Hopefulness in the Midst of Tragedy

Rev. Bill Moberly, Associate Pastor of Senior Adult Ministries & Visitation at St. Matthew’s UMC, offered this reflection to his District Superintendent Jeff Mickle. Jeff asked that we post it to our newsletter and online. 

Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33

The most recent senseless school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas claimed the lives of ten students and teachers.  Among the students was Sabika Sheikh, an international exchange student from Pakistan. Sabika was part of a large State Department sponsored program that placed hundreds of international students in community schools around the U.S. The students in the program are among the brightest and most talented students in their home countries.  Over a million students apply for this program and the selected students are highly motivated and have a keen desire to come and experience American culture. Sabika was a part of this impressive group.

Sabika Sheikh

In late May, the students in the exchange program returned to Washington D.C. after spending a year in small town American High Schools.  This was the first time in a year that they had seen their friends and been able to speak their native languages.  The program managers in Washington had informed all of the students of the tragic death of Sabika via email and they were understandably anxious about the emotional well-being of the students. Through a series of God-moment connections, I was asked to be present at the arrival of the students in anticipation that they might want to talk with someone about the tragedy.  I spent the evening watching them and listening to the joy they shared in being back together and being one step closer to going home. I was looking for the kids who might seem distraught, alone or upset in any way.  There were none. The kids were caring for each other, sharing their stories and recounting their American adventures.

In the main room of their housing facility where they were housed were several boards on which the students were asked to write about their experiences, their host families and what the year in America had inspired within them. The boards were covered with words like “make the world a better place”, “share love”, “improve my community” and “foster friendships around the world”.  Their comments about their host families showed that they felt loved, cared for and part of the American family and community.  My favorite word in the world showed up on the boards over and over again.  That word was “Kindness”.  It was stated many ways but my favorite phrase was “overcome hatred and violence through Kindness”. These are the type of words that are unlikely to appear on the nightly news where every story is negative, invokes fear, and paints a bleak picture of the world’s youth and their future.

These exceptional students are part of the answer to the hopelessness that the media and world would have us believe.  Their caring interaction with each other gave me hope and was a powerful reminder that love wins. The world lies to us.  There is far more goodness in the world than we are led to believe.  The Spiritual answer to the world’s falsehoods is that we must center ourselves in God and remember that when the world shouts that it is impossible to solve the disturbing issues of our time, Jesus says, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”  We in turn can boldly answer, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Memories of Sabika will always remind me of this.

—   Rev. Bill