$15,000 HEART Fund Grant Given to Help Church After Shooting

Because of your generosity, national WMU and the WMU Foundation recently gave a $15,000 HEART Fund grant to Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, after a devastating shooting took place there on June 2, 2022. These funds will help with funeral expenses of the victims as well as counseling for church members present at the time of the shooting.

Joni Wilkinson, WMU Executive Director in Iowa, was able to visit the church campus recently, and this is what she shared:

“I was able to personally deliver the HEART Fund grant to Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, on Wednesday of this week. I met with Lead Pastor Mark Vance and Executive Pastor Jeremy Horton, with whom I had corresponded when applying for the grant.

Left to right: Lead Pastor Mark Vance, Iowa WMU Coordinator Joni Wilkinson, Executive Pastor Jeremy Horton.

The pastors were very gracious and grateful for the gift from WMU and the WMU Foundation. They expressed how helpful this will be in providing counseling to any students or church members affected by the shooting who come seeking help. They have felt extremely blessed by the outpouring of support and love from the SBC family and said several times how grateful they are for WMU’s support.

Pastor Vance told me there were about 220 people at the church facility the night of the shooting. It was the first student Bible study of the summer. Some witnessed the shooting while others heard the shots and fled for cover. My understanding is that most of the students at the Bible study and church elders who had a different meeting that night were in the church building. The shooting took place outside near the front of the church.

In addition to those physically present at the church, there were others who have experienced secondhand trauma; for example, family members of those who were there, trying to reach someone on the phone and not getting a response. The pastors want to be able to provide those who were affected the counseling and help they need.

Ways to pray for the church in the days ahead:

1. For the immediate families of the victims. For the family of Eden Montang, the young woman who had ended a relationship with the shooter about a year ago as she was growing in her faith and getting more involved with the college ministry and church. The second victim, Vivian Flores, had a sister who was also close friends with Eden and who was actually saved that evening by friends who pulled her away to safety. The pastors have a special concern and heart for Vivian’s sister, who continues to attend Cornerstone, and there are people attentive to her needs.

2. For students of the Salt Company and members of the congregation at Cornerstone who had experienced Cornerstone as a safe place of hope and joy, and are now, after the tragedy, transitioning through their grief to feel safety and peace at the church building as they come for worship and ministry.

3. For the college ministry Salt Company, that God would continue to use this ministry to bring college students to Christ and become committed disciples. It has been a very effective ministry on the Iowa State campus. The founder of Salt Company and Cornerstone Church, Troy Nesbitt, later founded the Salt Network that has successfully started college campus ministries and churches in several colleges across the U.S.  Currently they have plants in Syracuse, New York, and Eugene, Oregon.

Some students made a memorial of stones on the church campus lawn to show where the shooting took place. The church has plans to create a permanent memorial in the future.

I’m grateful the Spirit prompted me to pursue a grant for this church and ministry and for your response to my request. I’m humbled to be a part of WMU.”

-Joni Wilkinson, WMU Executive Director, Baptist Convention of Iowa

It’s not easy to know how to help in horrible situations like these, but we are grateful we can come alongside those in the midst of disaster and help as we can through the HEART Fund.

Visit wmufoundation.com/disaster-relief to learn more about how gifts to the HEART Fund aid in disaster relief.

Zachariah Seanor

Director of Mission Advancement