Church mends lives in wake of tragedy
___By Dan Martin
___Texas Baptist Communications
___ARLINGTON--At first, Steve Lee had a hard time discerning the details of the mass murders at Columbine High School. Later, he helped members of his church's youth group discern God's voice amidst anguished chaos.
___Lee was at work in northeastern Denver when news of the shootings broke. He immediately sped across town to Ken Caryl Baptist Church in Littleton, where he is bivocational youth minister. The church is very near Columbine High.
___Even in the time it took him to traverse Denver, the news from radio stations was garbled and chaotic--20 dead ... 30 dead ... explosions ... six gunmen ... people firing weapons from a field ... bodies lying in the street ... blood everywhere, he recalled.
___"It was tough to separate fact from fiction," Lee told participants at the Church and Random Violence Conference at First Baptist Church in Arlington. The minister/church relations office of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and LeaderCare of LifeWay Christian Resources co-sponsored the conference.
___"When I got to the church, the interim pastor was away, visiting in Georgia. The associate pastor had left the day before on a mission trip. Everyone looked at me, and said: 'This is your ball now. What do we do?'"
___Lee called the staff and others who had gathered at the church to prayer.
___"We got together and prayed. We prayed and then we prayed some more," he said, adding that was all they knew to do in the face of the crisis.
___They called deacons and teachers and anyone else to come to the church to join in the marathon prayer meeting.
___Lee spoke fondly of the 40 teenagers who make up the youth group at the church.
___"My wife and I do not have children, so I consider the youth group 'my kids,'" he explained. "Fifteen of the 40 attend school at Columbine, and we have three regular visitors who are students there. That means we had 18 of our kids in the school that day."
___Law enforcement authorities set up at an elementary school and a library as sites for families to gather.
___"We sent two of our deacons to the elementary school and two to the library with instructions to call every half hour," Lee said. "We stayed at the church and prayed. There was not a lot else we could do.
___"Within the first half hour, we learned that nine of the 18 kids had gotten out of the school. We spent a lot of time praising God for that."
___The shooting started about 11 a.m., and the leaders of the church were "pretty much on edge until we saw the last of our kids running out of the school with their hands up sometime after 5 p.m.," he said. "We did a lot of rejoicing that all 18 had gotten out safely."
___Deacons went to each home where a member of the youth group lived. Lee and his wife set themselves to the task to visit all 15 homes. "We knew we couldn't do it, but we wanted to try," he explained.
___"We found that in most of the cases, the parents were in worse shape than the kids," he added.
___Then began the long, slow process of ministering to the survivors.
___Many of them were afraid and jumped when a balloon popped or a car backfired or at any loud, sudden noise. Some teens were afraid to go to the bathroom by themselves. "They relived the experience over and over ... and probably will relive it for the rest of their lives," Lee observed.
___He told of going to a summer youth program at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in New Mexico, where they saw a video presentation of a modern version of the story of the Good Samaritan. "Some of our kids had to leave," he said. "It was very painful for them."
___He encouraged parents to "become more involved in their children's lives ... more than an occasional conversation at dinner about how school is going or an occasional visit to a Saturday afternoon soccer game."
___"Parents need to be involved in their children's world. It is much different than ours."
___Lee also encouraged parents to monitor what is entering their children's minds in videos, the Internet, movies and music.
___"But most of all, love your children," he pleaded. "Pray for one another. Love your congregations. Love each other."
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