LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - There have been many tears shed in Lafayette in the days following the shooting at a movie theater, where two women lost their lives, but the tears that ran down the faces of residents Wednesday night were of hope, and maybe, just a little grace.
"I said, 'Devil, you done picked on the wrong city; you done messed with the wrong people,'" Pastor Jay Miller of The Family Church told an enormous crowd that gathered for a city-wide prayer services a week after the shooting.
The service was the result of about 50 churches that decided to put aside denominational differences and combine their Wednesday night services. The event was hosted at Crossroads Church. Its sanctuary was built to hold about 1,600 people. Wednesday night, it held 2,910.
The result was an emotional, and at times, electric showing of faith and love for one another. The tears Wednesday did not represent a town broken by evil. They represented a town united and rising under an incredible burden.
The service involved nearly a dozen different pastors and church leaders sharing testimony, prayer and scripture. However, the strongest voice came from a woman who clung to her pastor as she spoke.
"I've never told so many family and friends I love them as I have in these past five days," Jena Meaux said.
Meaux has been called a hero, although she told her minister she did not feel heroic. She was in the Grand 16 Theatre when a man opened fire. Even though she was injured, she managed to pull a fire alarm and alert others to the danger.
Wednesday night was the first time she spoke about that harrowing night, describing the moment a bullet pierced her leg.
"Instantly, I started crawling to the exit," Meaux said. "As I crawled, I was praying, because I really thought he was going to shoot me in the back of the head. So, I prayed and I didn't know if I could walk. As I rounded the corner, I was able to stand and run towards the front exit and out there waiting for me were five, six of God's angels taking off jackets and scarves and making tourniquets and one lady kissing my cheek and telling me it would be okay."
The crowd gave Meaux a standing ovation.
The hour-and-a-half long service offered songs, communion and prayers for fear, healing and revival. It also offered hope that something beautiful can rise from an act of violence.
Miller said he can see God's work already. In his decades of church involvement, he added he's never seen the community band together like it has now.