Oregon congregants forgive the killer who targeted Christians

Given the bloody mayhem and the media sharks circling in the water there isn’t much to say about the aftermath of the Oregon shooting which doesn’t center on tragedy. But the human spirit is an amazing thing and some of the area residents are reacting just as you might expect (or at least hope) that Christian souls would in the face of darkness and despair. They are buttressing their faith and are ready to forgive the man who targeted their brothers and sisters in Christ for murder. (Yahoo News)

Two days earlier, the pastor had counseled families of the victims, and one day earlier, he had prayed with survivors as they rode on a school bus to retrieve their belongings from the crime scene. Now it was Saturday morning, time to lead his church, and pastor Lonnie Wibberding stepped in front of his small congregation and bowed his head.

“We now know that this was an attack on all of us here,” he said…

“Prayer is what we need,” one congregant said, quoting from a text message she had just received from the mother of a shooting victim.

“I want to pray for all people who hate Christians,” another congregant said.

The shooting has also inspired the congregation to take on the hard task of self-examination and question precisely how strong their faith would be in the face of imminent death. It’s a question which other Christians have faced around the world, particularly when confronted with the evil of ISIS, but now it’s come home to a sleepy, rural town in Oregon.

Moore had been a member of an Adventist congregation for most of her life. Her faith had helped to sustain her through several divorces and a recent health crisis, friends said. Now those same friends wondered whether her faith had also played a role in her death.

“Those people who stood up, they are the bravest people in the world,” said Sonia Gagliano, a congregant who had left her Writing 121 class at Umpqua moments before the shooting began. “I hope I would have stood up. I hope we can all stand up now.”

That’s probably one of the toughest questions anyone will ever have to face. The story centers on Lonnie Wibberding, a pastor who had only recently moved to Oregon from Washington State where he had previously worked in the IT industry. When the attack took place, Lonnie immediately moved to head toward the danger and not away, volunteering to sit with the families waiting for news of their relatives who had not yet emerged from the school and then offering counseling to those who received the worst news possible.

Lonnie’s story is an amazing one and reflects well on the community as a whole. His actions, along with the reaction of his flock as they reach out to help the community start out on the path to healing, provides room for a bit of faith in humanity even as we come to grips with the evil that resides in a few monsters among us. There may have been one madman in this community, but there are truly more than a few heroes.

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