One year ago today, 26 people were killed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. But today shouldn't necessarily be about mourning.
That's something Pastor Paul Buford of Sutherland Springs River Oaks Church is preaching in a message of hope today. He knows a thing or two about hope because this time last year he was filled with it.
"The Sunday of the shooting was my first date back in the pulpit with back surgery," he said. "I was still in a brace and everything."
Pastor Buford had been on medical leave and was excited to be back at River Oaks. But about 10 minutes into that Sunday service, he was interrupted by a visitor who received a disturbing phone call during his sermon.
"She was a family member of someone at the church," he explained. "That day, got a call on her phone, that there was an active shooter at First Baptist Church. And she stood up and said, 'I'm really sorry, I just have to tell you this - there's an active shooter.'"
Just two miles down the road, 26 people were killed at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church. The tragedy shook the small town, but the community stood strong in the months to follow - thanks to some supportive neighbors.
"We've had such an outpour of love this past year from the county in every form and fashion possible," Buford said.
Today, members of First Baptist and River Oaks are saying thank you for that support with "a token of love from Sutherland Springs."
This week, the two Sutherland Springs churches are bringing a pro-kindness, anti-bullying campaign to Wilson County schools. Motivational Speaker Dr. Ronnie Hill will address students from elementary school to high school over the next few days.
"That's what we're supposed to be doing - lifting each other, and having each other's back," said Dr. Hill. "I love to see these different denominations, other churches, entities cooperating."
"For those kids in school that are hurting inside...there's hope for them. There's people who are here to help them, there's people they can reach out to and we wanna know," said Pastor Buford. "We know the pain you're going through."
These people who have survived tragedy know everyone can use a message of hope. On a day like today, when the pain feels inescapable for some, these neighbors ask all of us to have a little hope.
River Oaks Church and First Baptist Church will celebrate hope with Hope for the Hurting events throughout the week. There will be an event in La Vernia at Grace Church November 5 from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m., Stockdale Gymnasium November 6 from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m., and Floresville Event Center November 7 from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Each event will have free pizza, cash prizes, and guest speaker Ronnie Hill. The events are free and open to the public.