Over the past two days Las Vegas has been touched by unspeakable evil. For those of us who live in Las Vegas and those who were visiting this tragedy has touched us deeply. We know people who are grieving the loss of loved ones, who have been injured in this crisis and we know people who have died. There are no words to describe the feeling of shock, sadness and grief this event has laid upon us. This is a dark time for our community.

As we journey through this darkness, however, we are reminded by the words of God that even in times of darkness the light shines and darkness shall not overcome light. As the first bullets rained down on the innocent, already stories of heroic acts of self-sacrifice and compassion were emerging. As the crowd pushed toward exits people stopped to help others, first responders stepped into harm’s way to help the injured and police and security rushed toward danger to stop the carnage and save lives. As Las Vegas became aware of the tragedy our city sprang into action. In these moments, Sin City became a city of light; light that chased the darkness away.

 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:5

Monday morning, as many of us woke to tragic news our city was already in action. As hospitals were filled to capacity, Las Vegans gave blood in record numbers and volunteers distributed food and water at the Thomas and Mack evacuation site. When I arrived at University Medical Center to offer pastoral care I was amazed at the number of volunteers asking to help. Additionally, there was a line of food trucks and restaurant vehicles donating food that was so long it required the police department’s direction for unloading.

On Monday evening Las Vegas paused to bend a knee and lift our broken hearts before God as we sought to make sense of the evil that had touched us. Churches across that valley were holding prayer services, UNLV paused for a time of prayer and healing, and the City of Las Vegas organized prayer at City Hall. These are not the actions of a Sin City; these are the actions of a city of light! At Grace we opened our doors to the community throughout the day and organized a citywide prayer service followed by a candlelight vigil across the street at UMC. Hundreds of people attended and ministry leaders from across the valley lead us in prayer. On Monday night, in the shadow of tragedy, the light of Christ was seen across our city.

The light of Christ continues to shine in Las Vegas through acts of compassion. Go-Fund-Me pages are raisings astounding numbers for victims. Blood banks continue to be blessed by the gift of life so many are donating for the injured. Free crisis counseling services have been made available through organizations like the Renewing Life Center and the list of benevolence goes on and on. There is no doubt we have been touched by darkness, but make no mistake, God’s light is shining once again in our community as it shines through each of us. We have a long recovery ahead and our hope is to walk in the light with each step of our journey.

Pray for Vegas, God hears you.
The Rev. Jim Houston-Hencken