Texas church reopens as solemn memorial to shooting victims

Texas church reopens as solemn memorial to shooting victims

By Lisa Maria Garza

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – The modest Texas church where a gunman massacred more than two dozen worshipers last week reopened as a memorial on Sunday, giving the public its first glimpse of the site where one of the most shocking mass shootings in U.S. history unfolded.

Signs of the rampage that officials said took 26 lives and wounded 20 others were muted at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a weeklong effort to transform its devastated sanctuary into a shrine honoring the deceased.

All the pews, carpets and church equipment had been removed, and the floors were still sticky from fresh coats of paint. The windows were painted over in swirling watercolors.

White, wooden folding chairs were placed in no regular pattern throughout the church, with each marking the precise spot where a victim’s body was found. A single rose, decorated with white ribbon, graced every seat, with the victim’s name written in gold cursive script on its back along with a cross painted in red.

As members of the media were escorted four at a time through the chapel, a recorded voice could be heard reading verses of scripture. Outside, as a steady rain fell, about 100 family members and others waited to pay their respects.

Construction crews worked around the clock for 72 hours to make the church “presentable to those families,” Associate Pastor Mark Collins said.

Earlier, Pastor Frank Pomeroy led a gathering of about 500 in Sunday services held in a tent erected in a muddy athletic field, a short walk from the church.

“We have the freedom to take that building that was attacked, transform it through the love of God and into a memorial to remind everyone so that we will never forget – love never fails,” the pastor said.

Pomeroy was out of town at the time of the attack, but his 14-year-old daughter was among those killed by Devin Kelley, a former U.S. Air Force officer thrown out of the service after his conviction in 2012 for assaulting his wife and stepson. After the massacre, Kelley killed himself.

“The media is amazed that we are not angry, that we are not calling for this or that,” Pomeroy told congregants with an air of defiance mixed with visible grief. “Folks, we have the freedom to choose, and rather than choose darkness, as one young man did that day, I say we choose light.”

The congregation gave thunderous applause. Some waved Bibles in the air. Near the back stood a dozen bikers from a nearby chapter of Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders.

The members of the church will make a decision “in the far future” about whether to demolish the structure, Collins said. Some families have said they never want to step foot in the building again, he said.

In the meantime, it will serve as a memorial open to the public on Monday through Friday. Regular Sunday services will resume in a temporary structure set up somewhere on church property.

(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Frank McGurty; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Cooney)

Pastor may demolish Texas church where massacre took place

Workers make repairs and paint the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 9, 2017

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The pastor of a rural Texas church sprayed with gunfire in a shooting rampage that killed 26 people is considering demolishing the building and putting a memorial in its place, a Southern Baptist Convention official said on Thursday.

Devin Kelley, the 26-year-old gunman, stormed into the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church on Sunday and opened fire on worshipers with a semi-automatic assault rifle in the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history. Authorities said the attack stemmed from a domestic dispute.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy met with Southern Baptist Convention leaders, who came to help console victims, and “expressed his desire to raze the building,” convention spokesman Roger Oldham said in a telephone interview.

The white-steepled church, located about 40 miles east (65 km) of San Antonio, was riddled with bullets.

The building can hold about 75 people. Pomeroy said using it again could be emotionally painful, according to Oldham.

After making a statement on the shooting on Monday, Pomeroy has declined requests to speak with the media.

Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, were out of town during the shooting, which killed their 14-year-old daughter. The pastor is considering planting a memorial garden on the site, Oldham said.

A worship service will take place on Sunday in Sutherland Springs behind a community center not far from the church, Sherri Pomeroy posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The service will “show the world that we may be knocked down temporarily but WE ARE NOT DEFEATED,” she wrote. “Please come help us honor their lives doing what they died for: worshipping our sovereign God!”Authorities have said Kelley, found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after a failed attempt to make his getaway, was embroiled in a domestic dispute involving the parents of his second wife.

One of the women killed at the church, Lula Woicinski White, 71, was reported to be the gunman’s grandmother-in-law.

Kelley is a former Air Force airman who was convicted in 2012 by court-martial for assaulting his first wife and infant step-son. He served a year in military detention.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were among those who attended a prayer vigil on Wednesday evening at a high school football stadium in nearby Floresville.

 

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in San Antonio; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Von Ahn)

 

Filipino bishops urge bell-ringing, prayers to protest bloody drugs war

A sign is posted outside a Catholic church which translates to "Let us pray for the victims of extrajudicial killings, bells will toll at 8:00pm" in Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

By Manuel Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) – Stepping up a campaign against President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, Catholic bishops in the Philippines have called for church bells to be rung for the next 40 nights, and congregations to light candles and pray for the killing to end.

A pastoral letter by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) sent to priests urged Catholics to pray for victims from Saturday until All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, when Filipinos traditionally pay respects to the dead.

More than 3,800 people have been killed in anti-drugs operations in the past 15 months and at least 2,100 murders are suspected of being drug-related, according to police data, though human rights groups believe the numbers are understated.

“The relentless and bloody campaign against drugs that shows no sign of abating impels us, your bishops, to declare: In the name of God, stop the killings!” Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the head of the CBCP, said in the letter.

Such messages are typically read aloud in church or distributed to their congregations.

Many Catholic churches in the capital have already started lighting candles and ringing bells for five minutes each day at 8 p.m..

Thousands of Filipinos rallied against Duterte on Thursday to protest against what they fear is an emerging dictatorship, and several churches held mass against the killings and urged people to renounce violence.

The bishops are among the most influential dissenting voices to come out against the Duterte’s uncompromising strategy.

Having been largely silent on the issue when it first erupted last year, priests have increasingly taken a stand against the anti-drugs campaign.

As bodies started to appear nightly in Manila’s slums, the church stepped up its opposition, denouncing the killings and in some cases, providing sanctuary to witnesses of killings and drug users who feared they could be targeted.

Villegas said the country’s bishops were firmly against drugs, but killing was not the solution and prayer was “the most powerful weapon in our arsenal”.

Rights groups dispute official police accounts that say drug suspects were killed because they violently resisted arrest. Critics accuse police of executing users and small-time dealers and planting evidence, which police reject.

Pablo Virgilio David, bishop in Manila’s Caloocan City, where large numbers of drug-related killings have taken place, urged the authorities to end the killings and let healing begin.

“We disagree that we should treat them like monsters to be eliminated like stray cats and dogs,” he said of drug users and criminals. “We disagree that a criminal has no more hope of changing his life.”

(Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Morningside and The Jim Bakker Show Sending Team to Texas

Jim and Lori Bakker ready to leave for the Houston area to bring food, comfort and prayer to those needing our help September 4, 2017

By Kami Klein

Pastor Jim and Lori Bakker left today for the Houston area to help local churches struggling to keep up with the needs from the disaster left behind from Hurricane Harvey.  Jim and Lori, along with The Jim Bakker Show team will be there to feed, comfort and pray with those who have lost so much and are struggling to rebuild.  They will witness with you scenes that are left from this devastating storm, and share with you the stories of heroism, courage and the humanity of the people that have been affected by this tragic event.

Yesterday, a truck loaded full with pallets of food buckets, water purification products, Bibles and other survival supplies left Morningside bound for Houston.  In an email from Pastor Jim he wrote,

 

“Never before have you been “the hands and feet of Jesus” as much as this moment.  Because you have been prepared and have prepared to share with others, we are able to make this trip possible.  

We appreciate all you do for this Ministry and for allowing us to represent you to thousands of hurting people in need. We could not be doing this without you.

Please continue to pray for us in our journey.  Pray for those still in harm’s way. And, most importantly, continue to pray that each one will experience the love of Jesus through us to His glory. ”

 

We will be sharing what is happening in Houston directly from our team as they work alongside these true survivors that have shown the world what being a Christian and an American is all about. Please keep them in your prayers!  

Morningside and The Jim Bakker Show team ready to leave for Houston.

Morningside and The Jim Bakker Show team ready to leave for Houston.

We are now asking for your help by donating funds towards supporting and helping in areas where there is the greatest need.

The people of Houston and the gulf coast are only at the beginning of an incredibly daunting challenge as they rebuild their lives.  Now is the time to remember that we are all part of God’s family.

Now is the time for compassion!  Now is the time to act!

 Follow this link to our slideshow that will be updated throughout our team’s time in Texas!  

Please donate today!   

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! The Celebration continues at Morningside! Join us Live!!

American Flag - VOTE

By Kami Klein

Today is the Birthday of the United States of America, a country founded on a firm faith in God.  This is a nation born for freedom!  We have been through war and strife, times that would test anywhere in the world, but with our God nothing is impossible! His continuing hand of blessing upon this country can and will give us strength.  Morningside is celebrating and giving thanks all week long for our 4th of July events!  

On Tuesday afternoon please join us live as we picnic on Grace street where we will be listening to the wonderful  Lindley Creek Bluegrass Band at approximately 3:00 pm, CST.  Later, beginning at 7:00 CST, the evening festivities begin with worship led by the talented James Huey, followed by a very special service with Cindy and Mike Jacobs.  A spectacular fireworks display will begin at 9 pm CST   with all of the Morningside family!  If you are in the neighborhood, we would LOVE to have you there with us!

All of this will be Live on Demand on The Jim Bakker Show website, PTL Television Network website, Roku and Apple TV!  Be sure to check our schedule for more inspirational and educational events for the remainder of this week ending on Saturday night, July, 8th!  

God Bless you on this 4th of July Holiday!  We hope you are spending it with your loved ones.  Please join us as we continue to pray for this amazing nation and for the leadership of this country!  

 

We love you!

 

The Jim Bakker Show Hosts Paula White-Cain August 15th!

Paula White

By Kami Klein

Morningside will be welcoming Pastor Paula White-Cain to Grace Street for a special taping on The Jim Bakker Show!  As a celebrated author and teacher, popular TV personality, and spirit-led preacher of God’s Word, she has impacted people from every walk of life in more than 100 countries.

Today, Paula is married to Jonathan Cain of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame band, Journey and is the Senior Pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Orlando, Florida. She travels extensively as a much in demand speaker and teacher of the gospel and also serves as Chairwoman of the Evangelical Advisory Board to President Donald J. Trump. Pastor White-Cain has been the spiritual adviser to President Trump for many years and delivered the invocation at President Trump’s inauguration, becoming the first female clergy member to pray at a Presidential inauguration. Her life leading to that moment has been totally remarkable.

Paula White-Cain’s childhood was tragic, abusive and at times seemed quite hopeless. She was introduced to the Bible at the age of 18 and her life was transformed.  Paula has been quoted as saying, “Champions have the courage to keep turning pages because they know a better chapter lies ahead.”  God’s mandate was for her to preach the gospel of Christ around the world, and Paula demonstrated what a champion’s heart could be and began ministering in the inner cities of Washington, DC, sharing Jesus with the children in these violence ridden neighborhoods.  

After going on to lead multiple mega-churches, she then founded Paula White Ministries.  Through her ministries, hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted with food for the needy and money to rebuild lives proving, through her actions, God’s message of love.   

The roles in Christian ministry have changed thanks to Paula White-Cain’s impact in paving the way for millions of young women to pursue God’s calling on their lives.  She is a proven leader and has received numerous awards and honors for her ministry work and has delivered many notable invocations including the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.   

Please join us for this very special show taping with Paula White-Cain on Tuesday, August 15th on Grace Street at Morningside!  Taping begins at noon and admission is free.  Don’t miss a moment with this outstanding woman of faith!  

President Trump calls for prayer after shooting

Donald Trump

By Kami Klein

In response to the shooting at Simpson Park in Alexandria of House majority Whip Steve Scalise along with the wounding of four others, President Trump called for prayer, reminding the nation: “We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in this nation’s capital, above all, they love our country.”

In a special session just hours after the President’s press conference, House speaker Paul Ryan stressed to the Senate that “An attack on one of us, is an attack on ALL of us.”  He remarked that the most memorable picture that he hoped would be remembered after this day was of the Democratic leadership engaged in prayer for the fallen. With great emotion in his voice he stated. “We are one House. The People’s House, and we are one in humanity.”

As followers of Christ, we understand the power of prayer and of God’s mercy.  Praying is bipartisan and does not belong to one political party or the other nor is it only for our nation but for the entire world for we are all God’s children.

We must always remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:19-20 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are assembled in My name, there I am in their midst.”

In his address to the press this morning, President Trump added that “we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.” In this Church family, we stand together by the thousands, and we are asking that all of us join in prayer now for our nation.   

Please pray for those that were wounded today, Steve Scalise, Officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey as well as Zachary Barth and Matt Mika.  Pray for their quick recovery and for their family and friends as they must now be ready to help in their healing with loving support.  Pray with gratitude for the protection of so many from what could have been a massacre and the law enforcement who put their lives on the line without a second thought.  And pray with compassion for the suspect’s family who must also cope with the shock of this attack.

As Christians, we are commanded to love one another.  This nation needs God’s love and as His children, we must be HIS example. Our first step must be in prayer.