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Church remembers slain pastor Winters

MARYVILLE, Ill. (BP)–One day short of the first anniversary of the shooting death of pastor Fred Winters, his church family at First Baptist in Maryville, Ill., gathered to remember him and hear testimony of God’s sufficiency from his widow Cindy. The Illinois Baptist pastor was shot and killed March 8, 2009, while preaching, making headline news across the country.

During the March 7, 2010, service, Maryville’s interim pastor, Tom Huffty, expressed appreciation to community emergency responders and then introduced Cindy Winters to a standing ovation. Winters shared her testimony of the events of that morning, saying, “Many people ask where God was on March 8. I don’t have any great words of wisdom, but I know where God was. He was with me.”

Winters relayed her confusion when she arrived at church that morning, not knowing about the shooting, and found traffic congested because of emergency vehicles at the church. A friend told her in the parking lot of the church that her husband had been shot.

She rushed to the nearby hospital where Winters was being treated and was told his injuries were serious, but that she could see him. However, when she entered the treatment room, a nurse expressed condolences for her loss. “You mean he’s dead,” she asked. “Yes, we just pronounced it” was the reply.

That night, Winters said, she helped her two young daughters “dig through the dirty clothes to find something that smelled like their dad. I felt so helpless. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

In such circumstances, Winters encouraged the congregation to focus on how real heaven is. “It doesn’t take away our pain, but it does help keep things in perspective. God was in my bedroom that night, reminding me that Fred was in a perfect place.”

“I went to the pit, and God was in the pit. … There is hope in chaos, and there is joy in the darkest circumstances. I always believed that, but now I know it.”

Winters said the strength she draws comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. “Not from religion or a set of facts about God or from doing good things, but from a trusting relationship with God’s Son. … A relationship with Jesus is the one thing that makes sense when nothing else makes sense.”
Martin King is editor of the Illinois Baptist; Lisa Sergent is the paper’s associate editor.

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  • Marty King & Lisa Sergent