In December of 2012, I led a group of students from Campbell University on a mission trip to East St. Louis, Illinois. For an entire week, we served at the Christian Activity Center in downtown East St. Louis, an area chronically plagued by unemployment, drug use, and violence. In the midst of this landscape, the Christian Activity Center stood as a beacon of hope and refuge for vulnerable children who needed a place to go after school let out.
Day after day that week, we’d help little kids with their homework, push them on the swings, play basketball, and share stories with them as we enjoyed snack time. In the evenings, we’d return to the local church where we were staying that week and had a time to debrief at the end of each work day.
As we gathered on the evening of December 14, 2012, we were struggling to grasp the news that we’d heard on our ride back to the church. That morning, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 six and seven year olds and 6 adult staff members before taking his own life.
During our time together that evening, I shared the latest news about this tragic event. As I did, I broke down crying. I broke down crying because the children we’d been spending the week with could have easily been the children in that classroom. I broke down crying because I realized that the children, teachers, families, and first responders affected by this tragedy would never be the same again. I broke down crying because in spite of how horrible and painful this tragedy was, I realized that nothing was probably going to change.
Nearly 6 years later, that painful realization has been proven true time and time again.
Senseless gun violence continues to claim innocent lives across our nation. And whether it’s at a country music festival in Las Vegas, a gay bar in Orlando, or an elementary school in Sandy Hook, God is saddened and dismayed by each loss of life.
Like God, we too should be dismayed by these shocking acts. We should never grow numb to the senseless violence that our nation has grown all too accustomed too. In spite of how many of these tragedies we bear witness too, let us never believe that such events are “normal.”
And sure, while pausing after such tragedies for prayer and reflection is appropriate, it’s important to remember that reflection without action is pointless. If nothing changes, then we can expect tragedies like this to continue.
I’m no expert on gun violence, so it’d be improper for me to offer any sort of uneducated advice on where we go from here. So for right now, I’m going to start with prayer. I’m going to seek God’s wisdom and guidance on how to approach this issue and I’m going to start learning about this issue from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.
In these divisive and combative times, I hope you’ll refrain from speaking out of turn on such an important issue as this. Instead, through prayer, education, and action may we embrace as role as peacemakers, so that this cycle of violence and inaction can be broken for good.