Chaplains Reflect on Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

Trained in critical incident stress management, Debby Tiller Nichols heard about the church shooting in Sutherland Springs and knew she had to go.

Nichols, of Texarkana, was packing her house to move when 27 people were killed at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in November. But she and four other Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) chaplains would minister to the Sutherland Springs community alongside a half-dozen Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) chaplains from Oklahoma.

“I knew there [also] would be needs among the police officers, paramedics and all the first responders,” Nichols told the TEXAN. “I knew I needed to be there.”

Months later, Nichols is among those still processing the tragedy and its aftermath.

“It seems like much longer. On the other hand, it seems like last week,” she said.

Nichols and chaplain Linda Mitter of Rockwall ministered to first responders and civilians during the week they served in Sutherland Springs. They huddled in prayer with state troopers at the cordoned-off crime scene in front of the church and spoke to and prayed with community members.

“We shared and prayed with the troopers,” said Mitter, explaining that the officers had lost one of their own only the day before when Dallas police trooper Thomas Nipper was killed during a traffic stop.

Nichols remembered a conversation with a sergeant from the Dallas Police Department. Some of the sergeant’s men had died in the 2016 Dallas police shootings.

“My people were killed,” the Dallas officer told Nichols.

Nichols noted, “It was very emotional for her, with her situation.”

“Most of what we did is listen to their stories and pray for them,” Nichols said. “That’s what we do. We listen and pray.”

Gordon Knight, SBTC director of chaplains, said chaplains “try to get people to talk so they can tell their story so they can start the healing process. When they open up to us, we invite them to pray.”

Knight said disaster relief chaplains made hundreds of spiritual contacts in Sutherland Springs.

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Source: Baptist Press