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Abbott and Pence reinforce importance of faith to victims of church shooting

November 9th, 2017 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

FLORESVILLE, Tx.—A reported shooting incident at a nursing home a half mile away, chilly temperatures and the threat of rain did not deter an estimated 2,500 or more area residents and over 100 media representatives from attending the community prayer event the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 8 in Floresville, not far from First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed the previous Sunday.

They gathered at the outdoor facility of Floresville Independent School District where several of the slain children attended school.

Political dignitaries in attendance at the community prayer meeting included Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Ted Cruz, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and several area congressmen.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott extended sympathy to the families of the victims, calling the Sutherland Springs tragedy inexplicable, yet confirming that “there is only one source that has the answers, and that is God almighty.”

Calling the evening’s community prayer service “righteous and rightful,” Abbott proclaimed Sun., Nov. 12 as a day of prayer across Texas, expressing his hope that Texans would unite to pray for the injured, the families who had lost loved ones and the communities affected by the “horrific, inexplicable evil.”

“Even though anguish and sorrow hang over the community, we will not be overcome by evil. Together we will overcome evil with good. You all have already shown that,” Abbott encouraged the crowd, describing his experiences with the affected families Sunday afternoon and with the community at a Sunday night prayer vigil.

“Love will conquer evil. You left me inspired. Hours before that [vigil] your community saw the very face of evil. Hours later, you reflected the very grace of God. You are a demonstration of God’s grace across this entire world,”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

“Love will conquer evil. You left me inspired. Hours before that [vigil] your community saw the very face of evil. Hours later, you reflected the very grace of God. You are a demonstration of God’s grace across this entire world,” Abbott said.

Abbott told of visiting victim Chris Workman at Brooke Army Medical Center. Workman was wounded in the back in the same location that Abbott himself was injured in 1984, the accident that left him in a wheelchair. Abbott said he told Chris’s mother he was pleased to meet “another future governor of Texas.”

Of his own accident, Abbott admitted to questioning God yet affirmed that “God did not give up on me,” assuring the families that while “nothing can prepare you for the loss or pain,” God will “continue to reach out and connect with you” to help you “find the way forward.”

The governor closed by reading Psalm 62, assuring the crowd that the “communities affected by this tragedy will never be shaken as long as we build our fortress on the rock of God,” before introducing Vice President Pence.

The Vice President thanked Abbott for his inspiring words and leadership, adding that he and his wife, Karen, were “deeply humbled” to be here in the company of not only Abbott, but  “the lieutenant governor [Dan Patrick], our attorney general [Jeff Sessions], Sen. [Ted] Cruz, Congressman [Henry] Cuellar and Congressman [Will] Hurd,” saving his highest praise for the victims and families: “you honor us with your presence.”

“Words fail when saints and heroes fall,” he added, offering personal condolences, and the sympathies of the nation, acknowledging the contributions of community members and faith leaders.

“Your testimony of Christian love is inspiring the nation,” Pence said, adding a message of support from President Trump:  “The American people are with you.”

Describing the tragedy as the “worst mass shooting in a place of worship in American history,” Pence called the attack “unspeakable,” reminding the audience that only a “few miles away,” the congregation of First Baptist had come together last Sunday “to join hearts and hands in worship and prayer,” before the killing of 26, including nine children, victims whose “cherished names” will live forever in the hearts of friends and family and be “enshrined in the hearts of every American.”

Pence specifically mentioned victims such as 16-year-old Haley Krueger, who had planned to be a neonatal nurse, high school sweethearts Shani and Robert Corrigan whose son had died a year before and the Holcombe family who lost eight members.

“To the families of these and to all of the fallen we extend the deepest sympathies of the first family, our little family and all the American people. The Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the broken hearted.”;

Vice President Mike Pence

“To the families of these and to all of the fallen we extend the deepest sympathies of the first family, our little family and all the American people,” Pence said, adding that the “Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the broken hearted.”

Pence said when visiting the wounded, he “assured them of our prayers,” mentioning Zach [Poston] whose grandmother died [shielding him] yet who also himself “saved a little girl from stepping into harm’s way.”

Pence described walking into David Colbath’s hospital room, surprised not only to learn that Colbath had held his men’s Bible study in the room but also asked the Pences and Abbotts if they would pray with him.

“We’d be honored,” Pence had replied, his voice cracking as he added, “I was not prepared when David bowed his head and prayed for us.”

Pence also mentioned meeting James and Hailey McNulty, whose mother, Tara, was killed: “two of the brightest kids I have ever met, with bright futures before them.”

“We were inspired by the resilience and faith. So we mourn with those who mourn and we grieve with those who grieve. We do not grieve like those who have no hope. For our faith gives us hope,” Pence said. “And heroes give us hope.”

The Vice President praised first responders, medical personnel, Stephen Willeford and Johnny Langendorff, who pursed the shooter, calling them “Texas heroes” who likely saved the lives of other Americans.

Abbott also alluded to the heroism of Willeford who rushed to the scene from his neighboring house to engage the shooter, reminding the crowd that Texans come together in times of tragedy: “It’s what we do.” Cheers and applause erupted as the Governor thanked God “there was a neighbor who helped save lives on that tragic day.”

“’Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life…,’” Pence added in quoting from John 15:13, praising the sacrifice of Joann Ward who died shielding her children.

“The faith in this community has inspired the nation.”

Pence also praised Sutherland Springs pastor Frank Pomeroy, who, while grieving the loss of his daughter, could still say to the world:  “Lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding. I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”

“Whatever animated the evil that descended on that church Sunday, if the attacker’s desire was to silence the testimony of faith, he failed. The voice of faith, the witness of faith, in that small church in that small town now echoes across the world.”

Vice President Mike Pence

He insisted, “Whatever animated the evil that descended on that church Sunday, if the attacker’s desire was to silence the testimony of faith, he failed. The voice of faith, the witness of faith, in that small church in that small town now echoes across the world.”

Calling faith the “antidote to fear and despair,” Pence challenged Americans not to lose heart, echoing the sentiments of President Trump who said that Americans “come together as one nation and one people to support our fellow Americans.”

“No attack, no act of violence will ever break our spirit or diminish the faith of the American people,” Pence continued.

“Faith is now and always has been our source of strength and the summit of our national life. And I believe that faith has never been more important to the future of America,” Pence said, calling upon Americans to fill the places of worship to “overflowing” this Sunday and reminding all that we are “one nation, under God, indivisible,” and urging prayer for the country as well as for the “precious families of the fallen and injured,” before inviting his wife, Karen, to offer a prayer.

Asking God to help the grieving community to remember Jesus’ command to “let the little children come unto me,” she prayed they would cling to the image of all of “all of these beautiful children in your arms today,” adding “for all of the victims are children of God.”

Before departing with her husband and other political leaders, she asked God to hold the community in his hands. “Help these precious believers know how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ who conquered death.”

See related article Texas Baptists embrace Sutherland Springs families through prayer gathering.