Source: REAL HELP FOR REAL MINISTRY tripledoubleyoudotYouthSpecialtiesdotcom
YS on the Internet: http://www.YouthSpecialties.com
Today is two weeks since the tragedy at Littleton, Colorado's Columbine High School. We at YS have grieved and prayed along with the world because of the lives lost or damaged as a result of the shootings. This has motivated us to send you a collection of resources: on Littleton specifically and also related issues.
We pray this is helpful for your ministry.
CASSIE I'm sure by now you've heard of Cassie Bernall, the student who was shot to death after answering that she believed in God. Her story has impacted countless number of people around the world.
Here's a personal account from someone who attended her memorial service:
"Cassie was totally anti-Christian 2 years ago. She was involved in witchcraft and very suicidal. Her parents forcibly drug her into the youth pastor's office. When she walked out, his reaction was, 'Wow, she's a lost cause.' Through the prayers of her church's youth group, parents, and youth pastor, about 6 months later Cassie walked back up to the youth pastor and said, 'You'll never guess what I did today. I gave my life to Christ!' From that point forward, Cassie was a radical evangelist on her campus. The funeral showed some videotape of her sharing parts of her testimony, which were very powerful. It was because of her radical faith on campus that she was asked if she believed in God. She replied, 'Yes, I believe in Jesus.' (Not 'I believe in God' as the media has reported.) The funeral was more of a celebration of Christ's work in her and through her. A number of girls shared how she had led them to faith. At Cassie's memorial service, over 75 kids made first-time commitments to Christ."
A person from Indonesia posted this on a Littleton-related bulletin board: "We should follow her wonderful martyr steps. She becomes close to my heart although I don't know her."
This is a collection of stories, insights, and reflections we've received, and felt we needed to pass on:
From a Columbine pastor: "After the memorial service at our church, we walked over to the makeshift memorial, near the school and gathered around John's [John Tomlin, one of the victims] battered old Chevy truck and prayed. The Lord is even using John's truck as a place of prayer and ministry--I can't believe this. Guess what was on the dashboard of his truck? His battered Student Bible. God is in this.
"Monday night at Foothills, nearly 400 youth pastors and youth workers from the city gathered to worship, connect, and pray about how to minister to kids in the aftermath of the tragedy. Rich Van Pelt, a nationally-known youth speaker from Denver, was there to speak and assist the youth pastors."
From a youth pastor: "I feel tremendous pain for the families in Littleton. But I think that all of us called to minister to adolescents need to take a moment and consider that the murders in all the schools have been committed by outcasts, young people marginalized, ridiculed and held outside the circles of their world. Where were we? Where were the kids we're so proud of? I recently met with the stepmother of a 12-year old (!) who has just been released from in-patient therapy after turning his violent urges on himself. In a group of athletes and strong achievers, Steve [name changed] is pudgy, soft and very easily distracted (ADD). He used to sleep on the floor at youth group, unless he had something irrelevant to say, or someone to assault or be angry with. After his first visit, the group wanted to make our next meeting's recreation 'Indian': 'That's where we tie Steve to a tree and LEAVE HIM THERE!!!!', they said.
"Only twelve-years-old, he has been suspended for violence three times and expelled twice at school. Sadly, like the school shooters, even his violence met with failure.
"And then there was the Holy Spirit. Teeth gritted, my advisers agreed to our plan to nourish, affirm and quietly direct each action, to point out negative consequences, and suggest more positive options, options that affirmed the good person crying to be freed from captivity.
"The entire group was stunned to silence a few weeks ago, when Steve joined a popcorn prayer and prayed for love--not for himself, but for those who didn't have a dad who loved them, and people who told them they were okay even when they acted out. His mom told me that his therapists told her that Steve felt safe and accepted in only two places: at her house--with his Dad--and at church.
"He's not out of danger yet, and there is much to be done, but we are seeing a violence-prone outsider who hugs, laughs, and reminds us all of the importance of love It's not easy to leave 45 kids to sit with one, and sometimes it feels like dragging a sled full of anvils through waist-deep snow, but aren't we all really called to find that one? It's not the violent music, or the gothic websites that create violent kids. It's the absence of someone who God calls to stand there and tell the outcast that he's home, that he's loved, that there's a better way."
A message from Rick Chromey, youth ministry prof at St. Louis Christian College: "As I watched a CNN story on the history of these two young men, I was met with a realization: I, myself, could have easily been one of those boys. You see, there is a fine line between good and bad. Grace and law. Love and hate. Good and evil. And even though I chose 'right' most of the time, I could have gone the other way quite as easily. As an adolescent I was a loner for the first couple years in high school. A few friends, nobody close. I was short and geekish. My hair rarely combed and my clothes second-hand. My grades were terminal Cs and Ds. My music was hard and fast and quite wicked. My home life was shattered. My self-image in pieces. My hatred for those around me boiling. I was smart enough to know I didn't fit in.
"But I had one thing those boys did not: a church youth group that loved me. Despite my stupid jokes and boyish pranks, they never laughed me from the group. Despite my parent's divorce, they never stopped the love. Despite my hatred and anger, they continued to care. We went to retreats together, conferences together, camps together. We cruised Friday night Main Street together and hung out at Saturday night basketball games together. I belonged, and that was enough. I fit in THERE. I had a place in my church (even when I showed up in my KISS T-shirts blaring AC/DC from the car stereo!). Eventually I also found a place in my high school. My geekish ways faded as I expressed myself on stage. My anger waned as I vented with a solid tackle on the football field. My biting words were well spent in speech competitions (winning honors). And my inner angst flooded my drawings in art class. Within time, all such pursuits helped to carve the man I am today. I'm thankful only that NO ONE gave up on me.
"Here's my point: I could have easily gone the other direction, but did not. Why? Because a church cared. My youth leaders loved me and the group accepted me.
"I understand that one of the Columbine shooters was once a churchgoer. But I imagine that something happened and he disconnected. Within time his disconnection destroyed lives--both his and the lives of others. Loss of life conceived from loneliness. Mayhem born from misunderstandings. Tragedy inspired from trouble.
"An advice columnist once wrote: 'It's better to build a fence at the top of a cliff than a hospital at the bottom.' That is so true. Maybe it's time every Christian--no matter their age--started building fences. It's not so hard. 'Strange looking' teens come to our church every week. Their hair is quite strange, dyed rather colorful. Most are unpleasantly drilled with ear and nose rings. Many bear tattoos. And their music is rather odd. But they keep coming. For whatever reason, our church has given them a home. And they need to know I care. They need to feel the touch of an overweight, bald guy. They need to see I care for them. Littleton has taught me a lesson. Trenchcoats don't kill people. Troubled people kill people. Empty people. Disillusioned people. Desperate people. May I never walk past another teen and judge his character by the clothes on his back. I want to make a difference. I want to build fences. May a little 'Littleton' hang upon my heart hereafter as a reminder to love kids. All kids. No matter their disposition, dress or desires. Period.
"After all, the kid I touch today might just be a Bible college professor tomorrow. I know, because I am."
The shooters were supposedly part of a group of goths. Please pray for the faithful few around the country who minister to goths. These are usually underground ministries to this underground world. In fact, I found out that one of the gunman attended a Christian meeting for goths in the Denver area a week before the shootings. But he left as the leader started to speak of Jesus. These ministers are SO important.
Here's an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about some of these special ministers: Goths: Morose outcasts in dire need of acceptance http://www.post-gazette.com/headlines/19990427goths3.asp
And, obviously, continue to pray for those still ministering in Littleton, and those like Josh and Rich who are ministering to the ministers.
Here's a reflection from Dave Flaig, a youth pastor in Littleton: "Possibly the most powerful time was following the memorial service when students and parents and staff mingled, cried, gave hugs, and talked with each other. This lasted about an hour and a half. Mark Newberry (our youth elder) stated privately to me, 'I'm just enjoying hearing the laughter.' He summed it up really well. About this time word arrived that the name of a student many knew had been released as being one of the fatalities. More tears, more counsel, more sighs. This will be our work for days to come. We covet your prayers."
I'll close with this poem written by a youth pastor and inspired by the Littleton tragedy:
He was a dweeb in the eyes of some.