Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blacksburg Update #2

I thought I would post one more update from our friends who minister to international students at Virginia Tech.

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

We thank you for your concerns, prayers, calls and emails since the tragic events of Monday. I know some of you are already overwhelmed with emails, but others have requested continuous updating from us. So we continue to send frequent updates to all of our supporters and prayer team.

Grieving Friends
I mentioned grieving friends in last night's email, but I would like to request prayer again for Chum, our Vietnamese friend and partner in international ministry. We talked to her today at the noon-time prayer meeting. Chum and Lauren were close, and Lauren's death has been very difficult for her. We were with Chum and Lauren a couple of weeks ago at an international social event. Lauren's heart for internationals was evident. PLEASE PRAY for Chum, Lauren's family, and many others who are grieving the loss of this sweet Christian young lady.

Praying Together
We attended a noon-time prayer meeting today on the campus drillfield. The event was organized through the Campus Ministers Association, which means it was a "multi-faith" gathering (you may get that angle from the news media). However, the actual praying occurred in groups, so we prayed to the one true God among brothers and sisters in Christ. After the time of prayer, Franklin Graham (who had come surprisingly) spoke words of encouragement without wavering from the fact that true peace and hope is found only in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. PLEASE PRAY that the gospel would bring forth fruit and encouragement in the hearts of the hearers.

Opportunities for Witness
Before and after the prayer meeting, several brothers and sisters were interviewed by various news agencies. Our coworker Sonja was interviewed by news media such as ABC, the Washington Post, and a Fox News affiliate; and various journalists (including some from South Korea, Japan, and Chile). They were particularly interested after they learned she was involved in international student ministry. She talked about her involvement with internationals and also about the shame/honor value base culture of the Koreans (see below). She may be interviewed by Fox News later. Sonja told us afterwards, "I told them that I was a Hokie, this was my community, these were my people, my family, and I also had Hokie pride, and that could cause me to feel good for a moment, but as a Christian, my faith and hope is in God through faith in Jesus Christ ... and He is the only one who can give us lasting hope, peace, encouragement, strength and purpose." PRAY that these words may be heard clearly. PRAY that the witness of Christians would be broadcast widely for the glory of God.

Ministering to the Needs of Internationals
As we previously reported, the tragic events of Monday did not physically harm any internationals we know. There were a few who suffered the loss of a friend or advisor, but the need for counseling among our groups has not been great thus far. At present, the greater need for ministry relates to the identity of the gunman. On Tuesday, someone had falsely reported that the gunman was a Chinese national. This stirred up fear among many of the Chinese. When the gunman was identified as Korean, the Koreans began to feel uncomfortable. Though the gunman was a resident of the U.S, who lived here since age 8, many Koreans felt a sense of shared responsibility and shame. This is evident in the magnitude of good will actions of South Korea since the gunman was identified. Individualistic Americans cannot relate to this, but it's real. Numerous Koreans have left town, and others are anxious because of a sense of collective shame and/or fear of reprisal. The fear of reprisal has affected other Asians too. PLEASE PRAY for us as we seek to reassure our Korean (and other Asian) neighbors of our care for them. We (a group of Christian leaders) plan to begin this process by communicating with the Korean Christian community.

It's Far From Over
We expected the days immediately following the massacre to be very intense as people dealt with the shock of the tragedy. However, in our case, it seems that the coming days will be more involved. Many students have left town, and the feel on campus has changed (classes are canceled until Monday). Michele took one on-campus international student to the airport this morning, so she could fly to see a friend. She felt uncomfortable on campus. As the reality of this tragedy continues to settle in, we anticipate an increasing impact on many of the students. We trust that this also means increased opportunities for sharing the love and hope that is in Christ. PLEASE PRAY that we and other ministers will have Spirit-led sensitivity and wisdom in the days ahead. PLEASE PRAY for us in our interactions with our international friends. Also, with regular events coming up (the Friday night Bible study and Coffee & Tea, and the Sunday morning fellowship), we need God's guidance and empowerment to make the most of these opportunities.

We are thankful for the many notes of encouragement. We have received emails from all over the world, many from brothers and sisters we don't know. We continue to pray that God will use this event for His good purposes in the Blacksburg community and beyond. May the church be revived, may many be drawn to Him, and may God be glorified in all the earth.

Thank you again for your encouragement and prayers.

In His Mighty Hand,
Jay (& Michele & Ellen)