It’s Thursday morning, July 26. Six days have passed since the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo.
I am standing at the bedside of Steffon Moton on the third floor of the ICU of the Medical Center of Aurora (South).
I am holding the shaking hands of Steffon’s grief-stricken parents, James Washington and Paula Moton. Together we cry out to God for a miracle.
We have all been doing a lot more praying since the shooting.
Our church, The Potter’s House of Denver, sits less than five miles from the Century 16 movie theater. Our sanctuary doors have been open daily since July 20, the day of the rampage.
Our pews are lined daily with masses of people who come together for no other reason than to huddle as a community and to pray and to seek counsel and find solace in the midst of the storm.
My church houses a free professional counseling center where our heroic grief counselors have kicked into high gear standing at-the-ready like therapeutic sentries.
They line the sanctuary walls, ready to offer support to people who are coping with a collective grief that fills every eye with tears and every heart with sadness and hard questions.
The counselors are helping the people walk through the stages of their grief, helping them to cope with the shock, anger, the internal bargaining and depression that comes when a town is confronted with senseless violence and the loss of 12 innocent lives.
My pastoral team has been praying with the people in our pews and at the hospitals.
Trained ministers have been helping ordinary people to confront their fears with faith and teaching them to turn their anger into positive action, under extremely extraordinary circumstances.
Action unites neighbors in the common knowledge that we need each other now more than ever. We are encouraging the people that we can survive even this, if we hold on to one another and hold to our faith.
I am teaching my parishioners and those that come to our daily prayer vigils not to blame God for this tragedy. Rather, the blame is to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the accused gunman, a man who utilized his God-given gift of freewill and volition to inflict so much pain on others.
As pastors, we can offer a solace found in the promise of the Scriptures. We instill in our pastorate that even in the “valley of the shadow of death,” our God has not abandoned his people (Psalm 23:4).
In this our darkest hour, we light candles to honor the lost. We preach hope to the living, because this is what I believe the church is called to do in times like this.
It was at the altar following our Wednesday night service on July 25 that Steffon Moton’s family asked for me to visit their son in the hospital. Early the next morning I grabbed my Bible and went.
Steffon Moton is one of the 58 wounded survivors.
The accused gunmen shot him in the upper arm. The bullet however traveled up his shoulder and into his neck and severed his spine.
Steffon is paralyzed from his shoulders down and dependent upon breathing machines to supply his very next breath.
When I walked into his room Steffon smiled at me from beneath a tangle of ventilation tubes. His handsome brown, 18 year-old face was almost totally concealed beneath a mummy-roll of bandages.
As I stared into his eyes, I was struck by the fact that he is only a few months older than my eldest son.
I began to pray for Steffon like he is my own son. I began to seek heaven fervently for help.
Through tears I thanked God that he is still alive. I thanked God that his family and friends can still kiss him and touch him and talk to him. And I thanked God that his life didn’t end on the floor of that dark theatre.
I thanked God for the Aurora police officers that arrived at the scene so quickly and that the hospital was less than 3 miles away, and that the EMT’s and the hospital staff were trained and ready to save his life, and the lives of so many others.
And then I prayed that God would do what the best of surgeons are not able to do - to repair his spine. I prayed that God would knit back together a spinal column that the gunman’s bullet destroyed. I prayed for Steffon’s healing and restoration.
But my prayer is not just for Steffon Moton, it was also for all of Aurora.
I prayed for the miracle of healing and restoration and that the severed emotional spine of our community would be healed by the hand of the Great Physician and that one day, one day soon, our community would rise and stand up again.