San Marcos ‘Steel Magnolias’ performed at Sutherland Springs Church

The little church thrust into the international spotlight by the mass shooting Nov. 5 was a much happier place Oct. 1, when the Steel Magnolias performed for a Bible study group. PHOTO COURTESY OF DEBBIE DANIELS

I sat in a restaurant Sunday noon, after my own church service at First Baptist, in San Marcos, and was enjoying the company of friends until one friend exclaimed, while viewing a news alert on her phone, “Oh no, that’s the church where we just sang, there’s been a shooting at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs. I said in quick rebuttal, only hearing the name Sutherland, “Oh no, that was Faith Baptist Church in Sutherlin, OR,” (thinking that was the church where we just sang on our recent tour) until it hit me . .. Yes, yes, yes, Sutherland Springs, near San Antonio . . . the last Sunday night before we left on tour. Oh, my goodness . . . and then my heart just started tearing apart as we listened to the news updates coming in. It was as unbelievable as anything I could ever imagine.

The Steel Magnolias arrived at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 1 around 4:30 p.m. to get ready for our last gospel music concert before we headed off on our Pacific Northwest Tour the following Saturday morning. This would be our “send-off” concert for this 16-day mission trip and I was truly looking forward to the concert that evening . . . until we sat for 15 minutes realizing there was no one there to let us in. I made my way around the church building trying to open every door, even looking for an unlocked window, thinking we could find a way to get in and get our sound system set up without bothering anyone.

A church member drove up and I thought, “Great, here’s someone to open the doors.” He did not have a key, but proceeded to try and get in touch with the pastor, Frank Pomeroy. My big “send-off” thoughts immediately changed when the gentleman handed me the phone and told me the pastor needed to talk with me.

I took the phone and said, “Hello Preacher, we’re here!” There was a long pause and then I heard Brother Frank speak in a total apologetic tone, letting me know that he had received all our promotional material, but had done nothing to promote our coming to sing that evening. He said, “Debbie, I just forgot – I’ve had so much going on these past few weeks and I have no excuse.”

I had sent press releases and flyers, but they had never been distributed. This was a first for us, but in my heart, it was okay. I just needed to let him know it was fine. He felt terrible. Not me. I thought it was good for us.

He honestly didn’t know what he was going to do because he knew there would be no one coming for the concert. I immediately tried to calm his spirit and said, “Pastor, I see on your marquee that you have regularly scheduled evening services on Sunday night, would it be possible to sing for the group that comes?” He said, “Debbie, it is just a Bible Study group – maybe just a handful of people will be there. I quickly responded, “Well, if it’s alright with you, why don’t we sing to your Bible Study group. Will that work?”

I could tell by the lift in his voice, “Well, sure, that will be fine.” He was convinced we were not the least bit disappointed, but would do everything we could to make this happen and he shouldn’t be apologetic at all. I kept saying, “Sometimes things happen for a reason, and besides Pastor, if the Lord is there, that’s all that matters. His presence will be an ARMY!”

He took me at my word and was at the church within just a few minutes. The doors were opened, The Steel Magnolias came in with their sound system, trying to make up for lost time, and get ready for the concert. They showed us a place to get dressed in our outfits, and we couldn’t have been more excited to sing if we had been invited to The Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York. We were thrilled!

It never matters to us how many folks show up. We’ve sung for such varied sizes of crowds that we find the smaller ones are truly the most intimate . . . and this would definitely be upfront and personal. In fact, I thought it was the best lesson we could ever learn – never take yourselves too seriously. And I would say to that, “You never really arrive in life until it’s at the Pearly Gates . . . then you’re home.” Hallelujah! That’s all that really matters!

The Bible Study group started coming in totally shocked that there was going to be a concert. I loved it. The side of our trailer reads, “Exuberant, Exciting, Inspirational, Evangelical, and the Un-Expected.” Well, that latter description summed up the look on their faces. At the 6 o’clock hour we had a total of 25 people including children who came in, sat down, and made ready for a gospel music concert.

What a warm and loving reception we were given by these sweet people. We sang and poured our hearts out for Jesus for nearly two hours, including a prayer time with individuals who came forward with prayer requests, and a special prayer, with laying on of hands, for the pastor. We ended the service singing God Bless America with everyone holding hands across the aisle. What joy was felt!

Now, as we witnessed the results of a massacre yesterday in that same little building in Sutherland Springs, we look back with the sweetest of memories of a night we will never forget. When I heard the news yesterday at lunch, and realized the exact church where we sang, my mind and heart were taken back immediately to each of those faces we saw that night – the love that was shown to us – every kindness that was expressed. We had a wonderful “send-off” concert, but little did we know that the send-off would not necessarily be for us, but to say good-bye to a faithful Bible study group, many of whom would be leaving this earth in just a little over a month.

We came to present a message of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is always our mission and as I realize the urgency of “telling everyone we see about Jesus,” I am more certain than ever we can never end a program without sharing the saving grace of our Lord. Always, always, always, offer an invitation to people to give their hearts to Jesus.

So, I ask, “Why Sutherland Springs?” Only God knows. We’ll never know why a small church in a remote town of 400 people was the target of a predator who came to destroy and kill. But may we be reminded every day that we are met with that same predator, Satan, who comes like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. . . wanting to destroy and kill. I Peter 5:8. We’ve got to be ready! Keep your eyes on Jesus.

One thing I know for sure . . . our God will be glorified in this. Just watch and see . . . only God!

Our love and deepest sadness to those of you who lost loved ones and friends.

We, too, feel like part of our heart has been ripped away, as we bonded with those precious folks at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs.

That little Bible study group became “like family” ... we were one in the Lord, for only the duration of a concert, but they will be remembered in our hearts forever.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666