A Fort Worth congregation knows all too well the shock and pain being felt in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
A memorial remains at the base of a flag pole, near the entrance to Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
It contains the names of each person killed in the mass shooting at the church in 1999.
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Associate Pastor for Administration Jeff Laster had just returned home after Sunday morning services when he learned of the shooting at First Baptist Church in the small south Texas community of Sutherland Springs.
“It hits home,” he said.
It did hit home 18 years ago.
“It was September 15, 1999, and we were doing a ‘see you at the poll’ rally,” said Laster. “Gunman came in… Through our south entrance and started firing the gun. Shot myself and several others there and just kind of worked his way down into the worship center… Killed seven and wounded seven and then killed himself.”
Laster was shot twice. He describes feeling as if he had different personalities, each trying to decipher what was happening.
“You think that it’s one of the safest places I can be is my church and you just don’t expect someone to come into church and do something that horrible,” he said.
Laster says the congregation never found out why the gunman targeted their church that day.
When asked what he tells his congregation about events like this tragedy and why they happen, Laster replied:
“You know, evil is just a part of the world we live in. And as Christians we pray to God and we know that God gives us peace and comfort to get through it but he doesn’t promise us a world that’s not full of evil.”
It is faith and the outpouring of support from others in the days, weeks, months and years following the horrific attack that Laster says carried them through, and will hopefully carry Sutherland Springs through such a horrific act of violence.
“Healing does take place,” he said. “I’m not going to tell them that that happens today by any stretch. It’s a process. God brought us through that, through His love and through His peace and His comforting and like I said earlier, the love and compassion of others.”
The mass shooting at Wedgwood happened just months after the deadly mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Laster said the school reached out to the church, offering support.
Wedgwood Baptist Church is now in talks about ways to reach out and offer some kind of support to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.