KILLEEN, Texas (BP)–Randy Wallace, pastor of First Baptist Church in Killeen, Texas, said a man in his church survived the Luby’s cafeteria shooting in 1991, when 23 people were killed and 20 were wounded in Killeen. That event marked the deadliest shooting rampage in American history until the Virginia Tech massacre.
Coupled with the recent Fort Hood shooting, Wallace noted how mathematically improbable it is for one relatively small town to have two mass murders within 20 years. He said people who survived the Luby’s shooting still struggle with post-traumatic stress.
During the Sunday service following the Fort Hood shooting, the First Baptist member who survived Luby’s gave a testimony of how God has sustained him, and Wallace said even though the man was uncomfortable talking about the ordeal, the pastor believes it was beneficial for the congregation.
Wallace felt led that morning to preach from Mark 6 on the beheading of John the Baptist, and he reviewed what effects he thought that tragedy might have had on Jesus at the time.
“That was an emotional, devastating event for Christ. He retreats to a solitary place to reflect on that,” Wallace said. “It was a pointless death, and I tried to expound on the idea that death for a purpose is one thing, but he was beheaded because of the whim of a woman. There was no good reason even politically for him to be beheaded.
“And the murders on Fort Hood served no military purpose except it was an ambush,” Wallace said.
The pastor also used the sermon to remind his congregation that they are in the midst of a spiritual battle, as the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6. But believers are to make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil, Wallace said, referring to Ephesians 5:16.
During the invitation Sunday morning, a soldier who was one of the first responders after the Fort Hood shooting came forward.
“He was supposed to be in the room at the time, but he was outside, so he was one of the first, using paper towels to stop people’s bleeding,” Wallace said.
A woman who worked in the same office as the alleged gunman also came forward.
“She’s devastated that she was that close and wishes that she could have done something, but she just didn’t know how troubled he was,” Wallace said.
The pastor explained that the Army is good at identifying and meeting immediate needs after a crisis, such as getting people to the hospital and making sure children have caretakers, but the local church’s role is to address the secondhand issues of those who were not physically injured but are reeling emotionally.
“The second wave is emotional and spiritual trauma, and that’s where we will be picking up slack as we identify people who have those hurts and needs,” Wallace said.
It’s through that kind of ministry that Wallace hopes to see a shaken community turn to God and commit their lives to following Jesus.
“If I was telling people how to pray, pray for spiritual awakening in Killeen and Fort Hood, that people would seek Christ in this crisis,” Wallace said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.