ODESSA — The morning after the latest gun violence in Texas, Permian Basin ministers said tragic times like the ones we’re in call more than ever for prayer to understand and to overcome.
Hailing the bravery and selflessness of the officers who stopped the rampage, they said the evil of the current day can only be overcome by the power of Jesus’ love.
“Thank God for the bravery of those officers,” said the Rev. William Mark Bristow, pastor of Parker Heights Christian Church.
Referring to a bystander’s video shot outside the Cynergy movie theaters where the gunman died and Odessa and Midland city policemen were wounded, Bristow said, “You can see them running into the bullets.
“It’s just amazing to me.”
Asked why mass shootings keep happening around the nation, he said, “The evil in the world is because of men’s choices.
“They are perhaps bad men or mentally ill men.”
Bristow cited Genesis 50:20, where Joseph addresses the brothers who had sold him into slavery only to find him a ruler in Egypt who had their fate in his hands: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
“We may not see it right now, but we trust that the Holy Spirit, the comforter, will do what his name says he will, comfort and help,” Bristow said.
Doug Doyle, minister of West University Church of Christ, said there was a sense of disbelief that such a thing could finally happen in Odessa after seeing similar events throughout the country. “It can happen anywhere now with the collapse of communities and families,” Doyle said.
“There has always been evil in the world, but we have never been defined by it. The thing is constantly to demonstrate the love of Christ, especially in these difficult situations. If it were one thing, we would push the button and fix it. But it’s more complex.”
The Rev. Mike Hanks, pastor of the First Assembly of God in Midland, said it was much different to see a mass shooting in the Permian Basin on familiar streets and intersections with local people slain and wounded in local hospitals. “It gets personal and you’re thinking, do I know anybody who was affected?” Hanks said.
“Then we heard it was happening in both cities and I was asking myself, what do I need to do in this moment to protect my own family?”
Hanks said a Sunday TV comment by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, rang true as Perkins attributed the phenomenon to a lack of morality. “He was saying people don’t value their lives or anyone else’s life like they used to,” Hanks said.
“Prayer can change things and this can be something to cause people to turn back to God,” he said, noting that a prayer vigil was held Sunday afternoon at the Noel Heritage Plaza in Odessa.
The Rev. Andy Hill, pastor of the West Texas Cowboy Church, said he saw many bad things while serving as a city policeman in Abilene from 1988-99 but nothing of this magnitude. “It’s bad all the way around,” Hill said.
“It makes no sense that a human being could do something like this. It’s absolute evil. I quoted Ephesians 5:15 in my sermon this morning: ‘Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
Asked his view of the officers who exchanged a fusillade of bullets with the shooter, Hill said, “It takes a special kind of person to run toward gunfire instead of away from it.
“There is the training, but you either have it in your heart or you don’t. Those officers have my undying love and respect. No matter how sweet my granddaughters’ hugs are, they were a little bit sweeter this morning.”