ly Graham Rapid Response Team Deployment 1/22/2023 to 1/29/2023

Englewood, Florida/Monterey Park, CA

Mike How, Vickie How, and myself left Sacramento Airport with the ministry to homeowners in mind; those who are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Ian in Central/West Florida. While in transit to this deployment, we were notified that we very possibly might be reassigned to Monterey Park, CA because of the mass shooting incident that took place on that Saturday Night prior to our departure (1/21/2023). We in fact were notified on Sunday night, 1/22/2023 that flight and hotel arrangements were being pursued by the deployment coordinator in Charlotte. Then Monday morning, 1/23/2023 we were advised that we had been booked onto a flight to LAX on Tuesday morning, 1/24/2023. I was immediately reminded of an old Chuck Smith quote: “Blessed are the flexible, they will bend and not be broken.” So we were able to minister to two different homeowners in Florida on that Monday, and then we were off to L.A.

So while enroute to L.A., I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart concerning two particular passages of Scripture; they were Isaiah 53:3: “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” And the particular focus given to me was that phrase “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…..And the other Scripture is 2nd Corinthians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort….” And it turned out that I had occasion to talk with people about Jesus understanding grief and God desiring to comfort, every day.

Chaplain team standing in lobby

I have asked Mike and Vickie How to include their story concerning this deployment, and will include it later on in this correspondence.

Now, a little background on the incident in Monterey Park is in order. The perpetrator was a 72 year old Vietnamese man who at the time of the incident lived in Hemet, California…which is up in the mountains east of Riverside, a good 70 or 80 miles from the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park. This individual pre-planned the entire attack, and was essentially “armed to the teeth” with several handguns, and a specially modified AR15 rifle, that had been made fully automatic. He essentially “sprayed” the inside of the studio with bullets, killing 10 individuals right on the spot, and wounding an 11th victim so seriously that they died on the way to the hospital. There were also 10 individuals who were wounded and hospitalized, with all of them having survived. The shooter was an angry, bitter, and resentful man who had been actively involved at this dance studio in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, having been a dance instructor as well. He was married to an ethnic Chinese woman, who divorced him in 2005, and it was reported that it was a very nasty divorce. It appeared to me that he was an individual controlled by bitterness and unforgiveness that essentially made him either mentally ill, or worse, possibly demon-possessed. He apparently went to the Star Dance Studio to murder his ex-wife and as many others as he could. She was not there, but he still proceeded with this horrific plan. Immediately upon leaving the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, he headed for a second studio in Alhambra, which is directly east of Monterey Park, with the intention of repeating the same act. Somehow the owner of that studio got wind of the incident in Monterey Park, so he alerted police that the shooter would very possibly show up there, because he also knew people there, and his ex-wife frequented that studio as well. The owner bravely stood outside the studio, unarmed, and confronted the shooter when he showed up there just 17 minutes after the incident at the Star Studio. The shooter told him to get out of the way, or he would kill him, but the studio owner jumped on the shooter, and wrestled the murder weapon from him, risking his life for those inside. (He is being honored in the community as a local hero) The shooter then fled that scene in a panic, and by that time, the local police had a line on his vehicle and chased him down into a strip mall nearby the Alhambra dance studio. There the shooter committed suicide before he could be apprehended. And related to this, the officer who had approached the shooter to try to talk, watched the man shoot himself…..and Jason, our Chaplain leader was able to meet with that officer at the department and provide comfort and prayer.

John Kern praying with citizen

Our ministry as Chaplains was multi-faceted. There were six of us on the deployment, with a husband and wife leading it. Our leader is a retired police officer from urban New Jersey, and we had two different local Law Enforcement Chaplains join us at different times. Our leader was able to have access to all of the first responders who showed up at the scene; the officers and the paramedics/fire department personnel. He was able to conduct a meeting with all of the officers at the police department, to allow them to be de-briefed. This is an important process wherein the officers are encouraged to talk about their feelings and emotions experienced in the disaster. Our leader Jason was of a mind to conduct a structured Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, following his training, but the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart that HE was going to direct the meeting, and that Jason just needed to hear Him, and listen to what the officers all had to say. Everything that needed to be accomplished according to our formal training was then accomplished in a very natural, spirit directed way, and the officers all told Jason how beautifully they had been comforted in the process….I think back to that phrase “The God of All Comfort”….

There was a retired police officer in the dance studio at the time of the shooting who pushed a woman down and laid on top of her, taking 3 bullets that were intended for her. He survived, and was in ICU for a couple of days, and we all were intently interceding for him. God brought him through, and he became conscious and able to speak by Wednesday. Jason and his wife Damaris (our leaders) were able to get in to see this man, and led him to Faith in Christ! Jason and Damaris also had the opportunity to lead 3 other individuals to faith in Christ; one of the responding officers, and then two members of the general public who had come to the memorial sites to pay their respects. Interestingly enough, as God seems to always do, He was working on both ends of this situation with the retired police officer hero and the woman whom he saved. At the Dance Studio memorial site the next day, I met that woman’s boyfriend, who was very emotionally distraught. I was able to talk with him, pray for him, and pray for her. I strongly encouraged him to seek The Lord, briefly shared the Gospel with Him, and he thanked me. He was not ready to surrender to Christ, but was thoughtful concerning doing that, and was very intent on getting help for his girlfriend. I encouraged him to seek out a local Bible-believing church along with his girlfriend, and ask for prayer and counsel.

I was given the opportunity to pray with several other individuals, two of whom stand out in my mind. The first one was a Caucasian man who had been to the memorial site every day for 3 days. He was greatly grieved, and I wondered what he might have been dealing with. In this deployment in particular, it was a very sensitive environment in which to speak with people at the 2 memorial sites, because 80+% of the community are Ethnic Chinese, and the majority of them speak only Chinese. So we had to pray a lot, and wait on God to direct us to people. (Mike and Vickie had several very interesting encounters dealing with the language barrier, but I will let him speak on that) This man I was standing next to looked at me, crying, and I was prompted by The Spirit to ask him “How he is holding up”, which is our standard opening phrase (because there are many things one should NEVER SAY…so we are extremely careful). He opened up and told me his story. He is a man who is 67 years old, and has lived about 6 blocks from the studio all of his life. When he was in high school and going to college locally, he worked in the building that now houses the Dance Studio, and back then it was the local hardware store for this very close-knit community. He knew everybody, and loved working there….and up until this time, had a multitude of wonderful, precious memories of working there. But now, those memories have been ruined and/or stolen by this evil act. He was grieving the loss of life, because he was acquainted with two of the victims, but now, in his words, “I can never walk by or drive by this building without experiencing overwhelming sadness, anger, frustration, and shock.” I was able to pray with him, and share the hope and comfort of Jesus Christ. He is a Believer and follower of Christ, and is involved in a local fellowship…so I encouraged him strongly to connect with his pastors, and stay close to his church family during this crisis.

Memorials set up outside of store front

I was also able to pray with a Chinese woman who approached me at the memorial site at Star Studio, and it turns out that she is a Believer in Jesus who is involved in a local Chinese Mission Baptist Church. She was coming to pay her respects, but did not personally know any of the victims. So we agreed together concerning Jesus providing comfort to the community, and that He would draw many to Himself. She explained that Evangelism in the Chinese Community is extremely difficult because of the culture. They are very private by nature, reserved, and self sufficient. So after we prayed together, and were still engaged in conversation, when another Chinese woman approached us and began speaking in Chinese. When there was a break, I asked the woman I had prayed with what the other lady had said. She said that the woman was wanting to receive prayer, and had seen us praying. She was a Buddhist…..and I really believe, as did my Christian Friend, that the Holy Spirit drew her to us. So, my new friend offered to interpret for me, and I prayed for the woman. She left very comforted and was very interested in continuing in dialogue with the Christian…so we praised God for that. This kind of thing happened another time as well, when again I was praying with a Believer who had come to the memorial site, and then 3 other Chinese folks approached us, none of them fluent in English. So the lady that I prayed with offered to interpret……so I prayed for those 3 too, and they also thanked both of us profusely. It was very interesting that this kind of thing seemed to be happening several times a day with all of us. And it was so very cool that we had just spent time on that Wednesday morning talking about the presence of the Holy  Spirit in us; the very presence of Jesus; that He would indeed work when we could not…and sure enough, He did that!

Myself, and all of the team also attended two different candle light vigils, where the Gospel was indeed preached by local Believers, and we were able to pray with several individuals, couples, and families. It was a great blessing and encouragement to see the local Body of Christ out and about ministering in the midst of it all…the heart of Jesus very evident! At the first vigil, the mayor went up to speak after a local Chinese Mission Baptist Church Pastor opened in prayer, and prayed in Jesus’ Name. The Mayor was a Hispanic gentleman who had just been installed as mayor the week before the shooting. He opened up with prayer as well, and then proceeded to preach The Gospel from the Scriptures! It was truly beautiful to see and to hear. We got a chance to pray with him, as well as several other local government officials at this vigil, and that was a beautiful move of The Spirit indeed!



Here is Mike How’s summary regarding ministry in Monterey Park, California:

Hurrican disasters can devastate an area hundreds of miles wide with winds and rain AND storm front waves that combine to wreck havoc and affect a large number of people.  This was especially true for a wide area of Englwood Florida.  The hardest hit are the seniors in this area.  Natural disasters are part of life in Florida.

YET… As we left Sunday January 22, little did we know, that the very late night of the 21st, a devastating “man-made” disaster unfolded  BUT, horridly thrust upon the “seniors” in  Monterey Park, California.  The Chinese New Year: Year of the Rabbit … and instead of one of festivities and happiness … it became a nightmare scene of death.   A mass casualty event occured when a gunman went on a rampage at the Star Dance Studio in the heart of the Asian Community at Monterey Park, Ca.

Memorials in front of store

The God moment  was when the I realized he had no words … only tears and mourning with the young paramedic… That young paramedic…. kept going over and over and over…. about how “maybe” he could have done things better but could not think of it at the time… he kept thinking… Did I mess it up?  Did she die because of me??? …. he kept saying if only he could have gotten there faster… if only all the other units could have got there faster…. maybe they could have all been saved ….. he also kept saying… I shouldn’t cry I’m tougher than this… meanwhile he was doing everything he can to stem the flow of tears…. It was then the Holy Spirit told me to tell the paramedic… “It’s ok to cry… Then he cried” …. We both cried.

Officers standing in front of store

Mass casualty events are very tough…especially on our 1st Responders.

Attached is an interview with Pastor Keith Ko, from Chinese Bible Mission’s Church. He explained how the interactions of the Asian Community is different from the “Western Community” as they deal with disaster.

Also, the BGEA RRT media did an interview with Sargent Martin Garcia, he was one of the responding officers.

From Franklin Graham (instagram): Sergeant Martin Garcia responded to the recent mass shooting in Monterey Park, CA, where 11 people were killed. @BGEA Rapid Response chaplains prayed with and encouraged him and others during their deployment to the area. Watch more and continue to pray for all of those impacted by this horrific shooting…

Both these links provide a unique perspective how Chaplaincy works as it relates to man-made crisis.