Southern Baptist chaplains respond to church shooting in Texas

SUTHERLAND—For the second time in one month, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) chaplains have had to respond to a mass shooting.

“It’s a pretty somber place today,” said Scottie Stice, Disaster Relief director for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC). “We’ve got chaplains at the church responding to the needs of the community and the families impacted by the senseless slaughter.”

On Sunday, November 5, a gunman opened fire on First Baptist Church (FBC) of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Among the victims was FBC’s pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle. About half of the 26 victims were children. There were 20 wounded; some are still enduring surgeries in nearby hospitals including the San Antonio Medical Center and University Hospital in San Antonio, Brooke Army Medical Center and the Connally Memorial Medical Center in nearby Floresville.

Stice, who has teams of Southern Baptist chaplains and DR volunteers serving the Sutherland community, stated “lots of healing needs to take place; it’s a hurting church and a hurting state.” 

SBTC’s pastor of church relations, Ted Elmore, first responded to the tragedy with a team of field ministry strategists.

“When we found out there was an event, we rounded up a team to see how to serve pastors and churches,” Elmore said. “Since Sunday evening after the shooting, we’ve received assistance from Disaster Relief chaplains and have been reaching out to local churches to better understand what they need to rally around their friends and families.” 

Elmore said they are looking over the days ahead to create a strategy based on the needs manifested Sunday and Monday to help the community recover.

“Prayer is the main thing one can do right now,” said Elmore. “The chaplains are terrific. They are there to listen to the families and to the community as questions like, ‘Why?’ surface. We are trusting God to lead us well through this so we can serve and minister to everyone.”

According to Elmore, the community is “expressing their grief but also locking arms and holding one another up.”

“The people of Sutherland Springs are coming together in this,” Elmore said. “Many churches are partnering with us, chaplains, First Baptist Church members, Texas Baptist Men, the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Disaster Relief volunteers and many other organizations here to respond. And while there is sadness, we trust in hope in a Father who loves us all so much.” 

SBTC staff members are currently working on a Wednesday night prayer service—location to be determined. 

Terry Henderson, the state disaster relief director for Texas Baptist Men (TBM), knew one of the victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting. 

“One of the guys who lead and taught at a Royal Ambassadors (RA) camp during the summer was killed,” said Henderson. “His whole family was killed except for one or two children. I found out Monday morning during a meeting with our state RA director.” 

Henderson said members of TBM have continued to invite chaplains to Sutherland where they can occupy the Red Cross’ Family Assistance Center to provide support and comfort to those in need. The victims of Sunday’s shooting ranged from ages 18 months to 77-years-old. 

“Many have responded to the call and are at either the family center or in the hospitals,” Henderson said. “Many chaplains stayed at the family center when names of the deceased were announced. We are grateful for chaplains from many organizations as they’ve been here to listen.”

Chaplain and retired Major General, Doug Carver, spoke with Southern Baptist Army chaplain Joe Sherwin who is a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) resident at Brooke Army Medical Center.

“Joe and two other Southern Baptist chaplains and CPE residents, Doug Yoder (Army) and Kraig Smith (Air Force), have been involved in caring for the eight victims brought to Brooke Army Medical Center,” said Carver. “They report tough times due to chaos, age of victims and injuries and loss of life. But they are there to share the gospel and to provide hope in this terrible situation.”

On behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, NAMB has offered to cover funeral expenses for all shooting victims in coordination with the SBTC.

Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.

Published November 7, 2017