By Paula Schlueter Ross
It wasn’t an easy assignment, but Rev. Robert Flohrs says he’s grateful for the opportunity he had to minister to U.S. servicemembers within hours of the March 2 shooting at Frankfurt Airport.
“I felt very honored and privileged to be used like that by the Lord,” said Flohrs, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, an English-speaking international congregation in Frankfurt, Germany. “This is what I’m called to do — I’m called to comfort and care for people, and to share the love of our Savior.”
The alleged shooter — now in custody — has been identified as Arid Uka, a 21-year-old from Kosovo who told German investigators he was motivated to kill American troops after viewing radical Islamist websites.
In the attack on a U.S. military bus, two American airmen were killed and two were seriously wounded and remain hospitalized.
U.S. Consulate officials called Flohrs around 5:30 p.m., some two hours after the shooting, asking him to comfort witnesses who had been taken to the Frankfurt police headquarters for questioning. He arrived an hour later and — as the only clergyman present — ministered to more than a dozen people until midnight, he said.
Most of the airmen and women were young, in their late teens and early 20s, Flohrs told Reporter in a March 3 telephone interview.
“They were going through all stages of grief,” he recalled. “They were angry, frustrated, sad.” However, many of them were able to contact family members back home to reassure them that they were OK.
Flohrs said the Air Force officials, U.S. Consulate workers and local German police were all “very supportive and focused on the servicemen and women who were affected by this horrific and senseless act. It truly was a team effort by many people and agencies.”
The pastor said he asked the survivors questions and led them in prayer, but mostly “just sat with them” and “above all, listened and tried to help them process what they were feeling.”
Most of the servicemembers were part of a security forces team based in Britain and were on their way to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Then they were to be deployed to Afghanistan, according to news reports.
Whether or not they will still be sent to Afghanistan is not known, but Flohrs encourages LCMS Lutherans to pray for the survivors as well as the families of the shooting victims.
“It’s in times of tragedy that we need to listen, care [for] and be there with spiritual support for people,” he said.
Flohrs, a career missionary with LCMS World Mission, has served as pastor of Trinity, Frankfurt, for a year and a half. The congregation was started in 1957 to serve U.S. troops stationed in Germany, and now has some 200 members from more than 15 countries.
Posted March 4, 2011