FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A year and a day after Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into their sanctuary during a See You at the Pole rally and fired the shots that would forever change their lives, the people of Wedgwood Baptist Church praised God for his sovereignty and guidance through the ordeal.
The memorial service, held Saturday, Sept. 16 in Wedgwood’s sanctuary in Fort Worth, Texas, featured testimonies from the families of the shooting victims and a church-wide prayer for healing and revival.
“Jesus once calmed a storm, but God didn’t do that last year,” said Tralissa Griffin, whose daughter, Cassie, was killed in the shooting. “He took me in his arms and he held on to me.”
Her husband, David, said he was encouraged by the spiritual growth in Wedgwood’s youth since the tragedy. “I’m seeing young people sell out to Jesus Christ,” he said. “Revival doesn’t start with us old fogies.”
Wedgwood’s youth creative ministries team presented a skit that had been intended to be performed the night of the shooting. Called “Take Up Your Cross,” the skit portrayed a Christian who had to carry a large wooden cross as a symbol of her faith.
“The cross that Jesus carried was not gold-plated,” the youth said in the skit. “It was big and heavy. It had splinters, and it hurt him.”
Judy Stegner, whose son, Justin, was also among the seven people killed, spoke of the importance of remembering. “If the world doesn’t remember what happened last year and what’s happened since,” she said, “then they can’t see that it never happens again.”
Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood, said last year’s tragedy has been misunderstood.
The problem, he said, is not mental health or the need for more gun control — it is spiritual warfare.
“We are in a battle, but the world will never understand how we approach it,” Meredith said. “The heart of warfare is worship.”
Stan and Stephanie Jones, parents of Kim Jones, a first-year student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary killed by Ashbrook, told of the comfort of God’s presence throughout their grief.
“God said, ‘Trust me,'” Stan Jones said. “What do you say to God when he says ‘Trust me’?”
“God has taught me that it’s not the circumstance — it’s that he will be there for us,” Stephanie Jones said.
The Joneses shared that a video of Kim’s last message to her church in Saudi Arabia, recorded two months prior to her death, is being released in a version that will be used to share the gospel around the world.
Don Browning, father of Sydney Browning, who was Wedgwood’s children’s choir director before she was killed, expressed his gratitude to Wedgwood for their ministry to his family. He called his daughter a “letter from God written on the human heart,” quoting 2 Corinthians 3:3.
Debbie Beckel, whose daughter, Kristi, died the day after the shooting, read a letter found in her mailbox that day. The letter, written and signed as if it were from Kristi, expressed hope that good would come of the tragedy.
Beckel expressed her growing faith in God’s presence “even if the worst happens to us as far as the world is concerned, even if death comes crashing down on us.”
Kathy Jo Brown, whose husband, Shawn, was killed in the shooting, expressed similar sentiments.
“He [God] has been faithful to be patient with me when I have doubted,” Brown said. “He’s left us here, but he hasn’t left us alone.”
Brown’s husband was a student at Southwestern and was planning to be a youth minister upon graduation.
After a period of small-group prayer, Wedgwood’s choir sang an arrangement of “It Is Well With My Soul” as the congregation viewed a video showing news footage of the aftermath of the tragedy and the victims’ funerals.
Meredith said his prayer is that Wedgwood will not always be known only for the shootings. “When people think of Wedgwood, they won’t think of the shootings,” he said. “They’ll think of a place where revival broke out.”
Meredith went on to express forgiveness toward the gunman.
“I pray that the day will come when the Ashbrook name is known for peace,” he said. “May there be no more casualties from this tragedy.”