LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Monday morning’s bank shooting became personal for Andy Mikel, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Danville, Ky., in a short time.
One of the nine wounded in the shooting was Deana Eckert, the 57-year-old sister of Immanuel worship pastor Scott Hurst. Brother and sister grew up in Harrodsburg.
Mikel said he only communicated via text with Hurst, who went to be with his grieving family. Deana was taken to the hospital with severe injuries from the shooting at the Old National Bank in downtown Louisville. She became the fifth victim to die early Monday night after several surgeries.
“Our church family is grieving with them and sharing one another’s sorrows,” he said.
Steven Dressens, the associational mission strategist for the Mercer Baptist Association, sent out a message early to pray for Eckert. He learned she was Hurst’s sister through another pastor in the association.
“We wanted everyone praying for that family and are praying for them still,” he said.
Eckert worked in New Albany, Ind., and was at the bank for a conference. She and her family lived in Lexington before moving to Indiana about two years ago, according to a friend.
Having a connection with individuals involved in mass shootings magnifies it, Mikel said.
“You hear of these regularly, sadly enough,” he said. “When you know the individuals, it makes it more personal. (But) people hurt every day with illness and other things that I don’t grasp. There’s lots of hurting people, all the time, that I’m not aware of.
“We remind ourselves of the Gospel hope. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed.”
Mikel said he looks to the hope of the gospel during the worst of times.
“It is a difficult time,” he said. “The day after Easter you are kind of on a high point emotionally, and then tragedy comes in. But we know it’s not the last word.”
Westport Road helps the community grieves
One of the courageous Louisville Metro Police officers who rushed into danger Monday morning with bullets flying is a member of Westport Road Baptist Church in the east side of Louisville.
“So many people were calling into the church because of the many different connections we had,” said Westport Road Pastor Chip Pendleton. “We have some Metro police officers in the church as well and we contacted them. One of them was one of the first responders in the room. We had a chance to pray with him.”
Metro police officers rushed into the room at the Old National Bank and shot and killed the shooter to stop the carnage that left four dead and nine injured. Later that night, a fifth victim died from their wounds.
One of the injured was a rookie Metro officer who was struck in the head.
The mass shooting was another example of the present darkness in the world, the pastor said.
“(We know) Where the only hope is coming from and it’s the gospel,” Pendleton said. “We’re praying that we can be the light for the darkness in the world.”
Pendleton preached a series called “Mosaic, the Redemption of Broken Pieces” during the Easter season, showing how Jesus took people who were broken and made something beautiful out of them. The congregation was given pieces of mosaic glass to symbolize their brokenness and asked that they put them on the altar. An artist in the church made a beautiful mosaic out of those pieces that was hung in the rotunda of the church going into the sanctuary.
“Our people have really responded to it,” Pendleton said. “It made me cry last night. The police officer that went in said to me, ‘Pastor, our world is broken. I keep praying this can make a beautiful mosaic.’”
Westport had four Easter services and, like most churches, was riding a high going into Monday when the tragedy unfolded around 8:30 in the morning, reminding them of the darkness that infiltrates the world.
Pendleton rallied his staff on Monday, and they have scheduled a dedicated prayer meeting for the city and the victims’ families on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited.
“It came to a point where we needed to do something both for church and community to come together,” the pastor said. “We thought it was the best thing to do that.”
Pendleton said they had thought about having the service Tuesday but didn’t think there was enough time to get the word to the public. So, they have turned their regular Wednesday service into a prayer service with an emphasis on the shooting aftermath.
“We were talking about even in Nashville, a few hours away, in another city and you feel bad,” Pendleton said of the recent school shooting. “When you know people entering the bank and people involved, who you knew lost their lives, it’s a different level of feeling.”
The first 30 minutes of the service will be guided prayer for people to pray on their own and then Pendleton will read scripture and pray for the victims’ families and the others who are in the hospital recovering from injuries along with the police officers. They will then move to the rotunda area where some cards will be handwritten to those who lost loved ones and to the Metro police. After singing a song and praying more, they will take bottled water and snacks to the police station located across the street from the church to let them know “we are thinking about them and praying for them,” Pendleton said.
Gracepointe Baptist connection
There’s also a strong personal connection between the shooting and a member of Gracepointe Baptist Church in Louisville, where Mark Bishop is the pastor.
Bishop explained that the church member is in the police academy right now and knew the officer who was critically injured. He is also friends with the officer’s twin brother, who is also going through police officer training.
Bishop said the church member, whom he did not want to name, has become a spiritual leader among his fellow cadets.
“He is able to pray with them and prays with his class with about 40 policemen gathered around,” Bishop said.
Bishop noted several police officers attend Gracepointe.
“We did a prayer chain. … Our church will take time to corporately pray for the family, police department and others.
“We have reached out to the police department in our precinct to ask what we can do,” he said. “We want to know what we need to do and is there anything we can do other than pray.”
Because of the connection to the family of the injured officer, Bishop said the church will be looking for ways to minister to the family — but said it would be sensitive to the family’s wishes and interact when the family is ready.
Another victim was also connected to Southern Baptists – Thomas Elliot, who was killed at the scene, was the son-in-law of Roy Honeycutt, former president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.