I am happy to be back in Mobile today after being in San Antonio, Texas this week.
The memorial service for Frank Wehrly went well and it was well attended as we celebrated and honored his life and family. Frank had fought lung cancer for 9 years until he passed last week just a week beyond his 57th birthday. We held the memorial service on Tuesday, which was also the 15th anniversary of his eldest daughter’s death. I shared from John 11 the story of Jesus and Lazarus.
Frank and his family were members of a church I served as pastor in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I had forgotten that by the time Frank wanted to be baptized I had already moved on to serve as pastor of a church in Aiken, South Carolina, which was a 2.5 hour drive, but Frank came to my new pastorate in order for me to have the honor of baptizing him.
There a few pictures that included me with Frank, taken between the years 1991 – 1993, but I did not bring them home with me because I don’t want you to laugh at the over-sized eyeglass frames I wore.
Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church…
One morning while I was down in San Antonia, I drove to Sutherland Springs, Texas and was able to pay a visit to the First Baptist Church there that lost 26 of their members to an evil Satanic motivated killer.
The law enforcement and Texas authorities made a last minute decision to make a temporary memorial out of the church while they decide on its future.
The church itself was situated on a small piece of land and a block or two from the main road through town.
When I first walked into the sanctuary of Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church I was struck with the fact that it was small, and seemed even smaller than the space in CrossHope Chapel.
As I stood in the doorway it occurred to me that nothing about Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church made it look like a target of evil, and that hit me hard to think there is truly no safe space in this cosmic conflict between life and death.
The church had been gutted, the bullet holes were patched, a window or two appeared covered, the floor and pews removed, and all was painted white from ceiling to walls to floors, with 26 chairs set to represent where the 26 victims sat that fateful morning.
Each of the 26 wooden folded chairs were painted white with a small cross on the back. A single red rose was propped up in the chair with the bottom of the steam on the seat and the open red petal part leaning against the upper back next to the name of the victim who sat there.
(I was not allowed to take any pictures, but someone pointed out that the media is circulating a picture and I have shared that to our church Facebook page.)
As I stepped into the church I caught myself trying to locate the spot of the story that one of the survivors told of holding the hand of a dying fellow parishioner while assuring them not to fear anything that they will soon awake to the presence of their Lord Jesus.
While there I silently walked from chair to chair taking notice of the names and praying that our Lord would send His Spirit of comfort to their surviving families and friends.
Before leaving that solemn space I prayed for our Lord and Savior to come soon, and bring a halt to sin and its violence against life.
Lastly, I prayed for you, and I prayed for me, that had that been CrossHope Chapel we would each find assurance to not fear, knowing that we would soon awake to the presence of our Lord Jesus.