Following the shooting at a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas, USA, in which 26 people were killed, The Salvation Army despatched officers and staff from nearby San Antonio. The team was able to provide much-needed practical, emotional and spiritual support to the community, which was rocked by the sudden and violent loss of life.
A Salvation Army emergency canteen was on site at the First Baptist Church within hours of the shooting. Texas Divisional Commander Lieut-Colonel Ronnie Raymer explains: ‘Initially we met with family members and local leaders and pastors to help provide support and to comfort those waiting for word of their loved ones.’
Major Carolynn Webb, Associate Area Commander for The Salvation Army’s San Antonio Metropolitan Area Command, adds: ‘We were able to give water and snacks but most importantly we listened to many of the people share stories about their missing families. We prayed with many of the families.’
The morning after the attack, more than 200 breakfasts were served to first responders and law enforcement agency workers. Lunch and dinner were also provided, with plans drawn up to maintain provision for at least the following 72 hours. Several Salvation Army officers remain available to speak and pray with family members. Emotional and spiritual care is a unique aspect of The Salvation Army’s emergency response, with trained personnel available to support disaster survivors and first responders in times of crisis and stress.
Lieut-Colonel Raymer says: ‘The Salvation Army will remain in the community providing nourishment, with listening ears and praying hearts, for as long as we are requested to serve.’
The Salvation Army’s international leaders, gathered in Los Angeles for a conference, also expressed shock and concern about the unfolding situation.
General André Cox described the events of Sunday morning as ‘another senseless act that results in lives being lost, people injured and many families impacted for ever’, before calling Salvationists and friends to ‘pray for everyone affected’.
The Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Brian Peddle), addressing the 2017 International Conference of Leaders and the congregation of more than 1,000 people at the official welcome meeting, said the events in Sutherland Springs were ‘yet another tragedy for this nation’. He continued: ‘Our hearts, our prayers reach out and we pray that God, by his mighty strength, will subdue the evil in this world … and that we might find peace amongst ourselves in these days.’