Leaning on Jesus After the Oregon Community College Shooting

Image: Ryan Kang / Associated Press
Image: Ryan Kang / Associated Press

As our community reels from a brutal tragedy, we’re learning to lean on Jesus and each other.

The first text message arrived on my phone only moments after first the pull of the trigger. Though the text’s details were inaccurate, they stopped me in my tracks. My mind raced and froze at the same time. I knew I had to respond but I didn’t know where to begin. I jumped in my car and headed back to my office. When I arrived my staff was in a prayer circle. At least we knew where to start.

My daughter asked if people would remember the shooting at Umpqua Community College on October 1, 2015 like they remember 9/11. “Most people will not,” I told her. “But, you will.” Last week Roseburg, Oregon shot onto the world’s stage when a gunman walked on to the campus of the serene school and murdered nine, physically injured nine, and ended his own life.

I am a pastor. I have been one for over 12 years. I moved to Roseburg in 1991 when I was in middle school, the same age my daughter is now. I finished high school and began attending Umpqua Community College studying drama and music. I eventually moved to Chicago, studied pastoral ministry at Moody Bible Institute and served at Willow Creek Community Church as a member of the drama team for a few years. My wife and I moved back to Roseburg when she was pregnant because we wanted to be near family for the birth of our first child. We never expected to stay and make this community our home, but we have, and it is.

I have served on staff at two thriving churches in Douglas County: Family Church and Redeemer’s Fellowship. This has helped me forge deep relationships with multiple pastors and churches. Healthy relationships and trust have helped pave the way for our collaborative and coordinated response to this shooting and the healing journey we are on.

No one is prepared for something like this. Getting crisis and trauma training is useful. But when the pain and suffering move from a book or slideshow and onto the faces and into the lives of the people you know and love, everything changes.

I have sat with victims of the shooting, family members, witnesses, and first responders. I have felt the pain now etched on the hearts and minds of people who will carry tragic and horrific images for the rest of their lives. Though my graduate degree is in counseling, I feel ill equipped.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Leadership Journal
Hugh Heinrichsen