Faith-based chaplains and pastors of multiple entities are flocking to San Bernardino, Calif., to provide spiritual care to victims and their families after a shooting during a holiday party at a social services center there left 14 people dead and 21 injured.
On Wednesday, Syed Rizwan Farook, a U.S.-born citizen of Pakistani descent and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, stormed an office holiday party at Inland Regional Center, with a massive arsenal of ammo, bombs and high-powered weapons. They, too, died hours later in a shootout with police.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association quickly sent eight of its local chaplains to San Bernardino churches to be available to victims and people who are trying to process the attacks mentally. The organization's volunteer chaplains, who are Christian, are trained to offer "God's compassion and hope through Jesus Christ to those affected by a man-made or natural disaster," according to its website.
Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Rapid Response Team, said all of the group's chaplains are from the southern California area, and several are veteran chaplains who have responded to other shootings, such as Sandy Hook Elementary and the Aurora, Colo., movie theater."
Munday told the Huffington Post chaplains were meeting with representatives of area churches and first responders to determine how best to serve and comfort people who are emotionally hurting due to the attack.
"Our hearts are broken for those who lost their lives, and particularly their families, following this shooting. We're sending in a team to encourage the community, offering love, hope and support. A tragedy like this affects everybody," he said.
An open, candlelight vigil was held in San Manuel Stadium Thursday evening. Baitul Hameed, an Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque and the largest one in San Bernardino County, also held a vigil. Additionally, St. Paul's United Methodist Church of San Bernardino, hosted a vigil in conjunction with seven other Methodist churches.
The website of Loma Linda Medical Center, where some of the shooting victims are being treated, describes staff that includes a chaplain who "is assigned to each unit who will make every effort to visit all patients regularly."
The response to San Bernardino is the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team's third shooting-related deployment since October. Chaplains were on-site at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 1, and just completed an internationally coordinated effort to Paris following the terrorist attacks there on Nov. 13.
Numerous impromptu vigils and remembrances also sprang up throughout to offer condolences, with mourners gathering in local homes, schools and street corners to comfort one another, reports Fox News.