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Remarks by the Vice President and Mrs. Pence at the First Baptist Church Prayer Vigil in Sutherland Springs, Texas

November 08, 2017

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor Abbott, for those inspiring words and for your and your wife, Cecilia's example of compassionate leadership for all the people of Texas.

Karen and I are deeply humbled -- deeply humbled to be here tonight with all of you -- with the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, with our Attorney General, Senator Cruz, Congressman Cuellar, Congressman Hurd. And it's especially humbling to be with the precious families of the fallen and injured from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. You honor us by your presence tonight.

Words fail when saints and heroes fall. We gather tonight to offer our deepest condolences, and I offer the condolences of the American people to all of those affected by the horrific attack that took place just three days ago.

To all the members of this local community, to the faith leaders who are with us here tonight, thank you for your outpouring of support for your fellow Texans. Your testimony of Christian love is inspiring the nation.

President Trump wanted us to come to Texas tonight to tell all of you, we are with you. The American people are with you. And as the President said Sunday, halfway around the world, "We will never leave your side." (Applause.)

As the President often says, when one part of America hurts, we all hurt. When one part of America struggles, we all struggle. And when one part of America cries out for help, we come together. And tonight, I know the hearts and prayers of every American are right here.

Three days ago, evil descended on a small town and a small church, not far from here. We gather tonight in the wake of an unspeakable act.

As we all know, only a few miles from where we stand, the congregation of the First Baptist Church came together as they do on every Sunday to join hearts and hands in worship and prayer and genuine fellowship.

But as the world learned with horror and heartbreak that Sunday morning, a deranged man entered that small sanctuary. He took the lives of 26 believers, including nine children, and injured 20 more, before his rampage came to an end. It was the worst mass shooting at a place of worship in American history.

I know the cherished names of the fallen will live on forever in the hearts of all who knew them. But let me assure you, their names will also be enshrined in the hearts of every American, forever. (Applause.)

Among them, Haley Krueger, who even though just 16 years of age, already knew she wanted to be a neonatal nurse and care for the most vulnerable in society.

Shani and Robert Corrigan, a 30-year veteran of the United States Air Force, two high-school sweethearts, whose son had just passed away just a year ago.

And all of America knows of the Holcombe family, who lost eight loved ones on Sunday including Crystal Holcombe, her beautiful children -- Emily, Megan, and Greg, and the unborn child she carried within.

To the families of these, and all the fallen, we extend the deepest sympathies of the First Family, our little family, and all the American people.

The Bible tells us that, "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted," and that will be our prayer for you from this day forward.

And so, too, we pray for all of those who are recovering from injuries. Just a few short hours ago, Karen and I, the Governor and the First Lady, visited the hospital where many of the injured are recovering.

We spoke with them, and with their families. We told them that every American is rooting for them, rooting for them to pull through and make a full recovery. And I assured them of our prayers.

We met young Zach, who lost his grandmother. But his courage in that moment, even in the midst of his injuries saved a little girl from stepping into harm's way.

Walked into David Colbath's hospital room. David is recovering from serious injuries but he still made time to have his men's Bible study in his hospital room last night. (Applause.)

David asked us if we'd pray with him before we left. I said, we'd be honored. But I was not prepared when David bowed his head and prayed for us.

Then there was young James and Hailey McNulty, two of the bravest kids I've ever met, with bright futures before them. We were inspired by the resilience and the faith of the people that we met and by the families coming around them.

So we mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope. Because our faith gives us hope, and heroes give us hope.

We find hope in the heroic actions of men and women in law enforcement, the first responders, all the outstanding medical professionals, doctors, surgeons, nurses, and EMTs who undoubtedly saved lives by their swift action that day. (Applause.)

And we find inspiration and hope in those Texas heroes, Stephen Willeford, the plumber who grabbed his rifle and engaged the assailant, and Johnnie Langendorff -- both of whom we just met -- who pursued that attacker in a high-speed chase and saved the lives of Americans as a result. (Applause.)

And mostly, we find hope in a community of faith in the courage of a mother, Joann Ward, who shielded her children with her own body and in death saved her five-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter, through her last moment living out the truth that no greater love has one than this than they should --

The faith in this community has inspired the nation, and not just the faith and courage of those we lost, but those who survive -- expressions of faith that we just heard in the library from families who told us that they were standing on the rock.

And all of America marveled when the devoted pastor from the First Baptist Church, still grieving the loss of his own precious daughter, somehow found it in his heart to say to the world, "Lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding." He said, "I don't understand, but I know my God does."

Like millions of Americans I was -- been inspired by that expression of faith, and I will never forget it.

Whatever animated the evil that descended on that church last Sunday, if the attacker's desire was to silence their testimony of faith, he failed. (Applause.)

The voice of faith, the witness of faith in that small church, in that small town now echoes across the world. As President Trump said on Sunday, in his words, "In dark times like these, we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms. And through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong."

We do this because that's what Americans always do. We come together as one nation and one people to support our fellow Americans in their hour of need. Faith is stronger than evil. No attack, no act of violence will ever break our spirit or diminish the faith of the American people. (Applause.)

My fellow Americans, we live in challenging times. It seems like too often we hear of another tragedy, another senseless act of violence against the innocent. In these times I expect it's easy for some to lose heart. But as the good people of Sutherland Springs taught the nation this week, faith is the antidote to fear and despair. Faith is now and always has been our source of strength and the summit of our national life. And I believe that faith has never been more important to the future of America. When the days are evil, as Governor Abbott just said, faith tells us we overcome evil with good.

So this weekend, I hope a lot of Americans do what we're doing here tonight. I hope that places of worship all across America will be filled to overflowing. (Applause.) I hope that Americans of every background and belief will send a chorus of prayers from their hearts into the heart of heaven for these families, for this community, and for this land -- to pray for those we lost and those they left behind; to pray for the injured and those who tended their wounds, even as we speak; to pray for the good congregation of the First Baptist Church, that they would soon fill that sanctuary with the sounds of praise and worship again; and to pray for all the good people of Sutherland Springs and of this special state of Texas.

And while we're at it, I'd encourage you to pray for America. Because I believe with all my heart as long as we remember that we are one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all, that God will yet bless America. (Applause.)

So may God bless you. May God bless these precious families of the fallen and the injured and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Allow me to, before we depart, invite to the podium my wife of 32 years, who is going to lead us in prayer tonight. We're a family that believes in prayer. And thank you for welcoming my wife, Karen. (Applause.)

MRS. PENCE: If you'll bow with me: Lord, thank you for being here right now with us. Father, sometimes the burdens just seem too heavy to carry, the loss too great. But your word says, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. So, Lord, today, we need you to come and carry this load.

And the Bible says, let the little children come unto me. Lord, help this precious community cling to that image of all of these beautiful children -- for all of the victims are children of God -- so that all of these beautiful children would be in your arms today. Help us to hold that vision of them in your arms close to us. And give comfort, Father, give your peace -- the peace that passes all understanding. Because we don't understand.

So come and hold this community in your hands. Help them to draw closer to you and to each other. And in this dark hour, Heavenly Father, help these precious believers know how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ who conquered death. And we pray all of these things in your precious name. Amen. (Applause.)

Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President and Mrs. Pence at the First Baptist Church Prayer Vigil in Sutherland Springs, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/331611

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