The pastors of a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church in Ames, Iowa comforted grief-stricken worshippers with biblical verses hours after a shooting incident took place on Thursday that left three dead including the gunman.
Church Shooting Leaves Congregation Broken-Hearted
Religion News reported that Cornerstone Church Pastor Mark Vance quoted from the Psalms in a live-streamed prayer service on Friday for those affected by the fatal incident. The shooting took place in the church's parking lot, which is near Iowa State University.
Two women--21-year-old Vivian Flores and 22-year-old Eden Montang--were killed by 33-year-old Johnathan Lee Whitlatch before 7 p.m. on Thursday using a 9mm handgun, CBS News said. Lee shot himself after killing the women. CNN highlighted that a third woman escaped the incident unharmed.
The shooting is regarded as a "domestic situation" since one of the women who died--Montang--was an ex-girlfriend of Lee, who is from the city of Boone. The women, whose names were initially not disclosed due to the ongoing investigation, are members of The Salt Company, a 40-year college ministry with a weekly attendance of 1,300 students. Around 80 students were gathered that night in the church for the first night of The Salt Company's summer event when the shooting happened in the parking lot.
According to investigations, Whitlatch arrived in a pickup truck just when the three women were in the parking lot. Whitlatch was scheduled next week for a court hearing on Montang's charges of harassing her. The 9mm gun was bought an hour before the incident from a West Des Moines store based on the receipt found in Whitlatch's truck.
The Bible On Being Brokenhearted
Vance, who first quoted Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted," in the June 2 statement of the ministry, reiterated the same verse during the prayer service. Vance stressed that the said Bible verse was most appropriate at a time all of them were brokenhearted and "need God to draw near to us."
The pastor elaborated during the live stream that Psalm 34:18 means "that maybe this is the room that God's closest to in the world right now" because they are brokenhearted. He said underscored that the women who died were "loved and treasured" resulting in the tears and grief of many.
Cornerstone Church Founding Pastor Troy Nesbitt also spoke during the prayer service and quoted John 11:35, that gives the account of Lazarus' death when "Jesus wept." Nesbitt then read from the Book of Revelation that spoke of God wiping away "every tear from their eyes" because "death will be no more." He pointed out the shortness of life and the difficulty of death but stressed that it is not final.
One of the women's father spoke also during Friday's prayer service and testified to his daughter's living a life of faith. The father emphasized how proud he is of being her father.
The Salt Company said in a June 5 statement that Montang's funeral services will be held in the afternoon of June 8 at the church's main auditorium. While funeral services for Flores will be held the day after, June 9, in the same venue and also in the afternoon.
The past weeks have seen a string of shooting incidents across the country. The Washington Post the first half of the year has already recorded 232 mass shootings, excluding the Tulsa, Oklahoma hospital incident on Wednesday that killed four people. This translates to an average of one incident per day for 2022, where at least three cases are reported weekly.
While Aljazeera's infographic showed there were three to 268 mass shootings recorded for 2022 across the United States. Both media outlets sourced their data from the Gun Violence Archive.
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