This is another installment in a series on Ministry in Moments of Crisis. This week we’ll consider the crisis of Community Tragedy. When a community is shaken by tragedy it stamps the moment on their individual and collective memories, awakens many souls to their mortality and creates a momentarily open door for effective ministry.
One need only mention, Marshall Football and September 11, 2001, and memories come flooding to our consciousness related to tragedy. Some of us can remember plane crashes, like Marshall University’s Football team in 1970, involving Wichita State University Football also in 1970 and the University of Evansville Basketball in 1977. Those instances spread grief all across the region as well as among the communities from where each of their players had come to the universities.
In the last few years you may recall shootings on campuses like the one at Virginia Tech University and later at Northern Illinois University. I am familiar with sport chaplains and coaches at those schools and recall our conversations which were filled with grief and horror.
We all probably remember the circumstances peculiar to where we were on the morning of September 11 of 2001. I recall the shock, bewilderment and even a sense of denial that this could really be happening. Those feelings were soon replaced by a resolve to seek the Lord’s best for people in the midst of this terrible tragedy. I recall many conversations with players and coaches as we all tried to make sense of the incident. Many had no room in their worldview for evil, but had to rethink their positions. Many felt totally abandoned by God. Many others felt like God had let them and the USA down. The opportunity came simply because they were thinking about God at all.
Rather than having simple, trite answers to all these complex issues, I worked to keep the conversations going and to point them to the Holy Scriptures for insight and comfort. In any sort of community tragedy, we are obviously ill-equipped to solve all the problems. We can, however, point them to an omnipotent, gracious, loving Savior for exactly what they need to live through this day and to get to the next one. If we coldly offer stock answers in the midst of community tragedy, it’s like putting Band-Aids on a cancerous tumor. Such ministry is neither effective nor compassionate.
When community tragedy visits our world, let’s be the ones who run toward the smoke and fire like the first responders on 9/11. Let’s carry the life giving truth of Christ Jesus into the chaos, open wounds of emotion and even despair. Our presence will enlighten the path to hope and our words will sooth weary souls.