When answers are not enough
A few weeks ago, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, 25 lives were lost as well as the life of an unborn child. Gunman Devin Kelley walked into a church with a military grade rifle and a ballistic style vest and opened fire.
Meagan Cunningham, a member of the MNU track and field team, is from a small town just outside of where the shooting took place. Because her friends and family were so close to the tragedy, many were devastated.
Kelley parked across the street and started shooting outside. He then walked into the building and began to shoot people in the church. After that he walked outside and one of the community members followed him and exchanged gunfire. After a few minutes the shooter was shot and injured and fled the scene.
“My cousin's boyfriend was actually driving through town and said they needed to follow the shooter. They followed him until they were able to eventually run the shooter off the road,” said Cunningham.
In the aftermath of mass shootings and devastating tragedies, many take the conversation to gun control and steps that need to be taken to contain what some may see as a problem. Often times however, people focus so heavily on fixing the problem that they lose sight of comforting the families.
"The community took it pretty hard but all the small towns surrounding them came together, brought supplies and prayers and hosted barbecues just to be there for the victims so that they didn’t have to be alone. Everyone came together in a time that the community was really in need," said Cunningham.
Comforting families in a time of loss can be a difficult process especially with some of the victims being as young as seven and fourteen. Rashard Young, a criminal justice major and former youth pastor, said the best way to console victims is with time and a sense of community. Only then, he said, will people slowly begin to heal.
"I wouldn’t try to comfort the victims on my own. I would start by providing something as simple as a meal for the immediate families without being over the top and bombarding the hurting people. This would let them know that they are not alone and that you are present," Young said.
David Sharpes, pastor of College Church, has various experiences with tragedies and how to overcome adversity as a congregation. When it comes to tragedy, especially one as devastating as the Texas church shooting, Sharpes said it is not about having all the answers or solution to the problem.
"It’s a long journey, and not just about finding the right things to say in that moment," Sharpes said. "When you start to try to provide answers your intentions can be misinterpreted."
Quoting Bernard of Clairvaux, Sharpes said that one should not "try to be more generous than God." According to Sharpes, this saying rings true when trying to give people the answers that they want in times of crisis. Sharpes said we must let people be angry and grieve with each other.
"The families just need people that will cry with them, weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn,” Sharpes said. “ Let them ask the 'why' questions and don’t try to force any answers. Just be present. The Holy Spirit does far above what we can even imagine when people gather together and pray and show love and care for each other."
Carlos Guzman- More by this author
Carlos Guzman ('19) is from Overland Park, Kansas and is the Sports editor for The Trailblazer. He is a biology major with an emphasis in pre-medicine and is also pursuing a minor degree in Youth and Family Ministry. Carlos is also on the cross country and track and field team.