SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – Pastor Frank Pomeroy acknowledges he and his family haven’t found a new normal just yet.
Every day his wife cries, and holidays and meals aren’t the same anymore. Nothing has been the same since their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, and 25 other people were killed when gunman Devin Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church a little over six months ago.
“Figuring out how to do things without Annabelle, that’s the other thing where [my wife] Sherri and I are getting more accustomed,” Pomeroy said with tears in his eyes. “Everything’s different now.”
But grief couldn’t drive Pomeroy, his family, and their parishioners from returning to the place where the massacre unfolded. Every Sunday, they hold service at a temporary facility on the property. In this rural, tight-knight community of about 600 people, the gatherings have provided comfort.
“It showed that Satan couldn’t shut us down. Evil couldn’t win. We were able to not only have a facility—but, we filled it up,” Pomeroy said. “They’re praising, they’re singing, the music going forth is truly proclaiming a spiritual awakening…that I believe is made possible because we have a beautiful place to come.”
Now there is an effort to expand the place once the horrifying scene of carnage – but is now a memorial and once again a spiritual sanctuary.
Attendance at the church more than doubled after the tragedy, Pomeroy said. And instead of closing its doors and disappearing, there are plans to grow even bigger.
“I think of what God has in store for this church and how many lives we’ll be able to touch,” said Sheri Kay, a parishioner who lost her nephew and his wife in the shooting.
A new worship center and an education building will be built on the lot behind the church. The project, which is expected to be completed early next year, will cost about $3 million. Pomeroy said the church won’t be paying a dime, however. Donations and the North American Mission Board will cover the cost of the construction.
San Antonio-based Beldon Roofing Company purchased the land and gave it to the church.
“It’s phenomenal. God is really blessing us,” Pomeroy said.
Plans include a memorial for the victims and a second construction phase, which will include multi-purpose community and activity center.
Pomeroy said it’s a crucial step forward as the church tries to rebuild.
He said he will also continue to work on reconstructing his own life. But that, he said, may be a slower process.
“It’s not normal that my wife cries every day,” he said. “But she’s getting better…hopefully that will stop, eventually.”