“A good, but very somber experience,” was how Fritz Wilson, Executive Director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, described his meeting Tuesday, Dec. 20 with ministry leaders in the Sandbury/Newtown area in the wake of the Sandy Brook school shooting.
“The team, along with others, has been ministering to the community within hours of the shooting,” the North American Mission Board leader shared in Wednesday morning e-mail to State Disaster Relief Directors. “The Lord has been at work opening doors and guiding the team to key places of ministry. “
Wilson met with DR Chaplain Enio Aguero, Sandybury Baptist Church Pastor Brian Syms, Western Connecticut Association Director of Missions Mark Angerosa, and New England Convention State DR Director Bruce James.
He provided these updates from the meeting:
- Chaplain Aguero was asked to be the minister on the three-person official death notification team for the family of a 6-year-old girl. He continues to follow-up with the family.
- Mississippi Convention DR Law Enforcement Chaplain John Temple and his team led a service for the Sandbury Baptist Church members to let them decompress plus learn how they can minister to their friends and neighbors using the SBDR Operational Stress First Aid (OSFA) material.
- Aguero and a New England Convention DR Chaplain connected with the Newtown Police Chaplain and will have an opportunity to participate in the debriefing of the local officers.
- The team discussed a long-term plan to minister to the entire community and shared about ministering to people coming to the Newtown memorial sites.
- They also discussed ministering to first-responders and how many of them are having trouble coping with the images forever imprinted in their mind.
“The entire community has been impacted,” said Williams. “Florists, funeral directors, local printers, volunteer first responders, friends and former co-workers of the families are all having trouble dealing with the situation.”
Williams said he believes, “The key time for ministry will begin after January 6-8. This will be the after the funerals are over, the holidays have past, elementary school has reopened and the media spotlight has gone away.”
He also noted many have asked about the need for funds for funeral assistance, but the state of Connecticut has stepped in and is covering the full funeral costs for the families.
“In the end,” Wilson said, “we know that we will have a tremendous opportunity to bring help, healing and hope to this hurting community.”
New England Baptist Convention requests prayer
The New England Baptist Convention also sent an e-newsletter to leaders Wednesday morning requesting “fervent prayer” for the surviving families and “for their faith, courage, healing and support; for the teachers, administrators and school, which will resume after New Year’s in a different location; and for the police and the overburdened funeral homes and directors.”
The convention requested prayer for memorial services this coming Sunday, “Many churches are creating candle displays featuring 26 candles for each of the victims of the tragedy.”
The New England Baptist Convention is accepting gifts to be used to minister to the entire Newtown community. Checks can be made payable to BCNE, memo line: DR in Newtown, and mailed to: BCNE, 87 Lincoln St., Northborough, MA 01532.