Crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) have been deployed to Las Vegas to pray with, comfort, and minister to those affected by what has been widely recognized as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
On Facebook, Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and current CEO of the BGEA, said there are hundreds who "need our prayers" after sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night, murdering at least 59 people and wounding over 527 others before reportedly killing himself.
"My heart is heavy for the 59 grieving families whose loved ones were killed at the brutal massacre in Las Vegas Sunday night," he wrote. "May God comfort them and heal their hearts as only He can. And there are 527 wounded who need our prayers, along with their families, as they deal with their injuries and trauma in the aftermath of this evil. Many are hospitalized and suffering, many had surgeries, we can only imagine what they are going through tonight."
Graham said he has deployed chaplains from the BGEA to be in Las Vegas "to pray with, comfort, and minister to the hurting and traumatized." Each chaplain is trained in crisis response and has previous experience ministering after a violent attack in a place that seemed safe, according to the BGEA.
"As people are searching for answers, they need to know that the 'Father of mercies and God of all comfort' loves and cares for them," he said.
The Chicago Tribune reports that many of those critically wounded when Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino arrived at the 541-bed University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. In just four hours, the hospital received 104 patients, and more than 80 percent were gunshot victims.
"These were quite large wounds that we saw," said Douglas Fraser, the hospital's chief of trauma surgery. "The fractured shrapnel created a different pattern and really injured bone and soft tissue very readily. This was not a normal pattern of injuries."
Some patients suffered graze wounds, likely from bullets that ricocheted off the ground, said Fraser. Other patients may have been struck by bullets that passed through other victims, and others were hurt in the ensuing chaos.
The BGEA website reports that the team of chaplains is working alongside several Las Vegas-area churches as they "listen to and pray with those who have been affected by Sunday night's tragedy."
"And as hundreds begin to recover from the physical damage done, the chaplains are praying God will open doors for emotional and spiritual restoration as well," the website notes.
"It doesn't dismiss the pain and it doesn't answer all the questions, but it does bring comfort and hope in someone's life after they experience great loss," said Jack Munday, the international director of the Rapid Response Team. "We're thankful that we do have a message of hope, where God can bring comfort in the midst of suffering and healing in the midst of pain. And people need to know that God loves them and desires to be with them in such a time as this."
In a later Facebook post, Graham further weighed in on the tragedy and said we will continue to see a "rise in wickedness" if we don't return to God.
"Many people don't understand what would be in a person's heart to spray bullets into a crowd to kill and wound as many as he can," he said. "Or what's in the heart of a person who drives his car across a bridge in London and into a crowd of people, get out with a knife, and stab innocent people and police officers. Or what's in the heart of a person who would take a knife and cut off the head of another human being. Many don't understand what's in the heart of a person who's a senior attorney for CBS and says she has 'no sympathy' for those killed or wounded in Las Vegas simply because people who listen to country music might be Republicans."
The common thread that runs through the heart of each of these is evil, Graham said.
"Evil exists in the world today and the Bible warns us that 'because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold' (Matthew 24:12). We see a rise in wickedness, not just in this country but around the world."
The Samaritan's Purse CEO criticized Hollywood filmmakers of continuing to "promote evil, wickedness, violence as a form of entertainment."
"Our nation is in trouble, and only God can heal the human heart," he said. "That's why Jesus Christ came-to pay the penalty for our sins and to offer forgiveness through faith in Him. What's in your heart today?"