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Letters from teens nationwide comfort Ky. families, students

WEST PADUCAH, Ky. (BP)–Even though members of Christian prayer groups in schools nationwide were shocked at the Heath High School shootings in Kentucky, it is clear they have no intention of retreating from hallways into catacombs anytime soon.
Their commitment — as well as sympathy — is reflected in more than 500 letters addressed to the families of the shooting victims and to the 30 to 40 members of the prayer group peppered by gunfire before classes began Dec. 1 at the West Paducah school.
The letters were written at the suggestion of First Priority of America, a nonprofit organization based in Franklin, Tenn., which has nurtured a network of Christian clubs on 3,000 of the nation’s 40,000 middle- and high-school campuses since its founding in 1984.
“I go to a public school and I am made fun of a lot,” wrote 13-year-old Stephanie from Hampton, Va. “But now I have been encouraged to never deny being a Christian or lower my standards for others just so they will accept me.”
Stephanie added, “I’m sure other people have been encouraged as much as I have (by your example) to do whatever it takes to show everyone about Jesus. That takes a whole lot of guts, and now so many people see how much Jesus means to us. Maybe this situation will help their walk with Christ.”
Some school groups have even gone beyond writing letters. A prayer group at a school in Kansas City, Mo., is wearing bracelets with three white beads — one each in memory of the three who died in the shooting. A group from Huntsville, Texas, donated enough money to send two representatives to the girls’ funeral Dec. 5 in Paducah, and another club made a video with personalized messages to the grieving.
While many of the letters shared pledges of recommitment to Jesus, others promised continuous prayer support for the grieving families and community.
“My church and my school stand together with you in prayer,” wrote a 15-year-old from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Citing a portion of Romans 8:15 to undergird their courage, the teen quoted: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship.”
Another teen from Peachtree City, Ga., wrote, “One day you will see your children again in heaven. My prayers and thoughts are with you always. Remember, the Lord will always protect and watch over you.”
“After praying over the situation, I knew it would be good for the kids to express their feelings,” said Benny Proffitt, First Priority’s founder and president. “This was an intimidating thing for the kids. They realized that their faith is a big deal … and that there’s an underlying anti-Christian current in America.”
Following the shooting, First Priority send faxes to its coordinators across the nation that students who felt led could write to the families of the three girls who were killed, to the five students who were wounded and others in the prayer group when the tragedy struck. The letters were mailed to First Priority and then forwarded to Paducah.
Proffitt said he was impressed by the quality of the letters. “Out of the hundreds of letters we received, only one was felt inappropriate for forwarding. These kids have responded — not in fear — but in faith,” he said.
“I hope this makes you stronger in Christ,” wrote Melissa from Fayetteville, Ga. “I hope you will keep on going to your Christian clubs. If you give up, you’re just letting the bad people win. I encourage you to continue to stand up for what we believe.”
Luke, also from Fayetteville, exhorted the teens to continue their prayer group. “I know it is going to be hard to go back to your group, but you should. If you don’t, you will be letting Satan win. We love you and are praying for you.”
Another letter had hearts drawn around 1 Corinthians 12:26 with a note from Christie of Williamsburg, Va.: “I am a member of a Christian club. We gather to pray every morning and were shocked to hear of the tragedy and loss you have suffered. Our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to you.”
Proffitt thinks the teens have set a powerful example for all Christians: “Many of us need to accept the challenge of standing up for Christ — even if it puts us in harm’s way.”

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  • Don Hinkle