On Wednesday night (April 2), after a lone gunman at Fort Hood reportedly killed three people and injured 16 others before turning the gun on himself, members of Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen, Texas, gathered to pray for those impacted by the tragedy.
A few church members were unable to attend the prayer gathering because of a base-wide security lockdown. Army Maj. Kevin Thompson, an officer at Fort Hood, serves as co-interim pastor of the church along with an Army chaplain, also from the base, and left the post about 20 minutes before the shooting. According to media reports, the shooter was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
A 25-minute prayer service, heavily focused on the shootings, preceded the evening Bible study.
“It was kind of conversational and people were telling details of conversations they had with those they knew on the base or the latest of what they had heard on the news,” Thompson told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “Generally we were praying for the victims and their families and that somehow God would find a way to prompt people to call out to Him through this incident, no matter how horrific.”
Thompson said the prayer time, as usual, involved groups of two or three gathered together, pleading in prayer.
Church members said they knew of no one from the church who was shot, but the unit of one of the church members was directly affected by the tragedy.
“There’s going to be a lot of anguish, particularly this time,” Thompson said, alluding to past incidents at the base, including the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood that claimed the lives of 13 and left 32 others injured. Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan was found guilty of the shooting and is awaiting the death penalty.
“From a spiritual standpoint, pray that people realize that you never know when your time is,” Thompson added, “and that they would trust Christ before it is too late.”
Elaine Clark, a longtime Killeen resident and former Killeen school counselor, was teaching AWANA at Skyline when the story broke.
About half of the children and adult volunteers were absent because they live on Fort Hood – home to more than 45,000 soldiers, families and personnel – and weren’t able to leave, she said.
“Children have questions and they need to be answered,” said Clark, who noted that last night, appropriately, they were studying and memorizing 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
After Clark explained to a young girl the importance of knowing God is always in control, even in danger, the girl responded: “You know God sent Jesus to die for that man,” the girl said of the shooter.
“That just spoke to my heart how God speaks even to these little ones in these terrible times,” Clark said.
Clark said she has a community of friends on Facebook that she’s in frequent contact with who have ties to Killeen and Fort Hood, and that prayers are being sent up for the survivors, the families of the victims, and for the family of the shooter.
“That family has a lot to go through and I’m sure they will have questions that will never be answered,” she said.
Clark said prayers are needed for children in the Killeen-Fort Hood area, that “they would cross paths with people who will share Jesus with them and that God loves them and he is with us even when we are afraid. … They don’t have to be afraid with Jesus as their friend.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)