homes lost in the devastating natural disaster sweeping several Western states.

The team has been stationed in the Fort Collins area of Colorado and the Ruidoso/Capitan area of New Mexico since June 14. They are there in correlation with Samaritan's Purse, another Christian aid organization run by Franklin Graham, and are seeking to aid areas heavily affected by disaster or poverty through their evangelical ministry.

"Many of those who have been evacuated and unable to return home have told us that the worst part is not knowing," Jack Munday, director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, said in a statement.

"They don't know if their homes are still standing, don't know if their pets are alive, and don't know if they've lost all they own in this world. Our chaplains are there to encourage the ministry of local churches, and offer a listening ear, practical assistance and support to those affected. We want to bring the compassion and hope of Jesus Christ into this horrible situation," Munday added.

Colorado's wildfire, known as the Waldo Canyon wildfire after its point of origin, erupted on Tuesday, June 26, and has since destroyed 347 homes and forced the evacuation of at least 32,000 people. It was reported Friday that at least one person died.

The wildfire has been named the most destructive in the state's history, and was declared only 15 percent contained by Friday morning, according to BBC News.

New Mexico's wildfires, deemed the Little Bear wildfire and the Whitewater-Baldy wildfire, were started by lightning in early June and eventually merged into one gigantic wildfire, destroying 242 homes and businesses. It was reportedly 95 percent contained by Friday.

Colorado's wildfire has become so immense that President Barack Obama has issued an official disaster declaration for the state. Obama toured the state Friday to assess the damages.

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many Colorado residents are "in a state of disbelief" as they realize their homes have burned down.

"We've had a chance to visit and comfort," Jim Giannestras, a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain, told the BGEA. "We try to get to the point of their faith, ask them where they find a source of strength."

"Some don't want to deal with that at all. Some are very open. They'll tell us, 'If it wasn't for God in my life, if it wasn't for the faith in my life, this would be so hard,'" he added.

Other Christian organizations are also offering a hand in the disaster sweeping Colorado, including the Gleaning For The World organization, which is distributing food, water, and personal care supplies to 50,000 displaced victims throughout the state.

Gleaning For The World, which is a poverty and disaster aid organization affiliated with Thomas Road Baptist Church in Virginia, is working in partnership with New Life Church in Colorado Springs to supply victims with supplies.

"Evacuees are finding shelter in schools and churches; we want to make sure they have basic supplies," stated Jonathan Falwell, chairman of Gleaning For The World and Thomas Road's pastor, in a statement.

"We are praying for the people there and doing all we can to help them cope with this emergency situation," he added.

With hot temperatures and dry brush, wildfires are also currently sweeping parts of Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nevada, Arizona, California and Montana.

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