Crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team are on the ground in Illinois following a fierce storm front that spawned dozens of tornadoes and destroyed hundreds of homes across the Midwest.
News reports indicate that six people were killed in Illinois, with up to 200 more injured. Seven counties in the state have been declared disaster areas.
According to a news release from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, the chaplains will be based near Washington, Ill., where it is estimated that as many as 500 homes were damaged or destroyed.
"The fury of a tornado is an incredibly hard thing to deal with. Some will seemingly pick and choose homes to target, and others will cut a wide and disastrous swath through an entire community," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
He added, "Either way, they leave a trail of pain, suffering and destruction in their wake for those who lost everything as well as those who are dealing with survivor's guilt."
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team will deploy in coordination with Samaritan's Purse, a Christian disaster relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, who is also president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Together the two ministries will seek to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those impacted by the storms.
"Please join us in praying for the people of Washington, as well as all of those affected in the many other areas of the Midwest that were devastated by the same massive storm system," said Munday.
He added, "Even as we're setting up our base near Washington, we are actively assessing other areas and will do our best to bring comfort to those who are hurting in the aftermath of this tragedy."
The news release said chaplains are also currently deployed to Austin, Texas, following massive flooding in October.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is a nationwide network of Christian chaplains across 48 states that are specifically trained to deal with crisis situations.
Since the ministry was launched in 2002, it has responded to more than 155 natural and man-made disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and shooting s.