DAYTON, Ohio — The same day President Donald Trump visited Dayton to comfort and support the victims, first responders and a hurting city still reeling from the shooting in the Historic Oregon District, chaplains with Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team were also on the ground. In fact, they’d started to arrive in the city before the sun had set on the day of the shooting.
The Rapid Response Team was created after 9/11 to “share Christ in the midst of crisis and disasters.”
Their website elaborates:
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) trains God’s people for grief ministry and deploys crisis-trained chaplains to provide emotional and spiritual care to those affected by man-made or natural disasters.”
Two of seven members of the team – who go by their first names Rick and Bill – served this week in Dayton. Rick is former law enforcement and Bill was a firefighter, so in addition to consoling and counseling residents, they each had a special mission with their fellow first responders.
“There’s healing in just talking. A lot of times, people are afraid when they see a pastor, but just talking can heal,” Bill told The Ohio Star. He also shared that because of his career in the fire department, it breaks the ice and allows him in where others may not be able to go.
“The IAFF [International Association of Fire Fighters] has a crisis team too that has already met them,” Bill said. When he meets with the firefighters and medics, he tells them, “I’m here because I love you. Don’t keep this stuff in – you’ve got to get it out.”
Rick was not able to speak with the officers who shot the suspect. Instead, he went to Bellbrook to visit with law enforcement, a smaller station in the area in which the shooter had gone to school.
When asked about what kind of help the team provides, Rick answered, “We practice the two hands of the Gospel: physical and spiritual. We want to share the hope we have in Christ, but we do not always get that opportunity. We provide emotional support, psychological first aid, helping the person heal emotionally.”
Rick felt from a ministry perspective the team’s time in Dayton went well. He mentioned how encouraging it was to see people come from all over, not just in town, who say they just have a tugging at their hearts to be there, to offer what help they can to the hurting.
“I always thought that was kind of comforting,” Rick shared. “Like the guy who brought the crosses out Thursday and set them up. He brought stars of David to Pittsburgh [the synagogue shooting].”
The man who delivers the crosses is Greg Zanis from Illinois. According to a CNN article, he’s been creating and delivering the crosses to the sites of massacres for 23 years. Zanis’ website “Crosses for Losses” explains, “We are a team of committed American citizens who understand that you can’t be a part of the solution unless you’re a part of the process.”
The on-the-ground work of the Rapid Response Team is finished, but their job is not complete. They have a request: “Please continue to pray for Dayton and El Paso.”
– – –