While the nation is no stranger to the devastating shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and its victims, BillyGraham.org is withholding many names in this report as a courtesy to those walking through the darkest days of their lives. Please continue to keep praying for all who are doing their best to heal.
The chaplain was speechless. Decades of working as a first responder and then another serving as a crisis-trained chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team had prepared him for this moment, and yet, he couldn’t find the words. He didn’t know what to say to this grief-stricken husband and father sitting in the pediatric intensive care unit. In that moment, the chaplain believes God reminded him of the book of Job. The part where Job was experiencing utter adversity and his friends showed up. They sat with him. They cried with him. They showed him God’s love without saying a word (Job 2:13).
Slowly, a conversation started and the chaplains, invited to visit by family, learned the man had lost his wife. She died shielding their children from the hail of bullets. One child died on the scene and another passed away later at the hospital. A third child was just down the hall fighting the odds in ICU as the chaplain and the heartbroken father visited.
The man shared how just the night before, while he was getting ready to go work the night shift, his daughter kept putting things in his pocket. When he asked why, he learned that she just wanted him to remember her. That next morning, she was gone.
“To see the grief on this man’s face,” the chaplain recalled, “I’ve never experienced that in my entire life.”
The man broke down and invited a time of prayer. The chaplains cried alongside him, praying for his recovering child and the entire family’s broken heart.
A Moment She Can’t Shake
As they visit with members of this community, the chaplains are learning there are moments beyond the terrifying event itself that have become embedded in the survivors’ minds. One woman shared with the chaplains how she and her husband dove under the pew when the shooting began. She tried to use her body to cover a family member, but still had toe-to-toe contact with her husband. Every now and again, the grandparents exchanged a quick tap. It was a silent way of checking in. Until the tapping stopped.
“She knew he had died when he stopped tapping her foot,” shared the chaplain, who was humbled she would share such a personal and piercing moment. It’s a moment that haunts her, and together, the chaplains joined her for prayer.
Grieving With Hope
Reports indicate investigators found hundreds of spent shell casings spread out among the building that held only 50 congregants. The gut-wrenching attack pierced the very heart of this community, but it keeps beating on.
“This faith-based community is suffering just as much as anybody else (would be), but they have hope,” one chaplain said. “They have hope in Jesus Christ as their Savior. And they know where their loved ones are.”
That doesn’t mean the families don’t ask God why this happened. It just means they understand life this side of heaven isn’t easy. It’s a battle. One that Frank Pomeroy, reverend of Sutherland Springs’ First Baptist Church, illustrated during a public service this week as he and his wife also grieve the loss of their daughter.
More than half of his congregation died in the attack. Most of those remaining were injured. There may be scars from this battle, he shared, but the church puts on its armor every day fully knowing the Lord is going to get the glory for this somehow. It’s hard, but the battle must go on.
A chaplain who attended the service said, “This is exactly the message the pastor gave: We know that we are victorious in Christ.”
“God always makes beauty out of the ashes,” another chaplain added. “Right now, He’s making some things beautiful in a very, very, very bad situation.”
As you continue to pray for all impacted by this tragedy, please especially lift up the following requests:
-Many survivors are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Please pray the Lord would erase the sights, sounds and smells from their memories and give them peace.
-Please pray for the nearby schools as they try to help surviving children adapt to life after this tragedy.