October 6, 2017

One Hour Before the Shooting in Las Vegas

Jasper Ivan Iturriaga, as told to Adventist Review

As I watched the breaking news on the TV screen of the restaurant where two friends and I were about to have a bite, we could not believe our eyes. We knew very well the street featured on the live news report. We had been there one hour before.

Please allow me to briefly share our experience.

My name is Jasper Iturriaga. I am a young pastor and evangelist from the Philippines, now working as a full-time filmmaker on projects for the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world. While I usually travel to various places on assignment, I also enjoy doing volunteer work. I love making videos for promotion of various church-supporting ministries. On October 1, one of those volunteer initiatives took me to Las Vegas, in Nevada, United States.

It was the first day for Dina Mojica, a Bible worker on a canvassing mission in Las Vegas suburbs. Together with Susana Pantaleon, a young member of Las Vegas’ Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church, we spent the day knocking on people’s doors to share words of encouragement and good Christian literature.

After working hard for most of the day, we decided to take some time off for sightseeing. Since I had to fly to Washington D.C. the following day, we agreed we would go strolling along The Strip, that 4.2-mile (6.7-kilometer) stretch known for its concentration of high-end hotels and world-renowned casinos. But enjoying the city lights was not our primary goal, as we planned to distribute 200 GLOW tracts to passersby as the sun fell beyond La Madre Mountain.

We started sharing our tracts with people walking around some of the most recognizable sights in the city. Hundreds of people were strolling down South Las Vegas Boulevard, laughing and taking pictures. Some of them were on their way to a nearby open venue, where a large country music concert was about to take place.

We also took a couple of pictures to remember that fruitful day. When we ran out of GLOW tracts, we went back to Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church in south-east Las Vegas, where we had planned to stay for the night. But I wanted to film some final takes, so we decided to walk to a nearby restaurant where we could also have dinner after so much work.

On our way to the restaurant, we saw several police cars whizzing by. Though not an uncommon sight, there were going too fast, and they were too many. We wondered what call deserved such a rush.

After we reached the place of our choice, we secured permission to film. Just after we ordered our food, however, a waitress approached our table with an anxious look on her face.

“Have you heard the news?” she blurted. “There’s been a shooting on The Strip.”

“Really?”, we replied, as a chill ran down my spine.

At once, we ran to a nearby TV set to watch the breaking news. On the screen, we saw the surroundings of the very street we had been walking an hour before. It was the area where we had shared GLOW tracts on several topics, including the one entitled, “Where Is God When I’m Hurting?

As soon as we recovered from the initial shock, we couldn’t help but start wondering who were the people who got and read our tracts. Who decided to take it home to read it later? Is it possible that someone who got a GLOW tract was shot an hour later?

Until we reach heaven, we will probably never know. But our experience has renewed our resolve to keep sharing the hope that is within us. God has shown us we are on the right track.