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FIRST-PERSON: When breaking news breaks our hearts

Rick Lance addresses the crowd gathered for a prayer vigil hours after a mass shooting in Dadeville, Ala. Photo by Jennifer Davis Rash

Editor’s note: Rick Lance is executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

PRATTVILLE, Ala. (BP) – Breaking news is a commonly used headline for some current event that demands our attention. Many times breaking news breaks our hearts.

This was the case for so many, including myself, early Sunday morning, April 15. I looked at my phone and saw a news alert featuring the story of a horrific event in Dadeville, Ala. – the sad account of a shooting at a birthday party.

I immediately contacted Ben Hayes, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Dadeville. I further reached out to our disaster relief strategist, State Missionary Mark Wakefield. Both confirmed the somber news of four deaths and numerous injuries at the party held the night before.

A city in shock

This relatively small town of 3,000 was in a state of severe shock. This is a quiet and close-knit community where people know each other well enough to be on a first-name basis. They go to church together. They go to sports events at the high school together. They do life together.

On this day, their lives were changed. A shockwave went through the community and the surrounding areas. Individuals all over the state joined in grieving with these precious people.

A prayer vigil

Later in the day, there was a prayer vigil in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church where hundreds of people gathered to pray for all those affected by this indescribably sad event.

Ministers led in prayer for the families of the victims, the students, the educators and first responders. This was one of the saddest but most meaningful experiences I have ever had as a Christian leader.

Leaders stood tall

A crisis calls for strong leaders to emerge. That is what is happening in Dadeville. The city police are doing their jobs. Other first responders stepped up to do what they do best. Pastors and other people of faith have pointed people to the only hope we have, which is Jesus Christ the Lord.

Wounds which need healing

At the prayer vigil, I was called upon to close out the time. I choked out a few words knowing that this is not a time for platitudes. Our trite sayings often fall on deaf ears.

This was not a time to discuss politics, although some news outlets defaulted into that kind of discussion. This was a 911 moment for so many. This was a shock to the system.

I did claim the promise of John 16:33 where Jesus underscored the reality of tribulation or trouble in our lives. He offered a call to courage in this promise verse. He further spoke of being overcomers or conquerors when life doesn’t make any sense.

Continue to pray

Continue to remember in prayer the people of Dadeville. April 15, 2023, will be a date marked in history as a moment that these dear people faced adversity with a fortified faith but fragile feelings.

Time does not heal. The Lord does the healing. May His healing touch be upon the people affected by a day they will not soon forget. A day when breaking news broke our hearts.

    About the Author

  • Rick Lance