Mourners from around the state gathered Wednesday night to remember the 19 children and two teachers who were killed during the shooting at Robb Elementary School. In Uvalde, interfaith leaders and local officials joined with citizens at a vigil at the County Fairplex.
Neftali Barboza spoke at the vigil. He is the pastor at Iglesia Nueva Heriko in Uvalde – a lot of folks call it New Jericho Baptist Church.
Texas Standard: You know, I’ve been hearing a lot in the aftermath of this shooting, people talking about the need for the community to heal. And I’m wondering if you can help describe that to people who are not there – what sort of situations you’re witnessing and you’re dealing with and that you’re trying to help with?
Neftali Barboza: There’s been a lot of people offering help, which is greatly appreciated. And the community has been awesome. People have come together. And as we talk to people and see them grieve, one of the biggest things that we can do to heal is just pray. Pray that God brings strength and comfort and in peace. I think that’s the first thing that we ought to do, is just pray and ask God to do what we can’t. You know, there’s things that we can do and there’s ways we can help, but there’s things that only God can do. And I think ultimately it’s going to take the presence of God and God’s intervention in the life of these people.
We often hear in the aftermath of school shootings that prayers and well-wishes are fine, but more needs to be done. What do you make of that?
I think there’s a balance. There’s a time for everything. And I think as the days go by, we’ll have more opportunity to reach out to people. We had the opportunity, along with other pastors and ministers and chaplains, to be at the Civic Center when a lot of families were waiting to be notified. And there were some people that were willing and open for prayer and others were just heartbroken and they just wanted their child. So I think as the days go by, there’ll be more time to reach out and to and to help them, I guess, in a more tangible way. The city’s been great. The people have been great. I believe there’s plenty of people wanting to help. And as the days go by and things unfold well, we’ll know we’ll be able to help out in more practical ways.
What was it like last night speaking at the vigil?
It was definitely difficult, As a believer and as a Christian, my faith is just in Christ. And I just pray that God gives me words. It’s very hard. As a pastor, I understand that. I mean, I believe in God. I understand God can work through me. But I also understand that without God, we can’t do anything. And there’s nothing that I could possibly do or say that will change things. It’s only the presence of God, and of course, the work of the Holy Spirit that can bring peace and joy. So it’s a difficult situation, but it’s God’s grace. God is here and it’s God’s grace that’s going to get us through this.
There are so many people across Texas who want to help and want to find ways to help. Where is help needed right now?
There’s plenty of ways to help. The city of Uvalde has set up a bank account for those who want to give financially. They can also help through the city of Uvalde. There’s a contact number of the City of Uvalde where they can send their checks or monetary gifts.
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I know there’s plenty of chaplains here. The Billy Graham Association is here. Plenty of churches have reached out, and if you know the people personally, you can perhaps reach out to them as far as what they need right now.
I think a lot of families, they want to grieve comfortably. And I think a lot of families are kind of asking for privacy. Like I said, there’s many ways to help. As the days go by, it’ll be easier to reach out to people. And I honestly believe one of the greatest ways to help right now is just pray for peace, strength and comfort.