By Jeff Fountain
as we were celebrating the second Sunday in Advent–and the
proclamations of the angels about ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all
men’–news came through of the shooting incident at the YWAM Denver
base. Shortly after came further reports of a second fatal attack
further south in Colorado Springs at a church closely-related to YWAM.
gunman (or gunmen) and the motives are not yet known as I write this.
Neither has the relationship between the two incidents been established.
we are shocked. We are grieved. Our hearts go out to those directly
involved, particularly the families of the two young YWAMers who died
in surgery from their wounds in Denver. Tiffany
Johnson (26), from Minnesota, and Phil Kraus (24), from Alaska, both
passed away in hospital. Two other young men, aged 22 and 23,
lie wounded in hospital.
later in Colorado Springs, two teenage sisters were shot dead in the
parking lot of the New Life Centre. The gunman himself was felled soon
after by a female security guard as he entered the church building
where 7000 people were present. The girls’ father still lies
on top of these shocks, more distressing news arrives as I am writing
this piece. Maris Dzelsz, our YWAM leader in Latvia, simply failed to
wake up this morning in his bed, after arriving home from America two
days ago! Maris, in his late 40’s, leaves behind his wife Judite, five
children and a grandchild.
was certainly not the Christmas we were looking forward to! Questions
jostle for answers in our minds. Why? Why would anyone do such a evil
thing? Tiffany and Phil were simply cleaning up after a Christmas party
when the midnight killer arrived. Why these young lives, dedicated to
missions?. Why did God allow those two sisters to be killed? Why was
Maris taken from his family when there was still so much for this
energetic visionary to do in his country, so much life to enjoy with
do such things happen? And why at Christmas? Isn’t Christmas all about
peace on earth? Wasn’t that the meaning of the coming of Jesus, the
Prince of Peace? Didn’t Jesus come to defeat sin, death and the devil?
So why all the evil around us still? Why Iraq? Why Afghanistan? Why
Dafur? Why Zimbabwe? Why Kosovo? Did Jesus fail in his mission??!
we forget the violent side of the Christmas story. It disturbs our
warm, cosy, sentimental family celebrations. But there is
a dark side to Advent. And it reminds us that we remain in a deadly
serious battle. We have a deadly adversary. And we are all infected by
a deadly virus. That was the reality two thousand years ago. That is
still the reality today.
At this time
of the year, we love to quote such verses as, ‘For unto us
a child is born...’ from
Isaiah’s ninth chapter. And rightly so!But we often forget the context
of violence of this verse: references to the rod of the oppressor, the
warrior’s boot and garments rolled in blood. Somehow the birth of this
child is linked to the defeat of such very real enemies.
Revelation chapter 12, we read of a dragon waiting to devour this
new-born babe, this ‘male child, the son who was to rule all
nations with an iron sceptre’
(v.5). Matthew gives us insight into this scenario. He describes
Herod’s fury at the news of the birth of a rival king, and his order to
murder all male babies. The evangelist in turn quotes Jeremiah 31:15,
prophesying a sobbing, lamenting Rachel, ‘weeping for
her children, refusing to be comforted because they were no more.’
Even Advent itself brought violence. This gruesome scene has been the
subject of painters through the centuries, including the Peter Paul
Rubens painting shown here.
himself warned us that we could expect violence, persecution,
imprisonment and even death when we followed him in obedience.
Following him would mean the path of suffering. For creation would
remain in its fallen state; sin, death and the devil would continue to
wreak havoc; wars and persecutions would keep on disrupting human
life–until the Day of the Lord, when the books of history are finally
first coming, as a vulnerable babe, began the redemption plan for the
human race–indeed for the cosmos. The God-child was the one solution
for sin, death and the devil.
mission is to take this message to everyone everywhere. That mission
was what Tiffany, Phil and Maris committed their lives to do. It is the
one solution for violence–at Advent or any other time of the year. And
we continue to live in the expectancy, the hope, of that day when the
angels’ proclamations of ‘peace on earth’ will be fulfilled.
comfort in today’s reading from the Moravian Daily Texts:
the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
YWAM Staff Killed in Denver - official YWAM press release
and Mission Killings linked - according to police
investigation (AP report)
Colorado Gunman Scared
Co-Workers 5 years
ago (Assist News Service)