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September 22, 1999




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COMMENTARY:
Wedgwood tragedy
unexpectedly exposes hope

___By Chuck Flowers
___Youth evangelism specialist
___Baptist General Convention of Texas

___Wednesday night, Sept. 15, as hundreds of Christian young people were gathered in various places across our state, one Fort Worth church became the scene of violence and heart-wrenching tragedy. A lone gunman entered the worship center at Wedgwood Baptist Church and opened fire on the young people there who were attending a rally to follow-up the See You at the Pole student-led prayer gatherings that had begun their day. As a result, eight people were killed and at least seven others injured, some of them critically.
wedglogosm___It was only moments after the shooting had ended before law enforcement officers, television media crews and other press representatives arrived on the scene. It was a frightening experience. And yet in the midst of the gatherings of police and media, there were others who rallied together--to pray.
___One youth minister in the Fort Worth area, who did not attend the rally, reported that he had not yet left his own church's Wednesday evening activities when word of the shooting reached him. As word spread throughout his church, several people began first to huddle in small groups to pray together before rushing home to watch the news. Calls came pouring in from people who were praying and asking if there were any specific names to include in their prayers. This was happening before any names of the injured or killed had been released. People who didn't even know the people who had attended the Wedgwood rally were praying for the victims and survivors.
___The inevitable questions will be asked again and again during the next few days, all boiling down to one basic thought: Why is this happening in our country? And what can we do to prevent its happening again?
___In some of the most recent tragedies--Littleton, Colo., and Wedgwood Baptist Church included-- the targets have been teenagers who profess faith in God. That fact alone reveals a part of the answer to the question of why it is happening. God has been moving among teenagers. Movements such as See You at the Pole and True Love Waits have challenged young people and given them an opportunity to stand up for their faith in God. In the midst of violence, corruption, permissiveness, addiction, gangs and a multitude of negative influences, we are seeing a growing number of young people who are living out everything that is positive and good through their faith in God. These Christian teenagers are tougher than the generation before them. They have to be. And the boldness of their faith is spreading among the adults who are themselves becoming stronger Christians as a result of what they have seen in our youth.
___Satan is watching our young people and adults become more vocal and obvious about
_""Satan is watching our young people and adults become more vocal and obvious about their faith, and he is doing everything he can to destroy this movement."
their faith, and he is doing everything he can to destroy this movement. What we are watching is the result of Satan's attack. We grieve with those who have been victimized by the attacks and are saddened by the tragedies. But we also are encouraged and given a new sense of hope as we watch what is happening as a result. The hope rising from these tragic events is rising from our observations of those who, in spite of their first-hand experiences in the horror of these frightening situations, still proudly claim God to be their Savior and Lord.
___They still give God the glory as they answer interviewers' questions. They still gather to pray for one another and for their community. They know that their Christian brothers and sisters who have died are now rejoicing in heaven. God is still on his throne and still the only One who can give us hope in times such as these. We have the comfort of knowing that Satan cannot win! God has won the victory over Satan, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and therein lies our hope.
___How will this shooting impact future gatherings of our young people at events such as See You at the Pole? Our prayer is that young Christians will be even more courageous, more willing to stand up for their faith in God. We will pray that school systems and the federal government will not yield to the temptation to ban prayer groups in public places in an attempt to reduce situations in which these kind of tragedies might occur. If just the opposite would occur--MORE prayer groups, MORE people coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, MORE unashamed obedience to God's Lordship--we would see a reduction in the number of people who might be carrying out Satan's tragic instructions, as they leave him behind for new life in Christ.
___That should be our answer to preventing shootings such as we have seen at Columbine High School and Wedgwood Baptist Church. Our greatest effort should be to reach out with the gospel of hope to these people who are hurting and vulnerable to Satan's demands.
___Our hearts break each time we see another of these tragedies. We want them to stop. Yet what we are seeing each time these young martyrs are taken from us is a rising movement of bolder, stronger Christians who, in the face of anything, will not renounce the Almighty God. We will not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. We will carry the gospel to as many of our friends, family and neighbors who will listen. We will take this message of hope and declare the victory for God! We will hold high the banner of our Lord and Savior, as soldiers of the cross. We will use only the spiritual weapons of love, joy, peace and the word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword.
___The world will know that we are Christians by the testimony of our lives.

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