Miami Beach pastor JP Funk woke up Thursday morning to learn that a condominium just a mile from his church had collapsed, leaving more than 150 people missing in the rubble. At least two people linked to Calvary Chapel Miami Beach lived in the building, including the mother of one of its members.
Funk’s attention immediately turned to the disaster, but he feared his congregation might not be able to help in the crucial early days of the search and rescue. Half of its staff were on vacation, and they initially had no way to access the disaster site, which was surrounded by law enforcement and clouded by smoke. “You can see the smoke from the smoldering ruins reminiscent of 9/11,” he told CT.
As news began to spread footage of the South Champlain Towers in Surfside, with its collapsed side and piles of concrete underneath, local churches responded in the best possible way: praying for miracles as rescue efforts unfold. continued from day to day.
The 12-story beachfront building housed an international mix of foreign retirees, South American immigrants, and Orthodox Jews. The nearest church is just across the street, a Spanish speaking congregation called Casa.
Casa donated their building to law enforcement and quickly sent out calls for members to bring snacks and drinks. Volunteers walked through the busy tangle of media and rescue workers to offer refreshments and words of encouragement.
Calvary Chapel Miami Beach, through his involvement with Florida police chaplains and Christian peace officers, was granted permission to minister in a pop-up tent next to the collapsed building. They “covered the scene in prayer” and the Miami Beach Police Chief specifically asked them to lift his team.
As the days go by without more missing residents being discovered, the focus of their prayers has shifted from successful rescue efforts and miraculous survival to the inevitability of heartbreak with the likely death toll from this. disaster.
“Friday, with [praying for miracles], our focus has been compassion and the presence of God in the midst of a crisis on a human level, ”said Funk. “We pray that families will quickly recover the remains of their loved ones as this causes great anguish once it is very likely that they perish.”
Search teams found another body on Saturday, bringing the confirmed death toll to five. There are 156 residents who are missing.
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In cases where the loss comes so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and on such a large scale, people wonder how God could allow such deaths to occur. “There are two things that are most true in every human tragedy: God is good and God is merciful,” Funk said.
“We do not believe that God punishes the bearers of images of His likeness with catastrophes; we are all frail and frail in our humanity, ”he said, quoting Luke 13: 1-5.
Out-of-town teams, including chaplains sent through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and a group of 40 through Youth With a Mission (JEM), descended on Miami to provide additional spiritual care.
“Pray for family members of those who lived in the building while they wait to know if their loved ones are safe or not,” Graham said. “The Bible tells us, ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a very present helper in trouble” (Psalm 46: 1).
Due to its proximity to the disaster, Casa has canceled in-person services for Sunday, but will worship online after the weekday prayer vigils for the disaster. “We will sing to God and pray for all who are affected! read an article on the church’s Facebook page. Casa thanked the other churches, including Rich Wilkerson’s You Church in Miami, for their donations and support.
Church by the Sea on the islands near Bay Harbor dedicated a Sunday service to prayer for the disaster and relief fundraising. Church leaders said none of their worshipers lived in the building, although their family or friends may have lived there.
“Strengthen us so that we can help carry the burden of those who are suffering, those who are filled with worry, worry and sorrow; and those who are still waiting to hear from loved ones, ”wrote Ministers Rob and Barbara Asinger. “Make us bearers of hope and agents of healing. Make your love known through everyone who works to bring order to chaos: firefighters, rescue workers and the police.
A “very large group” from the Surfside Jewish community lived in the building and remains missing, according to Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar, founder of the Bal Harbor Shul. The Shul has already raised over half a million dollars in relief funds. Like their Christian neighbors, his community prays for miracles, he said, “because the circumstances are very, very dark.”
With reporting from The Associated Press.