Disaster Relief Chaplains Share Hope in El Paso, Texas, After Shooting

Mike Flanagan, a chaplain with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief, poses with victim Jessica Garcia and her mother, Maria, at Del Sol hospital. Terry Bunch and Flanagan were able to pray with the family. Photo by Terry Bunch

Four veteran Disaster Relief chaplains from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) packed quickly to drive from different regions of the state to El Paso to minister to victims, families and the community following the Aug. 3 shootings at the Cielo Vista Walmart.

The four men, all pastors, arrived in El Paso on Aug. 7 and began to serve. None is new to helping others deal with tragedy and grief.

Gordon Knight of Bryan, SBTC director of chaplains and pastor at Christ’s Way Baptist Church, responded to deadly shootings at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in 2017 and Santa Fe High School in 2018.

“There’s nothing that we can do that will help except extend a listening ear and a sympathetic heart and empathy,” Knight told KBTX-TV in Bryan-College Station in an Aug. 6 televised interview while traveling to El Paso.

“When people see the uniform, they ask about who we are,” Knight said. “We can start telling them that we’re chaplains, and we’re here to listen and pray with you — whatever you need to help you get through this.

“Ours is a ministry of presence,” Knight told KBTX. “Having people tell their stories can be very therapeutic and very healing.”

Accompanying Knight were chaplains Dennis Parish of Conroe’s The Church at 242, Terry Bunch of East Side Baptist Church in Haskell and Mike Flanagan from First Baptist Church Whitesboro.

“We’re trying to help folks as they walk through this time of struggle and grief and providing direction and resources,” Parish told KHOU-TV.

“We’ll just ask them to tell us their story, where they were, what they felt, what emotions they had. And to be able to encourage them, share some Scripture with them and be able to pray for them,” Flanagan said in an interview with Texoma’s KXII-TV.

“When you’re at your lowest time is when you need somebody to come along and encourage you, and remind you that there are good things out there that are possible, and that there’s a God who cares about you and people who care about you,” Bunch told Abilene’s KTAB news.

The men have been busy since arriving in the Sun City, dividing into two teams to visit the Cielo Vista Mall, local churches and area hospitals.

Bunch and Flanagan, who is fluent in Spanish, met and prayed with the family of girls’ soccer coach Guillermo (Memo) Garcia at Del Sol Medical Center. Garcia remained in intensive care while his wife Jessica, also a victim, was released from the hospital and joined the family waiting at Del Sol.

The Garcias were helping at a sports fundraising booth at the Walmart entrance when the gunman struck, shooting Jessica three times in the leg and Memo twice in the back and once in the leg.

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Source: Baptist Press