Monday was an unusually warm and sunny day for this time of year in Michigan. Because of the great weather, many of the students on campus were out and about enjoying the warmer temperatures, going on walks, and spending time outdoors.
Pastor Leeroy Hernandez (CAMPUS Missionary Training Program Director) and I had just finished meetings on campus and arrived at our respective homes when we received news that an active shooter opened fire on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU).
The Michigan Conference owns the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (CAMPUS) located across the street from the university—just a block away from where the first shooting took place a little after 8:00 PM. It’s a student-led center of influence, known as the “CAMPUS House,” and it provides dormitory space for student missionaries who take a year off to serve the public college campus community. It also has office space for our staff in addition to areas for student ministry to take place.
The second shooting took place a block and a half away at the union building where our missionaries and students give weekly bible studies to the university community. Our Michigan Conference public campus ministry team is the largest in the North American Division, with four full-time workers. Our close connection with the University Church of East Lansing has also strengthened the connection with the community at large. Currently, the pastor of the University Church is also the chaplain of the East Lansing Police Department.
Michigan’s foresight and investment in public campus ministry provided the opportunity for the church to respond in timely fashion to the needs of our students and their friends during this traumatic time. Michigan State is the largest public university in our territory and has an Adventist student organization on campus that meets regularly.
A few of our Adventist students and their friends were in immediate danger during periods of the unfortunate event. Unfortunately, there were some fatalities and injuries that resulted from this incident. To our knowledge, none of our Adventist students were injured. However, two of the five students who were wounded are friends of our student leaders. hey were in critical condition and underwent surgery, but now appear to be in stable condition. Please keep them in your prayers.
Yesterday, our missionaries made “care packages” for students and the University Church hosted the only vigil on campus. Jeremy Hall, superintendent of Adventist schools as well as Cheli Ringstaff, the Adventist Community Services director, provided support to a small group of students. Tammy Conway also led young people as they processed yesterday’s tragedy. She’s a certified grief specialist.
The Michigan Conference “village” literally rallied to support our Spartan community. The Michigan Conference president prayed as we were making plans, colleagues from the office shared encouragement and professional services, our literature ministries team created packets of literature offering hope and encouragement to students, and pastors traveled from Detroit and Ann Arbor to support our student group.
This weekend we are having a winter retreat with Debbie Michel (Communication director, Lake Union) and her husband, Jean Michel. We are asking those of you who know of students at MSU or others public campuses in Michigan to invite these young people to attend. It’ll provide time for healing, as well as spiritual, emotional, and physical revival. We’ll be waiving registration fees for MSU students. The retreat will be held in a peaceful setting at Camp Au Sable in Grayling Michigan.
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