U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas spoke at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs' official ground-breaking for their new building, held six months after a mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of 26 people, including the pastor's daughter.
Held Saturday morning, the ground-breaking ceremony included a prayer walk, a service, worship music, and lunch, as well as remarks from several speakers.
Cruz told those gathered that while people saw "the face of evil" with the church shooting, they also "saw so much more."
"You saw love. You saw strength. You saw compassion. You saw courage. You saw sacrifice," said Cruz, who told FBC members that through their example "the entire world saw the Gospel."
Cruz commended the church for its "powerful" showcasing of "the strength, the peace of this community," saying that "as each of you grieving leaned on each other," their reaction to the shooting "reflected the love of Jesus."
FBC Sutherland Springs Pastor Frank Pomeroy also spoke at the ceremony, telling those gathered for the ground-breaking that even though the building was not yet constructed, "God's already been moving through this place."
"We need to remember from the prayer that started from 9:00 to all the folks you've heard speak to the bells that were ringing, its God who gets the glory," stated Pomeroy.
"And we need to continue to do that. Hallelujah. Its God who gets the claps, its God who gets the glory, its God who gets all the blessings."
Pomeroy noted that while "we are, and have been, and are still going through grief," there is "also joy" and "there is redemption and praise God there is rebirth."
On Nov. 5 of last year, Devin Patrick Kelley, a former member of the U.S. Air Force who was discharged after being convicted of assault and serving one year in a military prison, entered FBC Sutherland Springs during Sunday worship and opened fire.
Despite anti-religious social media posts, authorities concluded that Kelley's chief reason for the mass shooting was because his ex-wife had family who attended the church.
In late March, it was announced that FBC Sutherland Springs was going to construct a new worship space near the building where the shooting happened.
"This is going to represent new life. This is going to represent new growth," stated Pomeroy at a press conference, as quoted by KSAT channel 12.
"I believe that God is going to use the blood of those 26 martyrs and those survivors to bring forth revival into the land. Bring forth revival into Sutherland Springs, and I would say Wilson County and even into the state."
The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is helping with the construction project, having guaranteed to cover the costs of phase one of the construction, which centers on the worship space and an education building.
NAMB has established a website called "Restore Sutherland Springs" to help spread awareness of the construction project and to oversee raising funds for the church.