Monday, December 1, 2008


I was in college when I realized that I did, indeed, like middle schoolers. Oh, I had hated being one. But the semester that I thought I was going to go into education, I got to "observe" a middle school class for several weeks, and surprisingly enough, I really liked the kids! It was hard to believe.

Fast forward a few years, and I can tell you the time and the place when that like for middle schoolers turned into love. I was teaching VBS in Paducah, KY, at Olivet Baptist Church. No one else would teach the 5th and 6th graders, and because I had checked the box that indicated I would work wherever needed, I was immediately relegated to the dark side....the fifth and sixth graders.

And I loved them!

They were bright, energetic, spontaneous, and eager to see if and how God's Word applied to their lives. We had a great week together. The highlight for me was introducing a precious girl named Mackenzie to Jesus Christ. I led her in prayer as she received Him as her Lord. There were also twin sisters in my class that summer, Mandy and Missy Jenkins. Adorable. It was just a couple of months later that my husband and I moved our family to Nashville. But I never forgot those kids or the week we spent together.

Fast forward a few more years, and on the morning of December 1, 1997 (eleven years ago today), I received a phone call from Bryan, then the youth pastor at Olivet. He explained that there had been a shooting at Heath High School. A kid had opened fire on the school's morning prayer group. This group was a tradition at Heath. They met daily in the lobby for a few minutes of prayer before the bells rang to start the school day. Some of Bryan's youth, many of them kids I had in VBS, were a part of that prayer group. He was on his way to the scene and asked me to begin praying.

I turned on CNN as reports of the shooting were already making their way to the nation's news desk. Within a couple of hours, I learned that three students had been killed that day, and five were wounded. Some of our Olivet kids were among the physically wounded. And several of them were wounded emotionally in an incident that will forever be a part of who they are.

Missy Jenkins was wounded, paralyzed from the chest down eleven years ago today. She has written a book about her experience called, "I Choose to Be Happy." It's available at and it's an amazing read. I caught up with Missy to do a story for HomeLife magazine that will be out in the Spring. You'll see Missy's lovely face on the cover. Although her life was unalterably changed 11 years ago, Missy's choice to forgive the shooter rather than dwell in bitterness has given her the freedom to focus on recovery, restoration, and God's re-direction of her life. Her attitude, determination, and grateful heart provide a lesson for all of us.

When I hear little girls talk about their heroes, mentioning Miley Cyrus or some other Disney star, I just want to ask them, Have you ever heard of Missy Jenkins? 'cause she is one of my old friends, and one of my new heroes.

In memory of the girls who lost their lives
and in honor of the teens who lost their innocence
December 1, 1997, Heath High School


Chatty Kelly said...

This makes my heart hurt, and feel good at the same time. There is nothing "fair" about what happened to Missy, yet God as always turned what was meant for evil to good.

Praise God for Missy.

Rebecca Powell said...

Thank you for sharing this!
In 1995, right after Mike and I married, we moved to Nashville. We were living there when the Heath shooting happened. It was so HORRIBLE! I'll never forget hearing about it on the news and being so shocked! It is so good to know that God is on the throne and brings glory to Himself from even the most horrible of tragedies through believers like Missy. What years did you live in Paducah? I grew up there and know several families that were memebers at Olivet. My parents still attend LOFBC in Lone Oak where Mike and I were married.

Regina said...

It’s amazing to know that I had a deep need to pray that day. I was unaware of this tragedy, but had a tug on my sprit wanting to me to list a prayer in December on my page.
Missy is another person that I can list as an example of a person who changed their life, change their world, and decided not to remain a victim but a victor! She is another example of a person who decided to change instead of complain. She is another example of how we should face the challenges in our own lives. She is another example of a person who I will learn from!

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