Monday, April 30, 2007

The Broken And The Brave

When night falls, and the weight of this broken world presses us to the ground, every word, every glance, every breath takes on new meaning and significance. And when death tolls we become, in life's greatest irony, fully alive. We are either alive without hope or alive with confidence that outlasts the grave. But in either case we are more aware than ever of the fragility of life and the value of a single moment in time.

For those of us who follow Jesus, the truths we have professed through life either crumble beneath us, having never fully taken root in our souls, or become living fiber that literally holds us together from second to second. Songs we have sung in brighter days either still in silence or awaken with thundering resolve.

That was certainly the case Saturday night as hundreds of students gathered on Henderson Lawn, a sloping hillside nestled on the corner Virginia Tech where the campus meets Blacksburg's tiny college drag. They came together for vtOne, an event uniting all the Believers at Tech in worship and prayer and the only large student-led event sanctioned by the school since the shootings. Led by students, vtOne is all about God being glorified at Tech. And though many had just returned to campus from attending the funerals of their friends, they wanted more than anything to have the chance to worship and pray together before the semester came to a close. In what I consider one of the greatest privileges of my life, I was invited to speak to them and pastor them during this night. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I wanted to mourn with them and remind them that Virginia Tech will live again.

Driving into Blacksburg I was reminded again of the stunning beauty that this place holds. The campus stands against the backdrop of a mountainous curtain that changes with the seasons, and it's grey stone buildings and open grassy fields embody strength and grace. And spirit...do they ever have spirit...Hokie pride that pervades the university and community. But all that was shattered two weeks ago and though still proud, little slivers of grief, death and loss litter the campus.

When I arrived, three students walked the campus with me and in a heartbeat a tragic news story became a living nightmare, senseless reality everywhere before my eyes. As we headed toward Norris Hall where most of the shooting took place, Tony, a Resident Advisor in the dorm adjacent to West Ambler Johnston started talking about his friend Mary Read. A freshman from Virginia, full of life and energized by her relationship with Jesus, Mary had just changed her online profile on that fateful Monday to Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Tears filled my eyes. For one, I could hear Tony's voice shake as he spoke of someone he loved, and two, that verse was one of two specific passages God had impressed on my heart as I was preparing for my time there. And what for Mary was possible the last verse she wrote on earth was the very truth to which so many now cling in the wake of her death.

Standing near Norris everything grew still. Being there with students who could point to the broken-windowed classrooms where their friends faced death was one of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life. For now the building is a silent memorial, it's future unclear. Some think it will one day be razed, yet some students I talked to hoped it would be renamed Librescu Hall in honor of the valiant Holocaust survivor and professor who barricaded his classroom door in an attempt to save his students lives at the cost of his. From there we walked beyond the administration building to a makeshift memorial, then across campus to the very hallway in Ambler Johnston West where it all began. It wasn't an onlooker's tour of the gruesome scene, but a walk of remembrance as these students talked about those who had died, their memories of them in life and their hopes for the future of Virginia Tech.

Later that night the lawn began to fill and a band comprised of musicians from all the major Christian groups on campus played. Song after song took on a completely different light...and none more powerfully that the Australian chorus "Mighty To Save." I've sung that song in many places around the globe, but never were the words more poignant and powerful than in the midst of a hurting student body as they sang, "Savior, He can move the mountains, our God is mighty to save, He is might to save. Forever, author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave!" I'm not sure any song has ever been more potently sung, their hands raised in worship even with the memory of the grave so fresh in their minds. Yet they sang with the certainty of resurrection firm beneath their feet, and though still bearing the shock of grief and confusion, they were eager to profess in open spaces their love for the One who crushed death's power and offers life and light to all.

That's the generation we are so honored to serve. They're not perfect, nor are they fearless. Yet when the moment came and the worst mass shooting in our nation's history rocked their campus to the core they were the ones leading with truth and compassion, and what a sight it was...Henderson Lawn filled with the anthem of the broken and the brave.

Please don't forget the students of Virginia Tech. For out of the ashes glimmers of hope are already beaming.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hope For The Hokies

I'll never forget walking onto the campus of Virginia Tech for the first time over ten years ago and being stunned with the beauty of the place and the unique spirit of this collegiate community. I was there for a concert of prayer and worship that was being broadcast via satellite to other gatherings on campuses across the nation. That night, VT was a beacon to the nation.

Now the eyes of the world are on this campus and through the chaos little glimmers of light are shining. As families and friends grieve the loss of those they love the campus is trying to figure out how to move forward into more hopeful days. The mourning will last, but the story is far from over. The memory and legacy of those who have left us will endure, while those who remain will find grace to live with more urgency and love.

At some point the news story will fade and the world will move on, but in those days our hearts will remain steadfast for the Hokie family. And, though it's a small gesture, Passion has made available an EP of five songs of hope and restoration to anyone around the world looking for an anchor in these days. The EP is free at Hopeforthehokies.com.

As well, we are asking everyone in the Facebook world to help us change the face of Facebook on Monday, April 30, by changing their profile pic for at least one day to remember the Hokies and stand for hope for all the campuses of the world. If you have a Facebook, visit Facebook United For Hope, join the group and do everything you can to get your friends involved on April 30.

If you haven't checked it out, the new Passion Podcast - Hope For The Hokies - it's now available at iTunes.
Jesus is the light of the world.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Invisible Children Hosts Event To Change A Nation

You can play a part in seeing real change come to the displaced people of Northern Uganda as tens of thousands of young people unite this Saturday, April 28, in 15 cities across the nation for Displace Me. Hosted by our friends at Invisible Children (they have been a vital part of Passion global awareness effort for the past three conferences), Displace Me will allow you the opportunity to experience a taste of what life is like for the millions of refugees who have been displaced by war and are living in grave conditions.

There's still time for you to be a part of the movement and let your voice be heard. Check out how you can be involved at Invisiblechildren.com.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Just a few of the Facebook logos that span the nation...
The students of the nation stand united in the face of unspeakable confusion and sorrow, and as we pray for those who have suffered the loss of those they love we wait for glimmers of light to break through the darkness.

Many have asked what Passion is doing in the wake of these events. For now, like you, we are praying and doing all we can to encourage our friends in Blacksburg. There are amazing churches and campus ministries at Tech who are onsight and being used by God as instruments of healing and restoration. We will update you as any further plans develope.

Among other efforts, our friends at Campus Crusade are calling all students to pray tomorrow, Thursday, April 19, for the Virginia Tech campus and the campuses of the world. As these opportunities come your way, take time to join the cause and show your support for VaTech and the Kingdom of Christ which transcends campuses and nations..

If you haven't done so already, visit the Facebook Group "Passion Prays For Virginia Tech." An updating list of the confirmed deceased is posted there so you can pray for their families and friends by name.