Chaplains, K-9s Help Comfort a Broken Newtown

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NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Every family in the tiny community of Newtown, Conn., was affected by the tragic school shooting that left 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary dead.

It's going to take a long time for the town to heal, but a group of chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team has been sent to help ease their pain.

The first group arrived in Newtown just hours after the last shots rang through Sandy Hook Elementary School. Their day began with prayer - prayer for one another and the community they've adopted.

Please join us in praying for the families and parents in Connecticut who have lost their children and loved ones. Share your prayers on CBN's on Pray for Newtown, special page.

"We have a grieving community here. I think of words like agony, intense agony, emotional agony, pain that with God's grace He can heal and there is hope," Rapid Response Chaplain Jack Munday said.

Many worked in the past as police officers, firefighters, and EMS. That service helped them immediately start ministering to the men and women who responded to a nightmare.

Now they're reaching out to anyone who needs their help.

"It really is bothering me. I didn't sleep last night and I really did think about them," New Britain resident Gabby Rivera said.

The chaplain team has responded to other mass shootings, like Virginia Tech and the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. But even for this team of seasoned professionals, the fact that so many of the victims in Newtown were so young makes this tragedy different.

"All of us are grieving and one particular chaplain shared, 'I don't know if I can go on' you know, and here we are in our third or fourth day," Chaplain Munday said.

"But we also know that with the Lord's strength and his help - we can get through it," he continued. "And I made the comment - if you aren't broken, if you aren't grieving, you probably shouldn't be here because that's where the compassion of Christ comes out is in our own brokenness."

One woman named Gretchen, who is a chaplain at a firehouse in central Pennsylvania, said she felt led to come and lend a hand. She's a former school teacher and said she can't imagine what the children must be going through.

"It's your way of showing respect," she explained. "Evil was in this town on Friday, but look at the good here today."

"God is with these people very evidently. It's an outward show that normally is kept private and it's good that people are together."

Lutheran Church Charity's Comfort Dog ministry is also in town offering solace in the wake of Friday's tragedy. You can't wander far from the school before bumping into a friendly golden retriever quietly lending an ear to scratch.

"They're bridges for ministry, they're gifts from God - they're the bridge to touch people," Comfort Dog Ministry's Tim Hetzner told CBN News. "Dogs are safe. They show unconditional love.

"We'll have people that will come up and they'll be happy and then they'll start petting the dog and they'll just break down," he said. "We have people that come sad and walk away happy."

While chaplains can't remove the pain, they can offer hope to a community where virtually each resident knows someone affected by the crime that no one thought could ever happen here.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.