EL PASO, Texas (BP) - As two mass shootings brought the total to three such tragedies in just over a week, Baptists prayed, met needs and called for an urgent look at how white supremacy can "fuel" violence.
The shootings - all committed by young men -took the lives of 34 people across three cities. In El Paso, Texas, a 21-year-old man is in custody after a shooting in a Walmart left 22 people dead and 26 others injured on Saturday, Aug. 3. Then, early Sunday morning, Aug. 4, a 24-year old gunman killed nine in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio.
Those victims were added to the three killed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California by a 19-year-old gunman July 28.
Southern Baptists responded in the aftermath of the violence to minister to those affected. In El Paso, volunteers with Texas Baptist Men set up at a local shopping center to serve first responders and families affected. Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief was sending a group of chaplains to El Paso the next day.
Baptist churches from around the area also gathered Aug. 4 at First Baptist Church, El Paso, for a prayer service that drew more than 400 people. "Our intent is to say our churches stand together, and we want the community to know that," FBC Pastor Mark Rotramel said. "This is not about our churches, but the Church."
“Pastors of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention affiliated churches in the El Paso area are reaching out to their neighbors in the aftermath of this tragedy," Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC, said. "The SBTC staff is mobilized to help those churches share the love and comfort of Christ.”
Steve Stiglich, associational missionary for the Greater Dayton Association of Baptists, said he has reached out to the mayor in his city to offer support in any way officials might need it. "At this time, we've been praying and been on standby," he said. "We ask for prayer for our first responders and medical staff who have been dealing with the injured, for our officials and the victims and families as they work through this." A prayer vigil was held Aug. 4 in downtown Dayton.