One year ago, Hurricane Harvey had yet to appear on radar. One year ago, very few people had heard of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Photo by Hayley Catt
North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, left, prays with Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas. Pomeroy, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Annabelle in a mass shooting at his church last fall, said, "Through that trial, He brought victory…. I would hope that when people think of Sutherland Springs, they think of Christ."
“A lot can happen in a year” was the theme of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) 2018 Send Luncheon. Held during the SBC Pastors’ Conference, NAMB aimed to bless pastors with stories of faith, hope and redemption – and a dose of humor.
The capacity-crowd event overflowed from the main room into a live simulcast location as NAMB President Kevin Ezell hosted the luncheon and turned the crowd’s attention to everyday Southern Baptist pastors faithfully serving their congregations and communities.
Pastor David Fleming of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston explained how he led his church to serve the community in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey – even when his own home was flooded and in need of repair. While noting the importance of local ministry and national partnerships, Fleming thanked the SBC family.
“The church really is on the front lines of ministry in any community,” Fleming said. “We don’t expect our national partners or even our state partners to be there on day one. That’s the church’s role, and that’s the church’s opportunity. We stepped into that gap first. But to know you guys were coming – to see the resources and the equipment and the organization – to have Southern Baptists come from literally all over the country to help us help our community was such an encouragement. I just want to say thanks on behalf of our church.” He also reported, “Almost 2,500, people mudded out 600 homes in just the first week after Hurricane Harvey…. We saw God use that in our community.”
Church planter Justin Haynes of the Refuge Church in New Orleans, La., shared at last year’s Send Luncheon how important the prayers of fellow Southern Baptist churches had been in his battle against cancer. This year, he stood and shared with the crowd of 4,000 that he is now cancer free.
“I have my hair back,” Haynes joked. “We greatly appreciate everyone in the convention and the North American Mission Board,” he added with tears in his eyes. “I still think about how you all blessed us.”
In a somber yet hopeful tribute to the ministry of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was met with a standing ovation from the assembled pastors, celebrated the beauty God is making from the ashes in the wake of the Nov. 5, 2017, shooting at the church.
“Though there was pain, evil didn’t win. The Spirit of God was moving here,” said Pomeroy, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Annabelle in the tragedy. “Through that trial, He brought victory…. I would hope that when people think of Sutherland Springs, they think of Christ. And if everything that happened and everything we do thereafter gets people to focus on Christ, then that’s what it’s all about.”
Ezell said to Pomeroy, “I’ve had the privilege of watching you lead … in a crisis that no other pastor in this room or North America has ever led through. You have been an incredible model of leading a church through a crisis while at the same time walking through one personally.”
Pomeroy and Ezell also gave an update on the rebuilding efforts at the church which are being facilitated by NAMB and through private donations.
Surprise guest Beth Moore, in partnership with NAMB and Lifeway, gifted Pomeroy and his wife with a getaway vacation as they continue to heal in the aftermath of tragedy.
Pastor’s son and comedian John Crist rounded out the event with a humorous presentation. Crist closed sincerely thanking pastors.
“It’s a tough, thankless job, so thank you for all that you do,” he said.
IMB President David Platt echoed that sentiment in a statement as the luncheon drew to an end.
“I thank faithful brothers all around this room who are serving in churches that many people will never know the name on that church and may never be on a stage like this one,” he said. “But I just praise God for His grace, and I just want to exhort you that this is glorifying to God to faithfully shepherd and love His people in the place where He has put you – wherever that is.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – K. Faith Morgan writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)