INNISFAIL – Angela Smith has just barely arrived in Innisfail before she got the call from Calgary.
The 24-year-old young woman was being sent to the remote Yukon community of Faro with a Canadian Rapid Response Team from the Calgary office of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada.
“It’s definitely not what I expected. I didn’t expect to get a phone call asking me if I was available just after moving but that is exactly what you are prepared for when you sign up as a volunteer,” said Smith, who arrived in Innisfail from Kitchener, Ont. in mid-October, and is living with friends.
“Truly, I am more so in awe of God of how he has planned it, that I am here and able to respond, and has provided everything needed to be in place in order to go and help out. So, it did kind of catch me by surprise but I am just thankful that there is a team, and people so aware of what is going on in order to offer support.”
Her week-long mission with three chaplains from the Billy Graham association was to provide compassionate care to grief-stricken Yukoners who are enduring the the pain and loss from the shooting rampage last month in Faro, a community of just 450 citizens. The shootings left two dead and a third in critical condition.
Ralph Bernard Shaw, 61, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, and two counts of aggravated assault.
Smith’s deployment is her second with the Billy Graham association. Last September she was sent with a team to the Vernon, B.C. area to support wildfire victims.
“It was a very different situation,” said Smith, who is currently studying online to become a chaplain. “The situation that has come up is so heartbreaking. It is a smaller community, and they are open to having chaplains come and offer spiritual support, and just be there for the residents of the community.
“For me this is just good timing that I am able to do this, volunteering and responding, and hopefully just to bring hope and be a listening ear and caring heart for the people there."
Rapid Response Team chaplains from the Billy Graham association are specially trained volunteers who respond to community-wide disasters or personal crises.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has been deploying crisis members in Canada since 2007. They have since helped many struggling Canadian communities, including the forest fire victims in the Fort McMurray area in 2016. That deployment was the team’s second largest response in its history, after the one in 2013 to support the victims of the southern Alberta floods.
Smith said the reason she moved to Innisfail was to ensure she could volunteer “more easily” when situations come up where they need chaplains.
She said the Calgary office keeps up to date on events, and maintains a watchful eye on how citizens are doing. However, once a situation arises and it’s determined a community needs support, the office will call the response team to see who is available.
“Often times it is a community that doesn’t have enough support or if there is a lot more people where they would welcome having chaplains there, or if it is beyond what the local support and services in the community can handle,” said Smith, who is grateful to be able to lend a helping hand.
“I am thankful that God has given me the health and ability to help, love and provide comfort to others through difficult times.”