In Las Vegas, churches aid post-shooting recovery

LAS VEGAS (BP) -- Southern Baptists remain an active part of Las Vegas' recovery as many are still hospitalized, blood-bank donation lines are long and first responders are overstretched 10 days after a gunman killed 58 and injured about 500 at an outdoor Las Vegas concert.

The downtown Las Vegas campus of Shadow Hills Church held an outside prayer vigil Oct. 2, a day after a gunman killed 58 and injured nearly 500 at a Las Vegas country music festival.
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Jim Collins, founding pastor of Discovery Church in Las Vegas and a Nevada Baptist Convention mission strategist, has spoken with several pastors committed to helping the city recover, he told Baptist Press today (Oct. 11).

Responding to spiritual questions, praying, giving financially to victims' families and delivering meals to first responders and families and friends of survivors still hospitalized are some of the ways congregations are helping, Collins said.

His congregation, which draws about 80-100 people to Sunday services at a local elementary school, is praying, giving financially and materially, and making a point of patronizing Las Vegas area businesses that might be suffering from diminished tourism revenue.

The Clark County Commission has established a victim support fund under the umbrella of the National Compassion Fund that allows 100 percent of donations to go directly to victims and their families, according to the website nationalcompassionfund.org.

Jim Collins
 
"I know that some pastors are looking to donate through their church to that fund, because we know that all of that is going to go towards recovery for the victims' families," said Collins, whose own membership will give to the fund. "The most common things that I have heard from other churches are [they are holding] special prayer services."

As recently as Oct. 6, 78 victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting remained hospitalized, including 34 in critical condition, the Washington Post reported. An exact number of those hospitalized today was not available to BP, but most of the injured had been treated at area hospitals and released.

Churches are finding key points of ministry, Collins said.

"A lot of [first responders] are working so many hours around the clock that they don't have an opportunity to stop for lunch, so we're just going to collect food and bring food baskets to a couple of local police stations so that if anybody just needs to take a break, needs to have some food, then we've got that there for them," Collins said. "[For] another pastor, an opportunity his church was looking at had to do with a local hospital that was in need of volunteers for serving meals to family while they were there waiting on a family member to recover."

Many churches have hosted prayer services and have used such gatherings to encourage neighbors and the community at large, he said.

Long lines at blood banks are evidence of the willingness of Las Vegas residents to help victims, Collins said.

"That honestly has been one of the most ... encouraging things that has come from this, is the way that Las Vegas itself, really, the citizens of the community have stepped forward and said, 'We need to make sure that whatever our city needs, we're going to do it,'" Collins said. "And our churches have really been thrilled and just honored to step in on that any way that we can."

The Clark County Commission has established a Family Assistance Center in cooperation with federal, state and local community agencies to provide such services as victim advocacy, lodging, air travel, consulate services, ground transportation, counseling, spiritual care and legal assistance, according to the center's website.

Collins is encouraging his congregation to support downtown businesses that might be suffering from decreased tourism. Typically, Las Vegas draws a million tourists a week, one pastor told BP.

"We're encouraging our people take in a meal, go see a show," Collins said. Let's not let this be something that causes us to be afraid, but show how much we love our city, we believe in our city, and we want to see us recover strong.

"Because if the city goes too long without people patronizing our businesses, then that could put us in a place where it hurts businesses and they've got to make decisions where maybe they have to lay people off."

While Las Vegas is known as "sin city," Collins said the city offers plenty of wholesome pastimes.

"There's really no such thing as an immoral meal. You can eat food and we believe we can do that to the glory of God," he told BP. "Vegas has its reputation for a reason, and so there are a lot of shows that we would discourage our people from going to. But at the same time there are many shows that are family friendly, safe for your marriage and safe for your kids to go."

Collins lives in Las Vegas with his wife Beth, 12-year-old daughter Megan and 10-year-old son Jacob.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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