CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP) — When Eric Stitts, pastor of Bayside Baptist Church, heard of the domestic terrorism attack on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., July 16, his first thought was disbelief.
Then he turned his attention and prayers to the many policemen in his church, located in nearby Harrison, who he knew would be called to the scene.
One of those officers (name has been asked to be withheld) was one of three people wounded during the incident which took the lives of four United States Marines. The shooter, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kuwait, was also killed.
“[He] is very faithful,” Stitts said. “He loves his family and he takes his responsibility as a police officer very seriously.”
Stitts noted the officer is a “man of integrity” and a member who is well respected in the church and community.
The Bayside pastor has been in contact with the officer’s wife. “She told me the recovery process will be long but he is expected to make a full recovery,” Stitts said.
Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher told television station WRCB the officer is “doing as well as can be expected after being shot by a brazen criminal like this.”
The pastor said Bayside Baptist was open all day Friday (July 17) for people to come and pray. In addition, Stitts said the church service on July 19 would be devoted to prayer as well.
“We will be praying for [the officer] and his family and the families of the four Marines who were killed as well as the two others who were wounded and all those involved,” he said. “We also are going to enter into a time of seeking the Lord and praying as a church family that the community will come together and seek the face of God,” he said.
He noted he told his church two weeks ago following the same-sex marriage ruling by the United States Supreme Court that now is not a time to panic or to live in fear.
In light of what happened on July 16, those words still ring true, he said.
“We must walk in our faith more than ever before. We must trust in God who can raise the dead,” Stitts said.
The most recent incident is another reminder “that we need spiritual renewal in our nation and that it must start within our churches,” he said.
Steve Roper, Baptist Collegiate Ministry specialist on the campuses of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Chattanooga State Community College, said the campuses and the community are in “a state of shock. Our community has never really experienced anything remotely like this,” he said.
Roper said the Chattanooga State campus is near where one of the shootings on Thursday took place and the school was placed on lock down.
Because there are relatively few students on campus during the summer Roper said no special activities are planned for now.
Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy C. Davis said, “Baptists all over the state of Tennessee are praying for our friends in Chattanooga as they deal with the enormous grief caused by evil personified.
“We know all things work for God’s glory and the good of those who follow Christ, even in great tragedy,” Davis said.