One day after a deadly shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, local churches sent prayer teams to the scene to meet needs and intercede for the community.
At least eight people were killed and multiple injuries were reported in the Saturday (May 6) shooting at Allen Premium Outlets. Among those killed in the shooting were mall security guard Christian LaCour and Aishwarya Thatikonda, an engineer from nearby McKinney. Three others who died were from the same family: Cindy, Kyu and James Cho; and two others have been identified as Daniela and Sofia Mendoza. The gunman, identified as 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, also died at the scene.
Outreach to the community
Brian Everett, pastor of Allen Heights Baptist Church, said volunteers from local churches went to the outlet mall on Sunday to pray with people who had been at the mall during the shooting and were still waiting for their cars to be released from the parking lot.
Intercessors also prayed with police officers, Everett said, and prayer walked in a neighborhood nearby. Four of the churches represented — Allen Heights, First Baptist Church Allen, Cottonwood Creek Church and First McKinney — are part of the Collin Baptist Association.
At one of the mall’s main entrances, Everett said, people brought flowers to lay at several crosses set up after the shooting. The prayer teams came ready to pray and to meet any immediate needs of people at the scene. They were there “to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” he said. On Sunday, two people made professions of faith in Jesus through the outreach.
Local churches coming together to serve their community is a powerful testimony, Everett said.
“A lot of times the world sees the church divided,” he said. “There are small glimpses of glory when we see the church really come together.
“The church is still active and alive and trying to make a difference,” he noted, “and the best we can, be the salt and the light.”
Everett and some other local leaders planned to be at the outlet mall again Monday to offer help and prayer to anyone in need.
Comforting those who mourn
On Sunday evening, Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen hosted a community prayer vigil.
“Romans 12:15 says that we should rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, and tonight we’re here to do just that,” said Scott Sanford, the church’s executive pastor. “We’re here to mourn together as a community and pray together for God to comfort us.”
Many state and local officials attended the prayer gathering, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Church staff led in prayer for the victims and their families, first responders and the community.
“Let’s be a people that comforts those who mourn, that prays for those who grieve, that brings the oil of joy in the spaces of sadness,” said John Mark Caton, the church’s senior pastor, during a message to close the service.
Searching for the right words
Caton said in his 28 years of pastoral ministry, he has often looked for the right words that will fix a difficult situation.
Recognizing the teachers, first responders, elected officials and health professionals in the room, he told each group, “You are part of the solution.”
“As a pastor here for 28 years, I still wish I could find that word to fix it,” he said. “But I will tell you this: after seeing you here tonight, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the people who can fix it. And we are the city that can fix it.”
Matt Henslee, associational missionary for the Collin Baptist Association, shared about the impact this tragedy has had on the community.
“It has a lot of people shaken up,” he told The Baptist Paper. “Pray for resolve and for the light to shine brightest in dark times, as we know it does. And that God will use this as a way to point more people to Him for salvation.”