“The kids in this community loved him. They adored him. He was one of the most phenomenal people I knew. He was a phenomenal man.” That’s how Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel described Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard who was fatally shot trying to protect students during Wednesday’s mass shooting.
The school issued its own statement, noting that Feis “died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories.” Coach Feis leaves behind his wife and a daughter.
In addition, geography teacher Scott Beigel reportedly shielded his students and paid with his life. Another victim, athletic director Chris Hixon, was also killed while protecting students.
As a father and grandfather, I cannot begin to imagine the gratitude I would feel for someone who died defending my family. But their sacrifice leads me to ask what you and I can do to protect our children and their schools.
Let’s assess the challenge before us, then consider a way every Christian in America can respond today.
How can we protect 140,000 schools?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are nearly 140,000 schools in the United States. It is an overwhelming task to secure them from attack. Even if we posted metal detectors at every door, a criminal could shoot students as they left the campus.
Sometimes the authorities are able to prevent atrocities. For instance, police in Everett, Washington, thirty miles north of Seattle, arrested eighteen-year-old Joshua Alexander O’Connor last Tuesday on attempted murder and other charges. The arrest came one day before the massacre in Florida.
Earlier, O’Connor’s grandmother called 911 and showed responding officers a journal where he allegedly made plans to shoot students and use explosives at his school. His bail was set at $5 million.
Unfortunately, many attackers are like Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter in Florida. One student told authorities, “I can’t say I was shocked. From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.” But despite a tip regarding Cruz that came to the FBI last September, the Bureau was unable to identify him or act on the information.
A powerful article I hope you’ll read
Clearly, we would have to be omnipresent to defend every school from attack. But we can pray to the omnipresent God, seeking the protection only he can provide.
Jesus taught us to ask God to “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). The psalmist called the Lord “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2).
However, a refuge is helpful only to those who trust its protection. A fortress can defend only those who stay inside its walls.
How can we make God our refuge and fortress for the sake of our children?
Cynthia Yanof is the mother of a high schooler, a middle schooler, and a preschooler. She is also brand director for Christian Parenting, a program of Denison Ministries.
Cynthia has written a powerful column for her website encouraging parents to go to their children’s schools and pray for their protection. I encourage you to read her article and take her advice. If you don’t have children in school, pray for those who do. Stop now and ask the Lord to surround them with his angels (2 Kings 6:17) and grant them his protection (Psalm 121:5-7).
We know that Satan’s goal is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). While protecting our children requires human effort, it is also a spiritual battle: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).
A spiritual battle must be fought with spiritual weapons. R. A. Torrey: “When the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church on its face before God in prayer, he trembles as much as he ever did, for he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.”
“We can’t afford to wait any longer”
The command to “pray without ceasing” is never more relevant than with our children (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We must pray for God to “guard [them] against the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3), making the Lord their “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Cynthia invites us to “imagine a news story where our schools are inundated with committed Christians consistently and persistently walking the campus, praying for the Lord’s provision. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”
Do you agree?