We were reminded over the last week that campuses are, occasionally, places of tragedy – and because of the “tribal” nature of these close-knit communities, that tragedy is experienced differently than in other places.

The shootings in Isla Vista, home of University of California Santa Barbara, have already led to a shut-down of classes in lieu of a “Day of Mourning and Reflection.” A campus memorial service was followed last night by a night of unified worship and prayer, held by the various members of the college ministry community.

I experienced the same sort of response while a student at Texas A&M in 1999, when twelve of our fellow Aggies were killed in an on-campus accident. Then, on my yearlong research trip, I had the chance to discuss Virginia Tech’s 2007 shootings with campus ministers there, only a handful of months after that event.

We who are part of the collegiate ministry field should “weep with those who weep” in times like these. It’s helpful to see the response of groups like InterVarsity, and I’m hopeful they’ll report on how the worship and prayer event went last night.

Here are some ways to check in to the Gaucho tribe; their reactions are helpful for knowing how to pray and how to respond when big events happen on our own campuses.

The InterVarsity Intercessor email from yesterday (you can subscribe here)

Dear friends,

Please join us in praying for the UCSB campus community.

As many of you are aware, the UC Santa Barbara campus experienced a tragedy Friday evening when a Santa Barbara City College student living in the Isla Vista community adjacent to UCSB went on a rampage killing six UCSB students before taking his life.

The Chancellor of UCSB has cancelled classes for today, Tuesday, May 27, 2014, and declared today a Day of Mourning and Reflection. A memorial service organized by faculty, staff and students will be held at 4pm in a campus stadium and will be telecast live at http://gauchocast.ucsb.edu/events/livehd.

I spoke yesterday with Melissa Nguyen, the team leader at UCSB.  She expressed appreciation for the many InterVarsity friends and UCSB alumni who have contacted her and others in the chapter in the wake of the slayings.   She said that the InterVarsity chapter is helping coordinate a joint campus Christian fellowship service of prayer and worship at 7pm tonight. They are hoping for the Chancellor to announce the joint Christian fellowship prayer service at the campus-wide memorial event in the afternoon.

Please pray that that happens. As well, chapter members will be going out into the streets of Isla Vista today to pray and offer to pray with students.

Melissa is not sure that UCSB students will really engage this tragedy in a deep or personal way. My sense is that students will quickly move on without dealing with the pain, so the ‘God- window’ is short.”  She asks that we:

  • pray that students will in fact be reflective and open to Jesus.
  • pray for wisdom for herself and the student leaders as they find ways to  minister to the campus well.
  • pray for students in the InterVarsity chapter at UCSB and our staff who work there: Melissa, Dylan Van Lant, Matt Rogers and Sarah Reddix.

This tragic event touches each of us as InterVarsity staff in Southern California  in our work mentoring, discipling, pastoring and loving students on our own campuses.    As the parent of a UC student away at college, I find it particularly unimaginable and heart-breaking.    The psalmist reassures his audience that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted, saves the crushed in spirit and binds up their wounds (Ps. 34:18, 147:3).   This week let us pray for the Lord’s mercy within the UCSB community and for the InterVarsity chapter to be a witness to this God who heals the brokenhearted.

Peace,

Tom Allen
Regional Director, Southern California