'Horrified & heartbroken,' Orlando mourns

by Diana Chandler, posted Wednesday, June 15, 2016 (one year ago)

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP) -- Pain pulsing through Orlando this week touches many more than the families of the 49 murdered and the 53 wounded by a single gunman's terrorism on the Lord's Day at a gay nightclub; it touches the entire community, pastors holding prayer services told Baptist Press.

Prayer services continue today (June 15) at 6:30 p.m. at Delaney Baptist Church two blocks from the crime scene, and at 7:30 p.m. at The Church of the Cross, both Southern Baptist congregations.

"They're locals. They're people that we shop with at Walmart, people that we see at McDonald's or Chick-Fil-a, people we run into at the gas station that we won't be seeing anymore," a representative of Delaney Street Baptist Church told Baptist Press.

The 49 murdered included 42 males and seven females ranging in age from 18 to 50, according to a list posted at CNN.com. They were killed around 2 a.m. June 12 when Omar Mateen, a father and security guard who professed allegiance to ISIS Islamic terrorists, walked into the Pulse gay nightclub and began firing an AR-15 assault rifle. Police killed Mateen three hours later as he held about 30 hostages inside the club.

"Our Delaney Street Baptist Church family is horrified and heartbroken over the tragic murder of so many precious lives right here in our own neighborhood this past weekend. We mourn with the families who have lost loved ones," reads a statement on the website of the church, the pastorate of Troy Peeples. "The Bible teaches us to weep with those who are weeping.... We are also praying for the recovery of those who are being treated right now in the hospital."

Names, ages and photos of each of those killed will be placed near the church's altar, a church representative said, allowing individual prayers for families of each of the victims. Chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, in town after the June 12 tragedy, will offer mourners specific ways to help the suffering.

At The Church at the Cross, a 6:30 p.m. worship service in the sanctuary will precede a prayer gathering under the cross on the church grounds, pastor Clayton Cloer told BP.

"We have a large cross on our campus and so we'll meet outside at the foot of the cross for this time, which is customary for us," Cloer said. "It will give our people an opportunity to express their grief corporately, and their brokenness, and then also to cry out to God for comfort, healing in our city, to ask Him to use this horrible week in the life of our city to draw people to Himself."

Cloer noted two additional tragedies in Orlando -- a 2-year-old toddler killed by an alligator in a lagoon near Walt Disney World, and the June 10 shooting death of singer Christina Grimmie, who gained popularity after finishing third on The Voice television reality show.

"For those of us that live and serve in this city, our whole church has been impacted by each one of these, because many people in our church have friends, relatives, who were involved in all three of these things," said Cloer, although none of the dead or injured were members of the church. "Plus, your entire community of law enforcement and medical professionals have just been greatly affected, so it's affected all of us, there's no question."

Thousands attended a June 14 community-wide prayer vigil, the largest to date, at First Baptist Church of Orlando. One of the church's members was injured in the attack and a companion of the member was killed, First Baptist Orlando pastor David Uth told BP.

Southern Baptists have responded with compassion and prayer, including targeted prayer during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.

K. Marshall Williams, immediate past president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, is among those who expressed compassion.

"I weep, mourn and pray today for the families of the victims murdered and those injured in the senseless satanic act of terrorism in Orlando," he told BP hours after the tragedy. "I pray that the Lord and His church would wrap our arms around and comfort the entire Orlando community as they mourn the loss of their beloved loved ones!"

Among the Orlando victims, the youngest was 18-year-old Akyra Murray, a 2016 Philadelphia high school graduate who was visiting her brother, CNN reported. Among the oldest victims was 49-year-old Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, a mother of 11 who had twice survived cancer and had gone dancing at the Pulse with her gay son, CNN said. The son survived.

Mateen was an American born citizen of Afghani parents. Twice married, he frequented the Pulse, according to news reports.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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