As the devastating news of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, spread across the nation last year, National Christian Foundation staff and givers at our South Florida office gathered with their community to help.
Together, they organized a prayer vigil, set up an assistance fund, and grief counseling for the victims and their families. Stephan Tchividjian, President of NCF South Florida, explained that Christians are instructed to be instruments of the peace and hope of Jesus. “In times of crisis, we must run into the fire, not away from it. We must leave our cocoons and move into the face of tragedy to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Tchividjian and other NCF givers had already been involved in helping a partnership of local churches and ministry leaders across denominations to break down walls to serve the communities of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade County. The group, which calls itself Church United, promotes an adopt-a-school program and was prepared to respond immediately.
In times of crisis, we must run into the fire, not away from it.
The group organized a prayer vigil at a local church the day after the shooting. More than 1,000 mourners, including governor Rick Scott, several congressmen and local mayors, gathered to pray. They worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to provide counseling and care to the victims’ families, students, faculty, and others through the ministry’s mobile care unit.
While those immediate measures were helpful, Church United continued working, long after the tragedy was no longer in the headlines. Laurie Farquhar, Chief Strategy Officer at NCF South Florida, said, “As always, our goal is to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our community to ensure that love is greater than evil and that peace is found, even in the midst of violence.”
Over the course of the last year, the group has worked hard to bring peace to the community. Church United hosted “Hope and Healing” events for students and first responders and sent 500 volunteers, as well as $100,000 to complete a landscaping project before school started, so students would see a fresh and beautiful school when they started the new year. They invited students to participate in community revitalization activities and to distribute food. And the students came.
Church United sent 500 volunteers and $100,000 to renovate the exterior of the high school.
The organization is still funding counseling for students who are struggling with PTSD. And today, they met at the school and at a nearby park to join in supporting students during events there. The organization has arranged teacher- and staff-appreciation lunches and provided $10,000 “teacher creativity grants,” so the school can buy fresh lesson plans and supplies.
Additionally, NCF South Florida convened all the on-campus ministries from schools across the county to work on a joint strategy, uniting efforts for a stronger Christian influence. NCF funded a strategic planning facilitator over the last nine months, to lead the collaboration of these groups: First Priority, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth for Christ, Live the Life, Taylor’s Closet, and Firewall Centers.
As the work has continue, the group recognized the need for available funds to enable them to respond as quickly to community needs that might arise in the future. So, Church United’s Community Crisis Fund remains open for contributions.
Please join us in continuing to pray for all who have been affected by this tragedy.