In light of the recent school shootings at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, Tom and Cathy Benzler share how they have responded to the needs on the Lower Elwha Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula. “We have experienced 14 deaths this year on the reservation, so when the school shooting occurred, it left people all the more numb with grief and disbelief. A number of the Native residents called us right away. Call after call, they poured out their sorrow. All we could do was listen and pray. There are so few answers to a tragedy like this.”
Jaylen Fryberg, a 14-year-old student and member of the Tulalip Tribe, shot five classmates (two of whom were his cousins) and himself in the school cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Four of the victims died and the fifth victim is in serious condition. Jaylen Fryberg also died.
Shortly after the tragedy, Tom and Cathy were invited to a prayer circle on the Lower Elwha Reservation. Residents shared their sorrow and expressed what was most on their hearts about this incident.
All of the residents grieve over the young people whose lives were cut short and for the families of the victims whose lives will never be the same. Some of those present expressed a concern for retaliation for the shootings. Others were frustrated that Natives are remembered for the bad that happens, never the good. One Native said aloud, “How can anyone get through this without Jesus?”
Thanks be to God, Tom and Cathy have been present for Natives in this community for five-plus years. Through their Hope House ministry, they provide help with food, clothing and other tangible needs, make weekly visits to the sick and offer prayer and weekly Bible studies. So, it was especially comforting for the Benzlers to see the community react in faith, knowing that Jesus truly is the One to see them through this.
Tom and Cathy led everyone in prayer, asking Jesus for healing for all the hurt expressed both in words and in tears, and they prayed for direction for their lives, especially for the younger generations.
The Benzlers also request your support in prayer for the Lower Elwha Tribe, the Tulalip Tribe where the tragedy occurred and for all the surrounding Pacific Northwest Native communities.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
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