SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – Monday marks one year since the shooting that killed 26 people and injured 20 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. On Sunday, members of the church and people from surrounding communities gathered to remember both the survivors and victims.
“Everybody that was in that church that died that day I know would’ve given their life for one person to come to the Lord,” Sandy Ward said. Ward lost her daughter-in-law, Joann Ward, and her two granddaughters, Emily and Brooke, that day. The pain from losing her loved ones is still there.
“Even driving to church this morning, I was thinking about Joann and the girls coming a year ago,” she said. But she, like many others attending Sunday’s services and events, find strength through faith. The words “Evil Did Not Win” is also posted on the church’s sign.
“Satan didn’t win,” she said. “God is still in control and even though bad things happen, God can still turn it around for the good.”
Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, both shared the same sentiment.
“You look at the survivors that we have here, most of the survivors are still very active members of our church,” Sherri said. “If they can go on, so can I.”
During the service, Pastor Pomeroy told the congregation though the day focused on memorializing the event that took place a year ago, he wanted them to also remember God’s presence and faithfulness in their lives.
“Most of all, we’re here to honor Him,” he said. “The best way to honor Him is to choose to give your life to him.” Brandy Jones, who also attends the church, says the community has galvanized from all of the support and prayers its received.
“People need to know they can survive devastation,” she said. “If this isn’t qualified as devastation, I don’t know what you call devastation.”
Gov. Greg Abbott also stopped by the gathering and recalled the growth he’s seen in churchgoers over the past year. He said Sutherland Springs demonstrates what faith and God look like in action.
“I’ve seen God at work in your lives,” he said. Abbott says he almost tears up thinking about what the town has been through, but is inspired and in awe by how people responded to the tragedy.
“It’s important that we ensure that Sutherland Springs is not going to be defined by the tragedy that occurred here,” Abbott said. “But instead Sutherland Springs is going to be defined by the way people of this community have responded to this tragedy.”
That type of response will continue, Ward said. “We’re praying for each other and constantly lifting people up,” she said.