A few dozen people stood together at Louisiana’s Riverfront Thursday evening to hold a candlelight vigil for those who were killed during the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last week.
The impromptu gathering was brought to life by local resident Mamie Mosby.
She said she wanted the people here to come together for the victims and their families and pray for peace for everyone.
Mayor Tim Carter said Mosby contacted his office looking for support for the candlelight vigil and his office brought in Louisiana’s Ministerial Alliance to help organize and notify as many people as possible.
Pastor Bill Maupin said that even though the Louisiana community has it challenges, when something like the shooting in Texas happens, the people here can come together as one.
Maupin said Carter reached out to the alliance, and they immediately said they would participate.
“We said we would get our people together and pray and think about those who were so tragically lost in Texas,” Maupin added.
Carter said he considers Mosby a friend and one of the community’s leaders, so when she reached out to ask about putting this together he was ready to help.
“One of my roles as Mayor is to try and connect the dots and get everything together,” he said. But it was Mosby he credited with putting the vigil together and making sure it happened.
“There were a lot of individuals involved,” he added. He reached out to other community leaders and the Ministerial Alliance, seeking their help, as well.
“There’s evil in this world, Carter said. “And it’s more to the forefront in recent years than it’s ever been. Not only in the world but in our nation and our state. This is an opportunity for us to gather as a community and mourn those losses in Texas. And not only those losses but all the tragedies that have gone on across our country. What we want to do is have our community come together and show that we’re united under prayer.”
As the sun set and the light faded, the crowd grew. They gathered close to the memorial assembled under the Louisiana sign at the waterfront. Flowers lined the sides and luminaries with the names of the victims were placed in a row.
John Kroeze, who owns The Bridge Coffee House, asked everyone to gather around and join in for a few songs being performed by Pastors Beomseon Hong and Bill Maupin.
But first he thanked all those present for coming together to pray for the lives of precious children.
They started off with singing “Amazing Grace,” and then Hong sang “Peace on Earth.” Holding their candles, the whole group join in.
After the songs, Kroeze said they would have five areas of prayer by five different people.
“Tonight, our real focus as a community is to also care for those in different communities,” he said. “We go to the Lord in prayer, with confidence, that he will not only extend compassion to us, but he will extend compassion to those who need it,” Kroeze added.
Pastor Jeff Dock prayed for the families of the children killed in Texas, as well as the teachers and for the families left behind.
“Heavenly Father we pray that you comfort the families of those who mourn and the friends and communities; for the promise of the resurrection unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
Maggie Neff, a local schoolteacher, prayed for children, teachers and administrators in the local community.
She asked that the Lord watch over those who make the decisions for the children’s safety.
“Please be with the bus drivers, the custodians, the cooks—everyone who is responsible in some way for the children in those building,” she said. “I ask that You guide them and help them, as well.” She also asked for protection for the teachers who entered the field because they love children, “and to not ever think that part of their daily job might be to protect them (the children) with their own lives, but who would still gladly do it, because they love those kids as their own.”
Gerald Ogletree, chief executive officer with the Twin Pikes Family YMCA, prayed for the law enforcement officers and other first responders, as well as those who respond to counsel those in times of need.
Maupin prayed for the brokenness of our culture and for the family of the shooter.
“Lord, we reach out with our prayers to those who are in Uvalde, Texas,” he said. Realizing that any of those children could be one of his grandchildren, Maupin said, “Our hearts are broken. You tell us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Tonight, Lord we are saddened. We are weeping with the people of Uvalde.” Knowing that people, home and institutions are broken, Maupin reached out to the Lord as the Great Healer—“One who can be able to unite and bring love and peace. As Pastor Hong sang, ‘Let there be Peace on Earth.’”
Pastor Karen Duffy with the Christian Church, prayed for the healing of the land and healing the broken hearts.
“A young man took the lives of innocent children and teachers, and left behind brokenness, confusion and fear,” she said. “Dear Father we are broken people, a broken nation,” she continued. “Our nation has lost its bearing; innocence is shattered and our nation’s belief in You lies in deathly ruin.
“We beg you to forgive us, Father. Forgive us in our unfaithfulness. We as a country have turned our backs on You, and yet You have not turned from us, because You are faithful,” she said.
She noted that it was unfathomable that a young man would be so full of hate that he would take the lives of people he didn’t know.
“We have come to a place where hopelessness and evil could find their way into a school full of innocent victims, and left us with death, carnage and loss. Yet, You have not left us, because You are faithful.
“We have no right to ask You for help,” she said, “but we who are gathered here beg you for it. … We ask for national mercy, for national healing, for the Church to arise strong and be a light in the darkness to this nation.”
There is a literal battle going on in the nation—evil versus good, and life versus death, she explained.
“We stand here, Father, united tonight. And we choose life for our nation,” she said.
Kroeze concluded the vigil by thanking everyone who lifted their prayers to God.
“And that we, as a community, care for one another, as well,” he added. “Go in Peace.”