It has been an unusually trying season for us as a church. We have, in these last few weeks, had to navigate an episode of community unrest, shots being fired in our parking lot, the death of a high school senior in our school, and a close relative of several of our church members who took his life. We have hardly had a chance to catch our breath. But in the midst of this, words of faith have been coming forward. People have been sharing their thoughts, prayers, and wrestlings in faith so that we might receive encouragement from one another.
The Apostle Paul says this to the Thessalonian church: ‘Now we exhort you…comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and all.’
We have been receiving words of comfort and strength and faith over these last weeks.
We want to share some of these words so that our faith may be built up; so that our eyes may be on the Lord; so that we may know that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. May these words strengthen you.
My initial response upon hearing of the shooting incident (shortly after it happened on Saturday, December 1st) was shock, then fear; but even in my fear, I had this underlying sense that God is with us. By Sunday morning, my fear had dissolved and faith began to rise. When I heard that the bullets were intended to kill (not shot into the ground or the air, as I had originally thought) but that no one was hit and not even our building has a scar, an overwhelming sense of Emmanuel God-with-us, filled me. It makes me want to dance a victory dance and shout in the enemy’s face, “Our God is for us! Go ahead, take your best shot. You can’t prevail against our God.”
With the history of mass shootings that our country has had in recent years, I’ve lived with a silent, but real, fear of Christian Fellowship being a target one day. While I still think that it is a possibility, through this incident, my fear has become faith. God will see us through.
Sometimes we try to do it our self, but when you know who God is and what God can do, you trust and surrender.
When I decided to leave my house during the war (in Rwanda), I knew that they were killing. I left my house, I passed through the militias just trusting my Lord. I remembered feeling so light and carried by angels. I believe there was a shield. Maybe they couldn’t see me. A force that gave me strength to continue moving. A protection. A million died in a hundred days. Who am I?
Because God made me go through the fire, I don’t question anymore. I trust in Him. I remember quitting my job to help my brothers. The refugees. I heard God’s voice asking me, “Who fed you when you were in the hiding place? Did you forget?” I stood up and gave back to my Lord. I am blessed and I am happy to bless others. Whatever happens to you – you may suffer but God transforms you to use you! I believe God is reminding us that we could be the tools that could stop violence in the community. Let us pray and let God talk to us. Be blessed!
On December 1st, I returned home a little after 2:00 and saw Pastor Phil directing traffic at the corner of Christian Fellowship and Dayspring Drive. I walked up to the corner to ask if I could help and to see if he needed to go inside to minister for a wedding or whatever was going on inside of the church. He then explained that we’d opened the doors to host the funeral.
I took over directing traffic for the remaining visitors. Our CF parking lot was full, and I began to pray for the funeral and people inside our building. I met with God and He spoke to me and asked me who will stand in the gap and if I would too? His presence was so very real to me and to my faith in Him to rescue and save those inside and in our city. I continued to pray and waited on the corner until a little after 3:00 when I’d thought the funeral service was ending. I know that the Lord was with us that day and always. Much more happened in the next hour or so.
I love our church. I believe that Pastor Phil, Scott Williams, and Mike Acock all ministered to the families and visitors in only a way that God would and does. Our church and our leaders do stand in the Gap and I’m thankful to be a part of Christian Fellowship.
Last year, Phil shared a message about the church being a royal priesthood and walking alongside others during their struggles and difficult times. Many believers who are minorities or poor live in neighborhoods that experience shots fired more frequently. While I pray that we never have to experience this again, we can ask God to use this experience to give us empathy as we walk alongside those who live in less safe and less comfortable neighborhoods.
Two days after the funeral, I read this in Jesus Calling: “Do not be surprised by the fiery attacks on your mind. When you struggle to find Me and to live in My Peace, don’t let discouragement set in. You are engaged in massive warfare, spiritually speaking. The evil one abhors your closeness to Me, and his demonic underlings are determined to destroy our intimacy. When you find yourself in the thick of battle, call upon My Name: “Jesus help me!” At that instant, the battle becomes Mine; your role is simply to trust Me as I fight for you.”
There will always be darkness around but remember that Jesus is the Light of the World and nothing can put out His Amazing Bright Light. I think He’s calling us to totally trust Him even in the eye of the storm.
This Saturday, after I was in my front room on West Broadway, four or five police cruisers raced passed my home, with blue and red lights flashing – no sirens. A short time later Ann said she got a text from an international student informing us of what was going on at our church. I have been involved with homeless street people and I was fairly well knowing what could have been happening at the funeral at CF.
I was overjoyed when I learned that no one was injured. How often have we heard about Middle East funerals where retribution is paid. I have heard the use of this Scripture from Romans 8 “Who can separate us from the love of Christ…” We fail to read the entire passage – “For your sake we are killed all day long we are counted as sheep for the slaughter…” Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. That is a POWERFUL SCRIPTURE!
Something the Lord has taught and I am ashamed to say I just learned it 40 years after knowing Him: when people wrong me, or people confuse me with their actions or statements, the Lord informed me to simply extend them mercy. I mean real mercy like what He does for me. That may seem simple. So, to make it short, we can extend that to all people involved in this incident, including the shooters. We want God’s mercy for everyone. And if we do something Jesus commanded, “take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me.” Matthew 38:10; Mark 8:34. We can truly bless others.
One time when I was ministering to homeless people, I had a group of folks over to my home. One of them said to me, “you are foolish to bring people like us into your home, we could cause you harm.” Some of my young children were in the room – they were giving me something to drink. I frankly never thought like that.
It’s all about mercy, what Jesus has given us, what we give others. It’s quite a gift.
Yesterday, the incident at CF was forefront in my mind. Lord, what are you saying/doing through this? Last night I had a dream that I believe speaks to what I was asking.
Dream: Six men were sitting at a round table and my uncle (one of the six) was looking around the table and said, “it feels like family.”
Thoughts: My uncle is very much a servant leader. He retired a 55-year-old so that he could care for the widows/widowers in his community. He is still doing that almost 20 years later. The men at the table represent leaders in our community. The round table and the “it feels like family” comment speak to unity. No one was at the head of the table. The #6 represents six pots of water that Jesus turned into wine… His first miracle! Miracles are coming, in fact, we just experienced our first with no one being killed or even injured by the shooting!
To me this dream is encouragement to stay on the track that CF is on, continue building relationships, continue serving others in the community. Unity is on the horizon!
As I was praying this morning, I felt like the Lord was highlighting these verses – “When the servant of the man of God (Elisha) got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my Lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, ‘Strike this army with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” (2 Kings 6:15-18)
As a church, the Lord is calling us to pray like Elisha.
I want to share with you about the faithfulness of God. I had a dream about 3am on Saturday morning about a storm at CF. The storm was not one of rain or snow it was one that you could feel; you could feel the storm and there was a strong wind. At one point fire erupts from the ground but before that a large tree falls. There were children running around outside and they were in danger – so I was calling “Children come in! Children come in!”
I forgot about the dream until after 3:00 on Saturday afternoon – suddenly the Holy Spirit said – “Remember the dream!” Once I remembered what it was – I began to intercede for CF. (I had no idea what was happening at the building.)
I was praying at the time of the shooting. I am sure others were as well – as that is how God works.
I had been at CF earlier in the day on Saturday, December 1st, in helping prepare for the funeral. I did not stay for the service. I received a call from Phil, who had stayed for the service, around 5pm. For “some” reason I was not fearful at all for Phil’s safety and I knew that God would work this for good. I encouraged Phil to stay at the church to bring a sense of God in the midst of a trying time. He had no fear during the whole ordeal. The scripture came to mind, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Cor. 9a
As a body, we have begun to hear the stories of God’s protection over us. Here is a brief account that our pastors were able to share in a staff meeting the week after the shooting. After the incident, the detectives found the bullet casings and, as any investigation goes, they were looking for where the bullets were lodged. As they were looking around the property, Pastor Mike was walking with them. After a long search, they stopped and were very perplexed as there were no injuries at the time of the incident and there was no damage to the property. The conclusion of the officers is that there is no explanation where the bullets went based on the facts. However, we are fully confident that our God protected the people who were present and also our facility. We are in awe and grateful – this was a Miracle!
As Mike and Phil told us the above story, I kept thinking about the story in 2 Kings 6:16, “So he answered, ‘do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” I felt so strongly that God was telling us to view this Miracle as Him saying that His hand is upon CF for good and that no weapon will He allow to stand against us. We went around the room and the level of faith within our staff was staggering.
“They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Words are important to God. Now is the time to testify. Do not underestimate the power of your testimony in over-coming the darkness surrounding people’s minds and hearts. Speak faith. Tell of what God had done for you.
Thank you for leading us through this time in such a pro-actively faith-filled way. I may be kind of weird, but far from being scared, I kind of feel like doing a victory dance and shouting, “In your face, Satan! Our God is for us!” I just think about what happened, and I sense the Holy Spirit. And I get excited about God’s plans for us.