KILLEEN, Texas (BP)–A couple of Southern Baptist congregations near Fort Hood served as rallying places for the community and offered messages of hope Nov. 8 following a shooting on a military post that left 12 soldiers, one civilian and one pre-born baby dead and 29 others wounded.
“Yesterday we just tried to present a message of hope. We are people of hope because of the resurrection of Christ,” said Ken Cavey, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, located just three miles from the main gate of Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
“I approached it yesterday as this being a storm. When Jesus sent the disciples across the lake in Matthew 14, the storm came up suddenly. Not only did we address the storm of the Fort Hood situation, but there were some folks there that have storms in their marriage, storms in their finances. The storms will never end, but God has given us provision for how to operate within the storm,” Cavey said.
Memorial Baptist, affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, was one of the first churches to respond to the tragedy, hosting a prayer vigil and a session addressing spiritual questions just a few hours after the shooting Nov. 5. The question people have asked most, Cavey said, is “Why would God let this happen?”
Cavey said about 75 percent of Memorial Baptist’s active members are connected in some way to the military, and he estimated that 2 or 3 percent of those who attended the church on Sunday were first-time visitors who came because of the Fort Hood shooting.
Also on Sunday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at a community memorial service at First Baptist Church in Killeen, exhorting mourners to embrace their faith community during the trial. He reminded them that the tendency during tragedy is to recoil from fellowship with others, but the author of the Book of Hebrews says not to give up meeting together.
After the service, Cavey said, a Southern Baptist chaplain approached him to express gratitude for the support he and his colleagues are receiving from pastors and church members as the chaplains minister to soldiers and their families.
As of Monday, the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was conscious and able to talk after being shot four times in the abdomen, according to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he remains in stable condition.
The tragedy began Thursday when Hasan, an Army psychiatrist scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, walked into a Soldier Readiness Center and opened fire, killing 13 people and injuring 29.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I.-Conn., said Sunday he would begin an investigation into what the Army should have known about Hasan before the shooting, the Associated Press reported. Among other reports, former classmates of Hasan complained to faculty about what they considered to be Hasan’s anti-American views, including a presentation that justified suicide bombings as well as his remarks that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.
Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff George Casey warned that speculation on Hasan’s Islamic roots could “potentially heighten backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.”
Fox News reported that former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura visited Fort Hood in secret Friday night to console those who were wounded in the shooting, and President Obama and his wife Michelle were expected to arrive at Fort Hood Tuesday for a memorial service for those who were killed.
“I think as of tomorrow afternoon after the president finishes his memorial service, Fort Hood will somewhat go back to normal,” Cavey said. “They’re a resilient group. I just heard on the news this morning that the unit that suffered the greatest number of injuries and casualties is deploying as planned. That won’t change.
“I think Wednesday morning the commanders and all of the folks from Fort Hood will get back to training because they have a mission. They’re a resilient bunch of soldiers, and they’ll get back to the mission and training for deployment coming up,” Cavey said.
As chaplains and others seek to counsel those hit hardest by the tragedy, Cavey said he expects a major issue to be the jolt suffered to the idea that families and soldiers are secure on an Army post.
“Our troops always thought their families were safe back at home,” Cavey said. “I think the chaplains are going to have to deal with some soldiers deploying that don’t have that same security that everything is OK because that security was breached when the events happened on Fort Hood this week. That puts a new worry in the mind of a soldier.”
Chaplains also continue to work with first responders who reached the crime scene when it was at its worst, Cavey said, and they need prayer as they help those workers cope with the trauma.
“I’d just ask Southern Baptists to keep praying for their chaplains who do a yeoman’s task with our servicemen and women,” he said. “Pray for them, and pray for those who are still recuperating and those who are caring for them.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.