On Monday, December 8, 1997, tragedy struck Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. According to Roy Maynard in World magazine, a small group of students, who conducted a daily prayer meeting in a hallway near the administrative offices, finished their morning prayers and were about to head off to classes. Shortly after the final amen, it is alleged that a freshman named Michael, whom the prayer group leader had befriended earlier in the year, opened fire at the students with a .22-caliber automatic.
The group’s leader, Ben Strong, called out, “Mike, what are you doing?” and walked toward him. After firing ten rounds, Michael finally dropped his gun. Ben Strong walked up and put his arms around the gunman, urging him to clam down.
Three students were killed in the shooting spree, and five were wounded, including one paralyzed.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, pastors and youth ministers were called in to counsel the students. According to one counselor, “The thing the kids are asking most is ‘Why?’ And all I can tell them is that what Satan means for evil, God can bring good out of. And it’s already heppening.”
“The morning prayer meetings,” writes Maynard, “usually attract 25 to 30 kids; on Tuesday morning, nearly half the school-more than 250 students-attended. A number of the youth ministers who have compared notes all say that they’ve led kids to Christ in the aftermath of the shooting.”
Said Ben Strong, “God’s the only one we can turn to in something like this, and a lot of people are turning to him. I believe God can bring revival out of this.”
Whatever happens, one thing is sure: good can overcome evil. Fifteen-year-old Melissa Jenkins, paralyzed in the shootings, was one of the first victims to send a message to the assailant: “Tell Michael I forgive him.”