UVALDE, Texas (BP) – As the local community in Uvalde, Texas, continues to grieve this Tuesday’s (May 24) tragic school shooting, Luis Lopez, the SBC Executive Committee’s executive director for Hispanic relations and mobilization, has been ministering to the community by listening and reminding of God’s love.
Lopez, who arrived in Texas Thursday morning (May 26), described emotions in the community as “broken, angry, grieving and heartbroken.”
“I have seen a lot of the pain this community is going through because of this tragedy,” he told Baptist Press.
“It is one thing to see the news on TV, but it is another thing when you actually talk with the people who are there and see their hurt and anguish. This is a community that is hurting very much at this moment, and they are beginning to see the depth of the impact of what has happened.
“I’ve simply tried to minister by listening to people and their stories, pray for them, and ask questions about how we can best help them.”
The shooting took place Tuesday morning at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde when an 18-year-old opened fire on a classroom of students after locking the door. Police eventually shot and killed the gunman, but not before he killed 19 elementary students and two of the school’s teachers.
Lopez said he witnessed many effects of the violence, including children afraid to go back to school and parents deciding whether to have an open or closed casket for their child.
Southern Baptist churches in the area have not been immune from the devastation.
A particularly anguished Southern Baptist church is Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) in Uvalde. Two of the young girls killed in the shooting frequently attended the church, and one was the great-granddaughter of the church’s pastor emeritus.
Lopez said the great-grandfather even spoke at a prayer vigil held at the church Thursday night, saying he does not want to have hate in his heart for the attacker.
“Many of the attenders at the prayer vigil are finding comfort and hope in their faith,” Lopez said. “It is what they are holding onto even if they don’t understand why all of this has happened.”
Lopez said he is thankful for the faithful work of Southern Baptists amid tragedy.
“I’m very grateful that [Southern Baptist] Disaster Relief and the two Southern Baptist [state] conventions have been present since the incident happened,” Lopez said. “I wanted to show appreciation for what they do and remind them how important what they do is.
“They are some of the most important people ministering here at this time in the community. There are even some bi-vocational pastors from the local community who have taken time off to come minister by the school every day this week. That shows the strength of the faith family and how important it is to connect with each other during these times.”
Lopez said the tragedy has reminded him of the brevity of life.
“It makes you think about how fragile life is and how important it is to make the best of every moment we have with family,” he said.
“I think the gift of presence is one of the best things that we can give to people when they’re going through pain. Just to let them know that you are there, and being right next to them and remind them of the love of God is one of those gifts we can give to people.”