In the weeks following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, BGCT churches and staff have continued to provide support and hope for those affected by the tragedy. As well as responding to the first wave of immediate needs, the Texas Baptists family is committed to helping provide long-term care for the families and the community.
Rolando Rodriguez, director of Texas Baptists en Español, hosted a training for children’s ministers in Uvalde during the weekend following the shooting in partnership with Pastor Neftali Barboza of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Jerico. Rodriguez gave them tools to explain God’s heart on grief and to care for the children who have been impacted by the shooting.
“We don’t have any words, but God and the Bible have a lot to say on grief. And that’s what I shared with them,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to the training, the BGCT will help provide funding for Iglesia Bautista Nueva Jerico to assemble care packages for children in the church and community who were directly impacted by the shooting. The care packages will include books on grief, gift cards and other items to help bless the families in small ways.
Rodriguez is also working as a liaison between the local Uvalde churches and other ministries, including Awana, a child and youth discipleship program, and No Más Violencia, a program devoted to creating peaceful communities.
For Rodriguez, the most important thing churches, partners and ministry staff can do now is to create support for the local church to continue healing their community, long after volunteers and relief workers leave.
“Moving forward, everyone is going to leave eventually, so I think our part has now shifted to working through the local churches so that they can minister to their communities,” he said.
Barboza and other pastors in the area are working to ensure that affected families feel supported but are also given a space to grieve. Barboza explained that many of the families have been overwhelmed by the media and the flurry of activity immediately following the shooting. They are now looking for the peace they need to properly mourn and reflect.
At the same time, Barboza’s church is also focusing on creating a long-term strategy for ministering to the community, acknowledging that healing will not come quickly or without effort.
“It’s going to be a process,” he said. “The healing process is not going to be an overnight thing, it’s going to take months and years.”
Barboza asked for prayers for Iglesia Bautista Nueva Jerico as they develop that long-term ministry plan for the community and also look inward to ensuring that their own congregation is cared for at this time.
“It’s important to ensure that our congregation is healthy as well so that they can properly minister to others,” Barboza said. “As people of God, we need to be [spiritually well] to best reach people.”