Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are ministering in Sutherland Springs, Texas, after a gunman opened fire during Sunday services at the town’s First Baptist Church. News reports say at least 26 people lost their lives and many others were injured.
16 crisis-trained chaplains are providing emotional and spiritual care in the small community. By listening and praying with hurting people, they’re offering a ministry of presence.
Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team said everyone who heard the news is shocked.
“Our hearts go out to this little community,” he said. “When people are affected by a traumatic incident like this in a smaller community, it just affects everyone in the whole town because we’re just certain everyone knows one another.”
Sutherland Springs is a rural community, with many farmers and ranchers, oil and gas workers. The town sits about 45 minutes southeast of San Antonio, Texas.
Munday noted the contrast between one of the Rapid Response Team’s most recent deployments—in New York City following the recent terrorist attacks—to deploying to a small community like Sutherland Springs.
“People don’t lock their doors, they don’t lock their cars, they’re just trusting,” he said. “So we’re just saddened by the incredible loss this community has had but we also know that God is a loving and compassionate God that desires to bring comfort and hope in a time like this. That’s the message of our chaplains as they respond.”
Authorities pursued the suspect in his car after he fled the church, and have said the gunman is dead. News reports say it’s not clear if the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from being shot twice by an armed citizen.
According to news reports, Sunday’s shooting was the deadliest mass killing at a house of worship in modern U.S. history.