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Tuesday night was supposed to be Adult Game Night at the Getty Street Church of Christ in Uvalde, Texas.
But then a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School, less than a mile from the church building.
Leaders of the South Texas congregation, about 85 miles west of San Antonio, canceled the scheduled event and planned a special prayer vigil.
At least 19 children and two teachers died in Tuesday’s school shooting, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Law enforcement subsequently killed the 18-year-old gunman, identified as a high school student named Salvador Ramos.
“We are going to try to open the (church) building … for whatever their needs may be — whether it be just to rest or process information or whatever emergency needs they may have.”
Given its proximity to the school, the Getty Street church hopes to serve first responders, pulpit minister Al Washington told The Christian Chronicle.
“We are going to try to open the (church) building … for whatever their needs may be — whether it be just to rest or process information or whatever emergency needs they may have,” Washington said. “And also provide them with refreshments and things of that nature as needed. We just want to try to be there in whatever capacity we can be.”
The church’s Facebook page encouraged members to gather for the prayer vigil at the same time as the previously planned game night.
The church’s outreach minister, John Juhasz, told Texas Public Radio church members prayed for the families of the victims, the medical response teams and even the shooter.
“I don’t believe that somebody is just born evil,” Juhasz said in the interview. “I believe that is just the way they turn because they get embittered to the world.”
He told TPR residents must love one another and set aside their differences to heal from the shooting in the days, months and years ahead.
Besides those killed, Pete Arredondo, chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, said several other children and adults had been injured in the shooting at Robb Elementary, which instructs children in the second through fourth grades.
“At this point, the investigation is leading to tell us that the suspect did act alone during this heinous crime,” Arredondo said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“We do want to keep all the families in our prayers,” Arredondo added. “I hope you do so as well.”
The church has not yet been able to confirm whether any of its members were directly affected, Washington said.
In response to a comment on its Facebook update, an administrator for the Getty Street church wrote, “I’m sure we will become so much more aware in the days and months ahead, how this sort of thing can impact a community. With God, we can grow stronger and more unified in His name and by His truths!”
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