Contextualizing Tragedy

This post may just be cathartic.

I’m a writer.  When I’m upset, aggravated, frustrated or out of answers, I write.  It’s what I do.  It’s how I best communicate with the world and with Jesus.  So these words may just be a therapeutic discussion among rural youth ministers.  If so, I hope you take something away from the conversation or at least add something in the comments.

I struggle with the events like those in Boston this week.  I don’t struggle with the purpose.  Regardless of who is at fault, ultimately I know evil is the culprit.  Evil exists in the world, and evil beings seek to harm innocent people.  That was true on September 11, at Columbine, at Newtown and in Boston this week.  I don’t struggle with that concept.

What I struggle with is contextualizing the Boston bombing with my rural students.  Let’s be honest.  The chance of my small town experiencing a terrorist attack is 0.000000000001 percent.  Even that might be exaggerating a little bit.  We have four buildings in town – the post office, the liquor store and two churches.  Everything else is residential housing and farm land.  There is nothing to bomb.  It would take the media a while to get here to cover it.  There is NO reason for a terrorist attack here.

Terrorism is about large targets in populated places with lots of media exposure.  Terrorists want to hurt as many people as possible in front as many eyeballs as possible.  That’s how they create terror.  They want people to fear congregating in large areas.  They want to make a statement with numbers.

I know that.  Parents here know that.  My students know that.  They live in a safe, isolated place in America.  Storms pose threats.  Fires are dangerous.  Alcohol and drugs are real problems.  Terrorism, though, never crosses one of our students’ minds.

That’s the beauty of living in rural America.  To a certain degree, there is safety in small town life.

So, then, how do I, as a rural youth minister, contextualize the Boston bombings with students who have no fear of experiencing terrorism?   They see the images on TV.  They read the tweets on Twitter.  It’s something they’ll be talking about in school, at home and with their friends.  We need to discuss it in our churches with a proper Biblical view.

So how do we do that when our students will not experience that type of daily fear?

Perhaps it’s in relating that ultimately God is in control of all things.  He controls the weather.  He controls the minutia of life.  He controls the events in Boston on April 15.  He was not surprised by those events.  He was already working amidst the tragedy taking place.

And he is control of small town life in rural America.  He knows about alcohol problems.  He has the power over the weather.  He allows daily evils to impact our lives every day.

Even in rural America.

That’s something my students can understand.

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Wayne Yeager is the pastor at Glasford Baptist Church in the small town of Glasford, Il. As a 12-year veteran of ministry, his experience comes from small, rural churches and congregations. Wayne is married to Sara and they have two children. Wayne attends Liberty Seminary, studying for a Masters of Divinity in Christian Counseling. You can follow Wayne's blog at http://wyeager.blogspot.com.

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