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FIRST-PERSON: I remember

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some events become etched in your mind and you can remember them in vivid detail. Such is the Wedgwood shooting.

Ten years ago I was making an outreach visit with my pastor, Mike Dean, not far from the Wedgwood Baptist Church. One siren was joined by another and then another until it sounded like every patrol car in Fort Worth, Texas, had joined in the chorus. Hearing all the sirens, Mike commented that an officer must be down.

As we left from the visit, Mike’s cell phone signaled that he had a message waiting. It was a call from his secretary informing him that there had been a shooting at Wedgwood, and we decided that we should go by and see if we could be of any assistance. We arrived before the scene had been closed off with the yellow police tape. Everyone had been taken from the church and secured in a public school beside the church. We still had no idea of the extent of the tragedy. That soon changed as we walked down the hallway of the school and saw room after room of students who were weeping, singing and consoling one another.

I saw several of our Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students who had been present for the special emphasis that night. Several were still in shock. The horrifying story began to come out as student after student attempted to understand what had taken place. One student had been sitting beside another who had been killed. The obvious questions began to be repeated from room to room. Why? Why did this happen? Why not me? But everyone knew answers would have to wait as pain, grief and confusion were confessed and grace was ministered. I remember how the body of Christ came together as one in response to great need.

As the drama played out, we knew that several of those killed were Southwestern Seminary students and that we would be profoundly impacted by the events of that night. I was delighted to see faculty members step up to offer counseling services at local schools. Professors took class time to console students and help them to interpret the events of that night in the light of God’s Word. It became one of our finest moments as we came together as one and bore witness to God’s amazing grace. Several of the funerals were held on campus or nearby. While they dealt with grief, they were laced through and through with hope. I remember how several members of the secular press remarked about the sense of peace and hope expressed by all those involved. This crisis became a moment of profound witness.

Chapel schedules had been set for the semester, but everyone was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jack MacGorman was scheduled for chapel that week. He did an incredible job of comforting the students through an exposition of Romans 8:28, declaring that God did not cause the horror and the suffering but that He was sufficiently powerful to bring good from what man intended for evil. I remember how we began to look for that “good” that God had promised to provide for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The good included opportunities for many to witness to the grace and power of God. The good for many was a renewed spiritual commitment and personal revival. As the stories of the dead students began to unfold, we were able to see God’s goodness and His good in all these events. It was a defining moment for this president and for many of our students.

I am convinced that anyone who lived through those days will never be the same. Yes, I remember and I want never to forget.
Kenneth S. Hemphill is the SBC’s national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth and the former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Read “Seek First” daily devotionals by Hemphill and others at www.auxanopress.com.
For complete Baptist Press coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Wedgwood shootings, go to http://bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=158.

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  • Kenneth S. Hemphill