Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
As a country, we have experienced yet another crisis involving gun violence. This time it happened in one of our beloved cities in the New Mexico Conference. A young man bent on hatred and bigotry, walked into a local Walmart store to enact murder and bloodshed upon innocent victims. What do we do with the remaining grief, anger, and feelings of vulnerability in which so many other communities in our country have had to reconcile? How do we make sense of our loved ones ripped from this world by senseless violence? As a bishop of the church, as well as a husband and father, I struggle with this, too. I am heartbroken and grief stricken by these senseless acts.
For many years now, the El Paso area has been besieged by the controversy over immigration, and yet our faith communities have worked together to respond to the needs of those seeking asylum and a better way of life for their families. I want to thank all our churches that have given of their time, resources, prayers and love. Many of you have been the hands and feet of Jesus for “The Stranger” among us. I’m sure that many have heard stories from people who have faced intolerable circumstances in their home countries, and you have responded with grace and love. The irony of how mercy on one hand is met with hatred and violence on the other is very painful to bear. Now, we ask what can we do to ease the suffering? What can we do to lift “crushed spirits”?
In the coming days, family members will bury their loved ones and care for the injured. At last count, approximately 25 people will heal from wounds that can be seen, but the community of El Paso will need to move forward with wounds and scars that cannot be seen. My fervent hope is that you can tangibly feel the passionate, heartfelt prayers of so many lifted to God for the many families and friends caught up as victims in this senseless act. I pray that God grant strength and renewed hope to get through the immense grief and uncertainty. I also encourage all of us to get involved in helping to bring about peace and racial reconciliation for the sake of community. Remember, the Spirit of Christ always stands with those who are hurting and grieving loss, reminding us that we are never alone in our grief nor are we forsaken during times of tragedy.
May God bless each and all!
Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe