ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist missionaries and chaplains are sharing the light of the gospel during some of America’s darkest days.
U.S. Navy Chaplain Steve Epperson is among those notifying relatives of those killed Sept. 11 when a hijacked commercial jet slammed into the western wall of the Pentagon in Washington.
“Probably, the most difficult ministry has been for chaplains to accompany Casualty Notification Officers to the homes of those personnel unaccounted for or missing to officially notify the next of kin,” Epperson said.
But Epperson said he and other Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplains are not mere messengers of doom and gloom.
“Your chaplains are sharing the promise of God’s Word to those people overcome with shock and disbelief,” he said.
While some may ask, “Where is God in all this?” Epperson said he has seen God everywhere. “I have seen him in the spirit of the American people,” he said. “I have seen him as thousands gather to pray, to join together in faith, to give blood, to provide food, to serve and to listen.”
Captain Timothy Mallard works in the Office of the Chief of Chaplains located less than a mile from the Pentagon. “Chaplains have been at the Pentagon attack site since minutes after the plane hit the building,” Mallard said. “We are manning a spiritual triage site, where both walking wounded and rescue personnel may come for pastoral care.”
Steve McQuitty, a student evangelism missionary on the campus of Syracuse University, said most students have relatives or friends who have been personally impacted by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“Please pray for us,” McQuitty said. “Although we are physically and emotionally drained, we believe that God has provided an opportunity for us to boldly share about the good news of our Lord Jesus. We want to walk through this chaos with the confidence that comes from knowing God. … Pray that we would take advantage of every chance to share about his grace, and ask God to stir the hearts of the lost students, so that they would be seeking truth.”
Heather Ruiz, ministry evangelism director with the Baptist Convention of New York, said New Yorkers are being drawn to Christ through this tragedy. She said television and radio stations are announcing regularly that churches are holding prayer vigils across the state. Secular radio stations are voicing prayers on the air.
Ruiz said the mood has changed dramatically across New York, where a few weeks ago people seemed uninterested in being prayed for during a statewide prayerwalk.
“I count these as victories in the middle of such devastation,” she said.
Norman Solis, a church planter in New York, said he shared the promises of Psalm 23 with fearful customers at a McDonalds on the morning of the terrorist attack.
“My heart really broke when I saw the towers collapsing,” Solis said. “I love New York and its people. Please pray that I will be more sensitive to the needs of the people around me these days, so that I can minister to them.”
Lisa Chilson, volunteer coordinator for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, watched the events unfold on television from the association offices about four miles from the World Trade Center.
“It was just a shock,” she said. “We spent the morning praying.”
Chilson said associational workers have been praying about how to minister to people in the metro area, which spans a 100-mile radius around New York’s Times Square. “This is the perfect opportunity to put into practice what we’ve been praying about and planning for the last few months,” she said.
David R. Dean, the associational missionary for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, asked that people pray as the number of victims mounts.
“We have no verified persons from our churches who lost their lives at this point,” he said in an e-mail the day after the attacks. “I fear that it is just a matter of time.”
The staff of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder contributed to this article.