SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX (ANS – November 6, 2017) – While ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, was speaking yesterday (Sunday, November 5, 2017) at a Southern California church about persecution around the world on the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a rifle-wielding shooter burst into the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people — including children.
Wooding, 76, had been sharing with the congregation at Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, California, about persecution that has been taking place in countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, and North Korea, when the alleged gunman, who has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, according to law enforcement officials, went on a shooting spree and was later found dead in his vehicle.
“When I heard the news, I knew that persecution has finally come to America,” he said. “For so long, terrible atrocities against believers have been taking place in different parts of the world, but now it is here, and I wonder if we are ready to deal with it.”
Law enforcement officials have said the alleged shooter was formerly a member of the United States Air Force who was court-martialed with a dishonorable discharge for assaulting his wife and child, according to an Air Force spokeswoman, and who had a domestic dispute with his in-laws who at times have attended the church in Sutherland Springs.
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are in the town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, following yesterday’s horrifying and deadly shooting rampage during a Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church.
“The evil at work in this tragedy is incomprehensible,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “It’s impossible to understand what could drive a young man to do something so inhumanly cruel. While we don’t have all the answers, we will do everything we can to comfort the grieving and give peace to those in despair as we bring the hope of Jesus.”
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, shared, “My heart is heavy for the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, who have lost more than 20 of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents, and friends today in this senseless act of brutality. My prayers are with this community and church.”
Even as the shooting developed in Texas on Sunday, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains remained deployed in New York City following last week’s terror attack which killed eight people on a bike path. Both efforts follow closely on the heels of the group’s ministry in Las Vegas following the concert attack, which killed 58 people.
Among religious leaders who have spoken out in response to yesterday’s shooting, are Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), who has been working for four decades to build bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews, and who called the deadly attack on a church near San Antonio, Texas, Sunday “terror” that seeks to undo decades of growing interfaith goodwill and return religions to past centuries of conflict.
“Terror that penetrates into a house of prayer is particularly evil and cruel, and seeks to undo decades of bridge building by and between people of faith,” Eckstein said. “Sadly, there are people who want to turn us back toward old circles of hatred.”
Eckstein added that The Fellowship was “shocked and sickened by this evil act, and our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their loved ones.”
“Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims should join together in condemning such attacks and work together to prevent further violence,” he said.
Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer said: “When attacks of hate and terror happen in our places of worship, they shake us to the core. We must beg God for His mighty hand of protection on our nation and the world. May God be with the victims of this shooting. Only God is our refuge in these times of trouble.”
Dr. Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church and president of the National Day of Prayer, which each year mobilizes millions of Americans to unified public prayer for the United States of America. He’s the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said: “Today’s horrific church shooting is every pastor’s worst nightmare and is proof of the reality of evil. Although the Bible never diminishes the pain of evil, it does promise that one day when Christ returns, evil will be defeated forever. Until that time, we pray that the members of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, will experience the promise of Psalm 34:18: The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.’”