Here are resources and ways to help in light of the recent shooting in Las Vegas Sunday Night. We continue to pray for the victims, their families and the city.
I have run out of fingers & toes to count tragedies. Just in the US and just in the last five years, over 20 mass shootings have taken place in locations as diverse as a Colorado movie theater and a Florida airport, a Connecticut elementary school and an Arkansas night club, a South Carolina Church, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and an office Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.
All but one of the perpetrators have been men (the lone woman was an accomplice of her husband). A few were declared supporters of the Islamic terror organization, ISIS. Most took their own lives. Only a few survived to stand trial.
However, the most remarkable element in every sad case, has been the response of those who rushed in to either stop the attacks or come to the aid of victims. Some heroes were targeted themselves. Some were passersby, unable to watch evil unfold unchallenged before them.
In dark moments like these, everyone reacts, but some (often too few) respond in ways that surprise us all, as agents of hope & healing.
The words "react" and "respond" are technically synonyms, but there is a significant difference between a visceral, knee-jerk reaction and a thoughtful, redemptive response.
Initial reactions range from tears, screams, hate-filled accusations, profanity-laced threats, retaliation and emotional breakdowns. However, helpful responses open doors of escape in the midst of chaos.
In the aftermath of these tragedies, stories of such responses always emerge. Trained officers raced toward gunfire in Las Vegas. But also civilians, became rescuers, covering and carrying victims to safety. They were all just decent people helping friends and strangers.
Personal vehicles became makeshift ambulances. Wheelbarrows became stretchers to rush the injured toward safety. Young men & women placed themselves in danger to shield the targeted from flying bullets or carry victims to safety, though most had no idea from which direction the shots were originating, as the concert ground became the "killing-field" of a deranged sniper perched 32 floors above them and about a quarter mile away.
These first responders, professionals and volunteers were doing what they could to provide refuge. Their sole hope was survival for themselves and those around them. The best of those present in Las Vegas on the evening of October 1 were standing between life and death, as shields of defense.
We have once again been reminded that true evil exists.
We are baffled at the depths of darkness to which a man's heart can sink. Yes, we are all sinners, capable of great depravity. Many have pointed out that each one of us is capable of any heinous act. Nonetheless, this all seems so senseless.
All the same questions will be posed again, by reporters, journalists, radio talk show hosts, co-workers, family and friends. "Were there warning signs?" "Where does violence come from?" "Why is it so prevalent?" "And why has such extreme violence become so commonplace?" It seems ironic that as I write this, sitting in a coffee shop, a woman has just walked in with two young girls ages 10 or 11. Both girls are wearing taekwondo t-shirts, and as the woman places her order, the girls practice a mock attack. One girl plays the assailant, picking up a metal thermos bottle, and in slo-mo, with teeth-bared like a Doberman dog, brings the "weapon" across the face of her "victim," who recoils with a practiced, dramatic scowl, slowly rolling her head away from the point of impact, until the adult intervenes with "knock it off girls!" Moments earlier, I saw an Instagram pic, posted within hours of the Las Vegas massacre showing two early teenaged Aussie brothers looking viciously into a camera with pirate swords drawn and standing in a threatening pose. Apparently, the desire for dominance lives in a good number of us.
Why is there violence? It has become sport on every screen of every size. We must remind ourselves that we indeed live in a terribly broken world. Senseless violence happens all over the world every day.
Every outbreak is a reminder that we need a savior.
The bigger question is "How do we who follow Jesus respond in the presence of such evil and heartbreak? Here is what I know for sure:
1. We must not allow ourselves to be frozen in fear. We can't hide away. We must be present with grace, hope, kindness. We must openly speak of Jesus as the hope and healer of the wounded heart and shattered life.
2. We must weep with those who weep, entering into their suffering as Jesus did with Mary & Martha over their brother Lazarus' recent death, even though He was about to call him back to life.
3. We must intercede for those wounded & the families of all lost victims as they seek to recover from their profound loss.
4. We must intercede for America. This has gone too far & too long (2 Chronicles 7:14).
5. We must seek God for our next action step. Perhaps giving blood or donating through an online fund to help cover crisis expenses to those in need. We could team up with a Las Vegas church, asking for street teams of Good Samaritans to pray and comfort the shaken people of their city.
It is time for the Church to step outside the churches to BE the Church on the battleground of our streets. Jesus has no hands & feet on earth but ours. No voice speaking truth, hope & healing, and Gospel to hurting souls around us but our voice.
In Exodus 3, God told Moses, "I have seen, heard & know of the suffering of My people, and I have come to deliver them." Then to Moses' surprise, God said,"...And I am sending you to bring My people out." May we hear God speaking those same words to us.
Moses felt inadequate. So do I. But it is time to move beyond being "reactionaries" and become "first responders" for the Prince of Peace.