Last Sunday, twenty-two thousand people gathered to have fun at a country music concert in Las Vegas. They didn’t know their lives would be changed forever that night, by the violence of one man–set to steal, kill, and destroy. Pastor Mark Wickstrom works with Community Lutheran Church Las Vegas, just five miles from Mandalay Bay, where the shooting took place.

“There was an act of evil, pure and simple. What that person chose to do was push a boulder into the lake that is our community. As that lake experienced that explosion — bullets raining down on innocent people — it was pandemonium. We had some members from our church who were at the concert, who had friends who were wounded. One young lady has a good friend who was one of the victims that was killed in the in the rain of fire.”

However, Pastor Mark points out the shooter’s wicked actions are only the first part of this story:

“It was a horrible boulder that crashed into the lake, but the ripples that it has created have been nothing but good. In fact, it’s been almost overpowering for the city; it’s caught people off guard. It reminds me so much of Romans 8:28.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

While it can be hard to see how anything good can come from such terrible evil, Pastor Mark says he sees powerful evidence of God at work in his city.

“In the days since the event, the ripples of mercy and grace and kindness that have been emanating from this community have been absolutely overwhelming for everyone. At ground zero, when the firing was taking place, there were people who suddenly chose to be shields–they chose to put people that they loved underneath them, or underneath the grandstands to protect them. They didn’t go to the concert thinking they were going to be a hero, and yet in the moment of  bullets raining down, they chose to be a hero.”

“Some folks had a pickup truck and suddenly they filled them with wounded people, and took them to the local hospital, because the ambulances couldn’t get to everybody. They didn’t go to the concert thinking they were going to be an ambulance, but they were moved to do that.”

He told stories of a member of his church who waited in line for eight hours in the desert sun, to give blood to help victims.

“Grocery stores were bringing them water, while they waited. People came from restaurants bringing them food, all for free, while they waited. Stores brought umbrellas to help shield the sun. Then when he finally got through after eight hours, the blood center ran out of kits; so many people had donated blood!”

“To me that’s the spirit of God at work: He moves people to do things, in kindness and caring, that they never would have dreamed they would do.  This is across denominations, across religious backgrounds. That’s what’s so beautiful about when the Spirit’s moving, and I really have to say, the Spirit’s moving in Las Vegas in this aftermath: the ripples just keep going out.”

Mark Wickstrom serves as senior pastor at Community Lutheran Church Las Vegas. Previously, Mark served as executive pastor at St. Andrew’s in Mahtomedi Minnesota. A former high school teacher, youth director, street minister, Young Life leader, and international speaker, Mark is the author of The Gospel of Grace.

How God works in tragedy

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