‘Billy Graham’ chaplains serve those working and suffering

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association chaplains from left David Barlow, Mike Wingo, Jimmie Guswick, Bruce Button, and Beverly McBride served the emotional and spiritual needs of storm recovery responders and Jacksonville residents as an integral element of overall mission.

Michael Abrams

Mike Wingo left the comfort of his home in Greenville, S.C., and the responsibility of running a business there to be a mobile ministry center chaplain coordinator in Jacksonville as part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association response to a call for help after last month’s tornado ripped through Calhoun County and Jacksonville.

Wingo is neither alone nor confined to a pulpit. Working with four other lay people who are also in town as volunteers, the five chaplains are part of a sister organization to Samaritan’s Purse. Their mission, Wingo said, is to “minister to the volunteers, the homeowners, the first responders, and anyone involved in the Jacksonville tornado.”

last week, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains included Wingo plus David Barlow of Charlotte, N. C., Jimmie Guswick of Calhoun, Ga., Bruce Button of Lake Lure, N. C., and Beverly McBride of Rydal, Ga.

According to Wingo, all of the chaplains have the special training they need to help people cope with the challenges and changes associated with surviving a disaster. “We offer emotional and spiritual care” to the residents he said. “The common thread and what motivates all of us is that Jesus died on a cross for us, to give us a life in eternity.”

Wingo is a veteran of 25 disaster deployments.

“This community is unique,” he said. “The strength of the people here is uplifting to all of us. I have never experienced (another community like this).”

He is also impressed with the “huge outpouring of support” from the First Baptist Church.

“God is really working here,” he said. “That’s how people come to experience the love of Christ – in real time.”