Fort McMurray Wildfires – Rapid Response Team
You may wonder how we got involved in being a chaplains with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). It all started with the Alberta floods of 2013, which awakened a desire in Don and I to reach out on a local level. We signed up with Samaritan’s Purse and spent three weeks going back and forth to High River to be a part of the relief efforts. We found that homeowners, many of whom had lost everything, needed a listening ear. We were deeply moved by their openness in the face of disaster.
We developed a desire to become chaplains and began the training. In 2014 we were officially accepted as chaplains with the BGEA. I deployed in Calgary after the tragic stabbings in 2014, and we have had a few more local opportunities.
Now after the wildfires raged through Fort McMurray, I responded to the call to spend a week serving as a chaplain. It was an absolutely amazing week. It is hard to sum up in a simple blog post, but I’d like to share a few glimpses with you of how we saw God at work.
Houses and neighbourhoods burnt down to heaps of ash in the Fort McMurray wildfire. Samaritan’s Purse (SP) and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) were invited in as part of the disaster relief effort. As a way of ministering to homeowners, the SP teams trained and suited up in protective gear to sift through ashes in search of items of value to the home owner. Very heavy work! My role as a volunteer Chaplain, was that of emotional and spiritual support. We were officially recognized by the Municipality and Alberta Health Services – a miracle in and of itself!!
We stood alongside the homeowners watching the ash sifting process to offer comfort and to share Jesus’ love. This time of sifting through the ashes gave home owners an opportunity to tell their story, to grieve their loss, and to continue to process their new reality and their uncertain future. At the end of up to four exhausting hours of sifting, we all gathered in a circle for prayer and we presented the homeowner with a Bible.
When the Bible was presented, we recognized that they lost many of their treasures in the wildfire, and said that we wanted to give them a gift that we ourselves treasure deeply – God’s Word. We then presented them with a Bible that we had all signed. Some homeowners broke down and sobbed when they received their Bible. It was very moving to say the least. Some accepted the Lord as their Saviour throughout the week.
There are more experiences to share, but this is a little glimpse of what God is doing in the midst of this disaster here in Alberta.