Ministry stories from Billy Graham chaplains in Humboldt

Offering presence and prayer to a grieving community

Six Rapid Response Team (RRT) Chaplains were deployed to Humboldt, SK. Left to right: Selma Boldt, Harvey Boldt, Rick Benner, Sally Benner, Holly Lafont, and Joseph Vandervelden.

Crisis-trained Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains are in Humboldt, Sask., providing emotional and spiritual support to heartbroken residents facing devastating loss. Sixteen of the 29 passengers on a Humboldt Broncos team bus were killed and 13 injured after being involved in the catastrophic collision on April 6.

“We want to soothe broken hearts just by being there and praying with people about Jesus’ love and understanding when appropriate, or just listening and weeping when they weep.” — Rick Benner, RRT chaplain

On Sunday evening, the RRT chaplains were able to attend the vigil at Elgar Petersen Arena and pray with Broncos chaplain, Sean Brandow.

“His phone literally doesn’t stop and he’s hurting, too. He is grieving, so we were able to pray for Pastor Sean,” said Rick Benner, one of the volunteer chaplains in Humboldt. “A lot of time, the caregivers forget that they need to take care of themselves, too.”

A heavy blanket of grief seems to shroud this private and close-knit community, and chaplains continue to offer a ministry of presence and prayer by attending vigils and simply encouraging people they meet. The chaplains, blessed by the warm welcomes of many who recognized the RRT logo, have had the opportunity to pray with members of the community. Sudden deaths, cancer battles and difficult surgeries are among the heartfelt struggles shared.

Rapid Response Team chaplains pray for a local pastor outside our Mobile Ministry Center at an appreciation luncheon for first responders in Tisdale.

Salvation in the midst of tragedy

One woman the chaplains met at the Humboldt Mall told how she cleaned for the billet homes, which housed some of the team members. The boys, she said, were playful, sometimes hiding her shoes when she was there. She often baked for them. But for this woman, the tragedy also brought back the reminder of her own mother’s death a few years ago. She wasn’t sure if her mother was in heaven or even if she would end up there. The chaplains explained how she could be sure and prayed with her at her request.

“After she had asked Jesus to be her Savior, she commented that she suddenly felt so much lighter and better,” one chaplain said. “We celebrated with her that she is now our sister in Christ.”

Prayer and encouragement

Another man, a restaurant owner and chef, told the chaplains during dinner that two of the players killed had worked for him part-time. It was another tragedy for the man, a dedicated and passionate believer from Pakistan. He shared extensively how his family members suffered persecution for their beliefs in his homeland. The chaplains encouraged the man and his staff with a time of prayer.

“It was a really good beginning to the community’s grieving process,” said chaplain Holly Lafont.  “We know from studies and just working with people that the sooner you can get people talking about a situation and sharing their feelings about it, the better their chances of moving through the grieving process in a healthy way.”

#PrayersforHumboldt and #BroncoStrong are the prevailing sentiments throughout this community, which is preparing for memorials this week at the Uniplex.

Six chaplains, all from the Calgary region, will stay in Humboldt for as long as they are needed. The Billy Graham Mobile Ministry Center is also set up at the Humboldt Uniplex to serve members of the community.

Please pray with us for the Lord to lead the chaplains in word and deed as they show people in Humboldt “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV).