On February 14, 2018, a day that is usually filled with celebration turned into tragedy as a gunman stepped onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and brutally took the lives of 17 students and faculty. Most everyone in our community has felt the weight of this, but for First Priority Club leaders and students, it was very personal, as one of their club members, Helena Ramsay, 17, of Coral Springs, was among the victims.
First Priority’s mission is “connecting the Church to reach the campus for Christ.” Their team, in conjunction with area churches, has been actively ministering to students and family at MSD and other schools, and they welcome your support.
Chris Lane, president of First Priority, recounted the unfolding of that day just hours after the tragedy.
As of the writing of this, it has been a crazy few hours due to the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
We just had lunch with several of our Campus Coaches who were headed to Douglas for the weekly First Priority Club meeting. (TJ McCormick is the pastor of Coastal Community Church and they lead a first priority club group meeting there.) Little did they know what was about to happen.
The calls, text messages and reports started coming in…(actually right before this situation we got a call to pray for another school campus that had received a bomb threat). So, we prayed. Then the report of an active shooter, shots fired, and injuries.
So, we prayed again and started to follow the situation. Our campus coaches who were on their way to Douglas for the First Priority Campus Club meeting were not able to enter the campus because it was already locked down. They began to pray and minister to parents as everyone waited for details. Our Broward director Stefan Bomberger was also there and able to stay in contact with area churches and pastors in the community.
Churches and leaders began to contact us to let us know they were praying and available to help in some way. The plan for ministry and help was going into effect. The days ahead will not be easy, but God is real and he wants all men to turn to him. This will be an opportunity as people have questions and need comfort. It will be an opportunity for all of us to share the love of Christ. I pray for boldness as we all encounter people who need Jesus.
This is real stuff and we never know what our future holds. We all need to be more generous with the Gospel and let people know that there is HOPE and it is in JESUS!
This is a harsh reminder of why First Priority is so needed in our schools. So many of our young people are hurting, lost and need Jesus. As we take the Light of Jesus, continue to pray for hearts to turned toward Him.
With heavy hearts, First Priority announced that Helena Ramsay was killed in the shooting.
Helena was a senior and she was an active member of the school’s First Priority Club.
Helena was quiet and reserved but she showed valor and care while protecting a friend during the shooting.
A few weeks prior to the tragedy, Helena took a spiritual gifts test with other members of her club. Her test results showed that her gifts were faith and exhortation. The definition of exhortation according to the test is “to remind the hearer of the powerful and amazing work of God in Christ.” The test describes faith as being “rooted in one’s saving faith in Christ and the trust that comes through a close relationship with the Savior.”
Based on the results of Helena’s gifts test, the testimony of those who knew her and her consistent involvement in First Priority, we know that she is resting peacefully in communion with the Christ she relied on. We pray that her loved ones know Christ the same way she did and they turn to Him in this time.
Since then, many students have been choosing unity and faith in a time where those are tough things to choose.
On Tuesday, February 20, First Priority was able to partner with Church United, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and many churches in Northwest Broward to host an event held at Church by the Glades for the families and students of Parkland. Over 1000 people came out to hear Columbine survivor Crystal Miller speak a message of understanding, empathy and hope. She was able to minister to many after she shared and the most common response was “how did you know that was what I was going through!?” As the event closed, countless people approached the stage for prayer and multiple people made a decision for Christ!
First priority has made a number of resources available to their campus clubs and area schools, including a four-part study based on the movie “I’m Not Ashamed,” a 2016 biographical drama film based on the journals of the first victim of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, Rachel Scott. The DVD is available for purchase online; however, the studies are available at firstpriority.cc/notashamed/.
In light of the Parkland tragedy, many have asked how they can be involved. Here are a few ideas:
Galatians 6 reminds us to carry each other’s burdens. The most accessible way to do that is through prayer. Please pray for First Priority students as they return to school as well as the MSD students to be receptive to the Gospel.
Adopt a club
Although this tragedy happened on one campus, there are First Priority clubs on 217 other campuses with students who have been affected. They are afraid and they need support as well. You can “adopt a club” in your area. Contact Julia at [email protected] for more information.
The First Priority students at Stoneman Douglas are ready to be a light to their classmates. If you would like to help equip them for that, you are welcome to write letters of encouragement. These letters will be given to the student leaders, who will give them to peers who are hurting. If you, your church, your family or any network you are part of would like to take part in loving these students though written notes, please send them to the First priority office and they will get them to the student leaders. You can drop your letters off or mail them to 5120 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308.
It only takes $20 per month to reach a student with the Gospel. Visit firstpriority.cc .
Julia Wilson, of First Priority, contributed this report.