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.


  • wow. Thank you for that. Amidst all the doubt that I (and the leadership core) had about this event being even worthwhile, we can't help but see the proof that we did the right thing and were faithful to God. Thanks! -Josh

    By Blogger bleeper4, at 4/30/2007 7:52 PM  

  • great post louie. and i can only imagine how greatful the people at VT are for being able to here you speak the encouraging words of Christ to them during this difficult and hard time. Thanks for being such an encouragement during this time cause even for a person who wasnt there it is hard to deal with and I just say thanks. hope all is well at the Passion house and def. be praying for Thirsty : )

    made to worship,

    By Anonymous rachael, at 4/30/2007 8:33 PM  

  • Louie thanks for taking the time to just be there and listen to their stories. Im glad that you made the journey there even with a busy schedule. Blessings to you and all at Passion House!!!!

    By Blogger WORSHIPPAINTER, at 4/30/2007 9:55 PM  

  • louie... you have such a busy schedule, but I'm so happy that you made the journey to share these stories with us on the blog... can't wait for thirsty this week...

    By Blogger The BOB-O, at 4/30/2007 10:18 PM  

  • Thanks for sharing Louie! Sounds like a very special moment ... thank you for reminding us that there is always hope regardless of the circumstance. I know I can easily forget the hope that is found in Jesus.

    I will definitely be praying for you and the team as you seek to minister and to equip college leaders this week. I trust it will be a blessed time! :)

    By Anonymous Matt, at 4/30/2007 10:48 PM  

  • wow. simply stunning. i, along with the rest of this generation, will continue to pray for those at VTech.

    I find it amazing that you mentioned "Mighty To Save." That next morning (Sunday morn), at my church in MA, my worship band introduced and taught our congregation that very song in hopes that it would both lift the spirits of those suffering from cancer in our church, and also lift the Mighty Savior who has the power to heal and save and breathe life and light into pain and darkness. It was an incredible moment, and now having read about those at Virginia Tech singing out this truth in this dark time...wow. Wow. Just...wow.

    By Blogger Joe, at 4/30/2007 10:53 PM  

  • i know that i already commented and all that but i just had to tell u again louie how powerful this post is...i've just been having a hard past few days, nothing compared to what these people at VT have been through but i just wanted to let you know that ur are an encouraging force and i thanku a million times over for reaching out to us college age kids through the blog and facebook and all that. thanks louie so much. and i listened to mighty to save in a whole new way today. thanks a million.

    made to worship,

    By Anonymous rachael, at 5/01/2007 12:37 AM  

  • Thanks for that, Louie. It's really uplifting to know that God is being worshipped at VT and what an honor to be able to speak God's words of truth. Indeed God is mighty to save and I know He will triumph in our generation and those to come! My heart is for VT to know Him more even in a tragedy like this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/01/2007 12:55 AM  

  • Louie, I can't even begin to tell you how appreciative I am that you took the time out of your schedule to visit with the body of Christ at VT. vtONE was one of my most ardent passions in building up while in school and you one of my chief heroes. Thank you for visiting the infamous buildings with the hurting. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    By Blogger Matt, at 5/01/2007 1:34 AM  

  • Louie, thanks! Wow, He is mighty to save indeed! I am amazed at how He weaves His tapestry of grace and sovereignty through our lives. Thank you for surrendering yourself to it.

    By Blogger Dan, at 5/01/2007 11:22 AM  

  • thank you louie for being there.... thank you so much for the report on how the students who follow Jesus are being led in compassion.. continuing to pray that they hunger for God's revelations and act on them as He leads.

    the One who can move the mountains - this is the great God we serve!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/01/2007 11:37 AM  

  • Thank you so much for sharing this with us... the testimony about Mary's verse pierced my heart... HIS WORD never fails - it's so amazing to see His truths are coming to light...

    Praying for VT.

    By Blogger Sandra R., at 5/01/2007 1:12 PM  

  • How beautifully the hand of God moves. My friend's son was good friends with Mary Read. She gave him a tour of VT a few months ago as he wanted to apply there. He has been heart-broken since her death. This morning I printed your blog for his dad to give to him. His dad was choked up when I read what you wrote about Mary. Of all the students that you could have mentioned, you mentioned Mary. And your mention of her and Psalm 34:18 is no doubt blessing my friend and his son. Thank You!

    By Blogger Prov31J, at 5/01/2007 3:44 PM  

  • i love what you said about the truths we profess becoming the living fiber that holds us together.. especially in the most difficult situations, what a reminder.
    i can only imagine what it was like on Henderson Lawn this past weekend, praise God for his people standing firm. Mighty to save indeed! continually praying..

    By Blogger steph hsieh, at 5/02/2007 3:53 AM  

  • what other scripture did God give you for VT, louie?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/02/2007 4:35 PM  

  • Wow, Louie - that's amazing. Praise God that we can trust in His name in such tough times.

    Have you seen this yet? http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Story?id=2833103&page=1

    By Blogger Phillip, at 5/03/2007 9:34 AM  

  • We will not forget.

    Wow. That is truly inspiring to me. To think of fellow college students who have experienced that valley worshiping our God in the midst of all this is more than powerful. It causes me to want to strive to praise Him all the more. I know that God is working here and there is no doubt in my mind that He is bringing about His purposes as He works His rescue in this world. Let's be devoted to Him together and continue to pray for VT and our generation.


    By Blogger Kyle, at 5/04/2007 11:19 PM  

  • the love of God, so big that time cannot contain it, and so powerful that death could not overcome it, and so sharp, it penetrates and changes the lives of people for generations

    By Blogger sam, at 5/05/2007 9:11 AM  

  • still praying and believing for VT!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/05/2007 11:33 AM  

  • Bless you! Keep on with the "confidence that outlasts the grave." I truly wish I could have been there.

    By Anonymous Kurt, at 5/06/2007 2:46 PM  

  • I was also on the VT campus that night, my wife and I were there as chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response team to pray with people after Louie spoke. We arrived the previous Wed. and were honored to be ministering on campus. Louie's ministry that night was powerful and obviously inspired by Jesus. Thanks Louie for responding and being there on such short notice. It was a tremendous blessing to all who were there that night.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 5/06/2007 7:32 PM  

  • My husband and I and several from our church were there on Henderson Lawn at Saturday night. I must say that I felt very honored that Louie Giglio could take time out of his schedule to speak to our grieving community. I have heard you speak a few times before and was very excited for our students to be able to see you. As I looked around at the students on the lawn that night my heart was touched to see their love for God show in their faces as they worshiped him through song and prayer. Thank you so much for bringing healing words to our town!!

    By Anonymous Vicki, at 5/07/2007 11:01 AM  

  • Hey Louis and Gang,
    Did you see the report on MSN news about the Pope's comments on Brazil? Interesting...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/09/2007 6:32 PM  

  • still praying

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/10/2007 12:55 AM  

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