Tragedy struck Waukesha, Wis., on Nov. 21, 2021, when a man drove his SUV through the city’s annual holiday parade, killing six and injuring dozens more. The events of that day were highly publicized. How does a community find comfort or feel safe after such an atrocious act of violence against so many innocent people?
All four Waukesha WELS congregations—Trinity, Grace, Mount Calvary, and Living Word—had members impacted that day, and all four congregations found ways to reach their members with God’s comforting promises. All four churches also have had counselors from Christian Family Solutions available for members and the community.
Grace was participating in the parade that day with a float. Jason Hacker, pastor at Grace, and his family were in the truck, while musicians were on the trailer preparing to play Christmas music. They saw the SUV speed past them.
Hacker recalls, “The first impact for us, being parade participants, was disbelief, trying to wrap our heads around what happened in the few hours after it happened. Where we were at in the parade, when he went by us, it all happened a block later.”
Grace held a prayer service the following day for its members and community. The congregation also received a grant from Christian Aid and Relief to provide counseling from Christian Family Solutions.
Geographically, Trinity was the closest church to the parade. Trinity pastor, Phil Gurgel, says, “You don’t ever envision yourself being in a situation like that where there are people you know who have been close to this kind of thing. We decided to hold prayer services the following day. We had about 150 attend.”
He continues, “The theme for the service was ‘We don’t know why.’ There are so many things we do not know, like why God allows these things to happen. But what we do know is that God’s love does not change and he loves us still. God uses things for the good of his people.
“Everybody asks, ‘Why?’ We have to be comfortable not having an answer to that, because when we don’t have answers, we turn to the answers we do have—the promises of God.”
Living Word held a Bible study; many of the congregation’s families who were at the parade attended to share their experiences and find comfort in God’s Word and the family of believers.
John Borgwardt, pastor at Living Word, says, “It’s an opportunity to talk through something raw and real and to show this is why God had to come into this world, because look at how messed up of a world we live in. God died for sinners like us.”
Mount Calvary had several kids with the Waukesha Blazers baseball group. Two were struck by the SUV but did not need to go to the hospital. Mount Calvary canceled school that Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday, there was a chapel service.
Robert Frick, pastor at Mount Calvary, says, “This is why we have a church; it’s why we have a school—to be able to gather together around God’s Word and see where our trust and confidence lie. We are reminded once again that our lives can be cut short at any time and some pretty terrible things can happen at any time, but our trust continues to remain in our God, who has already taken care of our greatest need by sending his Son into the world. So we are still safe and we still have hope because of what our God has done for us.”
Volume 109, Number 02
Issue: February 2022