June 25, 2015
As I was writing last week’s letter about Christian response and attitude to hardships, an extremely troubled young man walked into a Bible Study in Charleston, South Carolina, opened fire, and killed 9 people. After being captured a day later, he confessed his goal was to start a race war.
He purposely sought out an African-American church, which happened to be the oldest African-American church in the country. One victim’s son believes the real target was Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s well-known minister and a state senator. Before completing his massacre, Dylann Roof entered Emanuel AME Church and joined the study for an hour. He excused himself, retrieved his weapons, re-entered the building and began shooting. After telling one survivor he allowed her to live so she could recount the events to the world, Dylan put his gun to his head and fired. To his dismay, the gun was empty.
Dylan’s disturbing and deep-rooted racism was not enough to satisfy the endless questions. Why did these good people have to be slaughtered? Why couldn’t he have just killed himself too? What was God’s purpose of this horrific massacre? The answers were quickly revealed.
The day of the shooting, the children of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton stood bravely in front of cameras and proclaimed that even though they are deeply dismayed by the death of their mother, the love and faith in Jesus Christ that she passed on to them will see them through. A day later, as Dylann was being arraigned, one by one grieving family members stood up in court and addressed the 21-year-old suspect. One by one they said despite the tremendous pain he caused them, they forgave him. Some also urged Dylann to give his life over to Christ.
If Dylann’s gun had just had one more bullet, these family members would not have been able to share with him and the world their love and forgiveness through Christ. They would not have had the opportunity to invite Dylann to repent and turn to Christ himself. While being questioned by the police, Dylann admitted that he almost didn’t go through with the massacre because the victims had been so nice to him. By continuing that display of Christ’s love, family members heaped coals of compassion upon his head. Dylann may never seek the forgiveness of Christ or repent of his actions, but millions across the globe who heard the family members’ words may take the opportunity to seek Christ’s forgiveness in their own lives.
Here at home, hours before Dylann appeared in court, another very disturbed 21-year-old man wrote farewells to his friends through texts and on Facebook, grabbed his gun, and called the police to report “an erratic man armed with a firearm”. He called 911 twice within a 10-minute window. Officer Sonny Kim, a 27-year veteran of the police department and good friend of your father’s, responded to the call. Despite the young man’s mother desperately trying to just get him home, Trepierre Hummons broke free from her hold and shot Officer Kim. He then rushed the injured policeman to struggle with and take his gun. After using the gun to shoot Officer Kim one more time, he turned it against another officer. At this point the other officer had no choice but to eliminate the threat by killing the suspect. Now it was our turn to decide how to respond to a horrible tragedy. Would we be able to forgive, or were we going to be bitter?
Several prayer vigils were held that night for Officer Kim, one of which your father and I attended. Prayers were said for his family and support was given to his fellow officers. I, along with others, prayed also for Trepierre’s family as they are hurting as well. In particular Trepierre’s mother, who witnessed her son being shot and killed. She showed tremendous forgiveness as she opposed neighbors and family members wanting to attack the officers. She understood her son’s behavior and actions resulted in his death. Trepierre’s father was bitter at first, mostly because he at least wanted his son remembered as well. After an earlier tense exchange at a vigil that evening, he was able to return and make peace with the officers.
The community immediately opened its heart to the Kim family, raising over $130,000 through one fund alone. The University of Cincinnati extended free undergraduate tuition for any of the three Kim children who choose to go there. Over the next few weeks and months, other fundraising events are sure to occur that will only give more opportunity for the Tri-State area to express their gratitude, love and support for the Kim family.
Liberty, it is quite ironic to me that the same week I wrote to you about walking the Christian walk, two events happened where an amazing witness of love and forgiveness were displayed. One was also an extremely personal event for your father and me. The America that I know, the America that I love, was displayed and revealed on both a local and national stage.
Your dad reached out with concern and compassion for his friends on the force only to have them return that sympathy to him. They helped him through an extremely difficult time. There was no hatred or vile towards the suspect or his family but empathy and kindness for each other as a family of their own. Even one of Officer Kim’s sons wrote an extremely touching tribute to his father showing no disdain or contempt for Trepierre, but only love and thankfulness to his father.
I found hope in the actions of the victims’ families and supporters in the events of last week. I was overwhelmed by the tenderness and humanity of people who experienced tremendous pain, but displayed immense mercy. With the help of Christ, Liberty, love and forgiveness will always win out over hatred and revenge.
May all the victims Rest In Peace. Their deaths, though horribly tragic, allowed an outpouring of Christ’s love. I’m sure they are humbled and proud of the way their family and friends have expressed God’s forgiveness and concern. Because of that, their deaths were not in vain.
Liberty, life is fragile. You may only have one chance to be a witness for Christ which is why you must be that witness every day in every way.
That’s my 2 cents.
THEIR DEATHS WERE
NOT IN VAIN