Originally published in Christian Today
Among the Christian responders to Monday’s Manchester bombing are trained chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The attack that took place at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday took 22 lives and injured 59 people. Nigel Fawcett-Jones, who leads the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, travelled to Manchester yesterday with two other team members to meet church leaders and attend the vigil in Albert Square. He told Christian Today: ‘Responses vary from individual to individual. Primarily we are there to offer a ministry of presence.
‘Typically people are in shock, there’s numbness, anger, frustration – and you might see this all in one person.’
He said they would contact churches with a link to BGEA and let them know the team was there to support them. ‘We always make a point of linking up with church leaders – it’s their place and they know it best,’ he stressed. ‘But we have expertise they may not have themselves.’
Fawcett-Jones, a serving police officer, said he wanted to encourage people to continue to pray for those who had been hurt or bereaved.
Another BGEA team member Lee Searle, has spoken of the pain of having a family member caught up in the attack and of being able to minister to those in hospital.
Unable to contact the family member and after a sleepless night he decided to travel to Manchester. ‘On the drive to the station I got a call,’ he said.
‘”You don’t know me,” said the caller, “But I’ve been given your number. Your family member is sat next to me here.”
‘At that point she was unable to talk because of her injuries. The panicking crowd had trampled her as it fled from the arena. But at least she was safe in hospital.’
He described the scene at the station.
‘When I reached Manchester Piccadilly I immediately came into contact with parents. Two different fathers approached me in minutes clutching their mobiles and showing me photos on their screens. “Please, have you seen my daughter?” was their first question. I apologised – I had just got off a train from down south. I felt so guilty.
‘I got a taxi to the hospital. “What are you up here for?” was the driver’s first question. I explained. When we reached the hospital he told me the journey was free, no charge. He also gave me his number and said to call as soon as I need to go home. He wanted to take us. He didn’t want any money.’
He said the hospital was in ‘chaos’ and that he had seen ‘awful shrapnel wounds. It was absolutely heart-breaking.’
He described ‘Mothers crying, fathers with heads in hands. Something I noticed: I saw lots of tears and distress but I saw absolutely no anger. I saw love. I saw hurting people helping others and I saw the best of humanity.
‘I found my family member. She was being attended to. We hugged and I said I would wait outside whilst they finished.’
He prayed with one man who was looking for his daughter, who had left early and may have been caught in the blast, telling him God ‘wants nothing more for you than to bring you peace and comfort during possibly the most terrible experience of your life. I cannot give you any guarantees for your child. But I can guarantee that God wants to be by you.’
Searle urged: ‘Please continue to pray with for grieving family members, that they would sense the God of all comfort at their side.’