Chaplains Ministering in Sutherland Springs: ‘They’ve Gone Through a Nightmare’

By   •   November 8, 2017

Barb Grabowski, a chaplain coordinator with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, prays with a woman visiting a memorial in Sutherland Springs, a small Texas town recently devastated by a deadly church shooting.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding.
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Hearts are devastated in the tightknit community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, as families, friends and neighbors are grappling with the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in their state’s history.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are walking alongside members of this hurting community, attending vigils with them, listening to their stories and, in some cases, just holding those experiencing unimaginable grief.

“It’s not a time to say anything really,” said chaplain coordinator Barb Grabowski. “It’s just a time to let them know they’re not alone.

“Ministry is just being there and holding them,” she added. “They’ve gone through a nightmare.”

Just days ago, a shooting gutted this otherwise quiet Texas town that’s so small it apparently was left off the most recent government census. Some state reports believe a couple hundred people call the Wilson County town home. Fifty of them regularly attended First Baptist Church, so it’s staggering to see reports that 26 people did not survive the shooting there. Another 20 were injured.

About 10 chaplains are ministering in Sutherland Springs.

The Grabowskis were serving on a flooding deployment two hours southeast in Rockport when the shooting happened. They headed north, and upon their arrival Sunday afternoon, they were invited to offer emotional and spiritual care as family and friends learned if their loved ones survived the massacre.

“As they were calling these people out individually, you could just see their faces,” said Barb, who in 2013 served as a Rapid Response Team chaplain with Leo in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. “It was very intense. I think they’re still in shock.”

Two local vigils have been held this week and another one is planned for Wednesday. It’s a way the community, particularly pastors, are coming together for the glory of God. Barb said one of the vigils included an altar call that was “really powerful.”

Chaplains will continue to be available in this community, listening to people share their stories and helping them navigate the tough days ahead. After all, the devastating reality is there now are funerals to plan. One family will say goodbye to three generations, eight loved ones in all.

Please continue to pray for all affected by this tragedy, particularly first responders who worked the crime scene.

Learn more about having peace in the midst of tragedy.



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  1. Marilyn Newkirk says:

    All Texans are grieving and praying for this little community and the tragedy that has happened at this church. Many thank yous to the chaplains who came to Sutherland Springs to offer prayers and comfort to those who are grieving.

  2. Gary White says:

    Thank you brothers and sisters for being there in Texas. I have felt led by the Lord for some time to give this message: Be faithful in persecution, suffering and even unto death. It will be for your good and God’s glory.

  3. Greg Garland says:

    We are comforted with the same comfort which we ourselves are comforted with by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, Who suffered for us to gain our salvation through which we have this hope of a eternal home in Heaven. Praying for your loved ones and all the families.

  4. Steve Wojack says:

    Lord please bless those who have lost someone in this senseless act of violence. Bless them with the knowledge that their loved ones are with you!

  5. Bev Brenneise says:

    It’s comforting to know God’s love is quietly and steadily working here. May the families and friends of the victims be surrounded and filled with love and strength and resilience. May they gain God’s rest and peace…and reflect His love to others.

  6. Esther Villegas says:

    Lord help these families and pastors. Lord send the Holy Spirit to encamp Your angels around them.

  7. Kathy says:

    One of my first prayers when I first have news of these sorts, is I hope the Rapid Response chaplains are going. I hope they are there. Thank you all for your faithful lives.

  8. Deborah Wallace says:

    This makes me realize how important it is to be ready to meet our Lord at any time or any age. They have gone on before us, and the world was not worthy of them. But we who know Him will see them one day in their robes of white with the martyrs from the past, present and future. May the God of comfort be ever so near to the ones that are left behind. Even so come Lord Jesus! Godspeed!

  9. Alvin Howell says:

    Jesus bless. Give all God’s grace.

  10. Marcia Davis says:

    Leo and Barb Grabowski are close friends of myself and my husband. I pray for them continually on all of their deployments with BGEA! This has been the most challenging one to pray about. So much loss and suffering, I have to give over everyone in Sutherland Springs into loving God’s hand and His keeping power over all the families and lives involved in this tragic attack. God Bless BGEA.