UVALDE, Texas (BP) – More than a week after the tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, members of one local Southern Baptist congregation are just beginning to mourn the loss of two young girls who attended their church.
Primera Iglesia Bautista Uvalde, a bilingual Southern Baptist church, held a prayer vigil last Thursday (May 26) in response to the shooting at Robb Elementary two days prior. The shooting left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Two of those students were 10-year-old Alexandria Rubio and 9-year-old Eliahna García, both of whom attended the church. The loss is even more personal for the congregation, as Rubio is the great-granddaughter of the church’s pastor emeritus, Julian Moreno.
Primera Iglesia’s current pastor, Carlos Contreras, began serving when the 80-year-old Moreno retired. Contreras said though the congregation is devastated and hurting, the people are looking to God.
“The prayer meeting was a difficult time, but the Lord is giving us strength to continue on,” he said.
“These types of services are what is needed in times like this. We’re not going to stop meeting or worshiping God, and we’re definitely not going to stop being thankful for all that He’s done for us. We’re not going to allow anything to strip us of our joy.
“We believe by faith that we will be reunited with loved ones because of what Christ has done on the cross. That doesn’t remove the sadness or take away the pain, but it gives us the hope that compels us to move forward and have services and things like this. If we did not have this hope then our pain would even be multiplied.”
Contreras said his ministry in the last several days has looked like distributing food and meeting with other pastors in the Uvalde area to pray with one another.
“All of Uvalde is grieving right now and we are very sad, but we have definitely been in prayer during this time,” he said.
Church members were not the only attendees of Primera Iglesia’s Thursday prayer vigil. Guests came from out of town to offer support.
One of those guests was Luis Lopez, the SBC Executive Committee’s executive director for Hispanic relations and mobilization.
Lopez was in Uvalde last Thursday and Friday (May 26-27) to minister to the largely Hispanic community, but said he himself was encouraged by what pastor emeritus Julian Moreno shared during the prayer vigil.
Moreno, Lopez said, told attendees he did not want to have any 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.”
Contreras said he and many in the church still view Moreno as a pastoral figure and view his words as a blessing.
“I still call him my pastor and everything that he says is cherished and highly valued,” Contreras said.
“Anytime Hermano Moreno speaks it is a blessing and his participation in the service is something I have no doubt he was led by the Lord to do. He has been a great mentor to me and example of who Jesus Christ is. As difficult as it is right now to speak, we so much cherish every word that he says.”
Contreras said his hope is for Christians in Uvalde to lean on God’s Word for peace.
“We’ve never been through anything like this before,” Contreras said. “Our words can’t do a whole lot. Our words can’t make as big of a difference as God’s Word. I hope and I pray that our community will find comfort in that which can truly find in. I pray for peace that surpasses understanding that can only come from God’s Word.”