On the eve of Passover
By Steve Beard
“Lord, have mercy,” was really the only exasperated prayer I could offer after hearing the news of a deranged neo-Nazi shooting people outside of a Jewish Community Center in Kansas. When I heard that one of the victims was a teenage boy, I immediately texted my 17-year-old son to remind him that I love him.
It was Palm Sunday afternoon when the Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Overland Park, Kansas, heard about the tragic bloodlust and death. All three of the victims in the shootings had a connection to the church.
My heart was broken for the families. My heart was heavy for Hamilton, an old friend of mine, who was going to be walking church members through the valley of the shadow of death during Holy Week.
“Help us, O Lord, to grieve as people of hope,” said Hamilton at the evening Palm Sunday service. The dark and gruesome reality of Good Friday came five days early. On the eve of Passover, the symbolism of blood splattered over a doorpost to spare first-born sons was replaced with the spilled blood of a 14-year-old grandson and grandfather in a parking lot.
“I will fear no evil,” the psalmist writes, “for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Not long after the tragedy, I contacted Hamilton to let him know that I was praying for him and that we wanted to honor the victims.
Terri LaManno was killed while she was visiting her mother at Village Shalom senior center. A member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, LaManno’s nephew is a staff member at the Church of the Resurrection.
Bill Corporon, the grandfather who had taken his grandson to the community center for a singing audition, was a very active member of Church of the Resurrection, along with Melinda, his wife of 49 years. “Bill was a family physician who, during his years in practice in Oklahoma touched the lives of thousands of people,” Hamilton reported. “He and Melinda moved to Kansas City to be closer to their daughter Mindy, her husband Len and especially their grandchildren Reat and Lukas. Bill loved his grandkids.”
“Reat [Underwood] was confirmed just last year and made his profession of faith in Christ,” Hamilton said. “He regularly volunteered in our children’s ministry. Reat loved to sing. He was loved by his classmates and was a remarkable young man.”
In hopes of killing Jews, a deranged white supremacist killed two United Methodists and a precious Roman Catholic. Lord, have mercy.
In the midst of the dark cloud of tragedy, Mindy Underwood – Reat’s mother and Bill’s daughter – has been a remarkably public beacon of what St. Paul referred to as the “peace which passes all understanding” as she has spoken to the media after the loss of her father and son. Providentially, Mindy was able to hear the songs Reat was going to sing at the audition before he left, kiss him goodbye, and tell her son that she loved him.
“I’m lifted by my belief in Christ and I’m lifted by my belief that Reat and my dad are in heaven,” Underwood testified on the Today Show. “And I know that Mrs. LaMonna is in heaven and we pray for their family also.” Her sense of peace is anchored to her faith and to her belief that the three victims are now in the arms of their Redeemer. “Literally, when I saw my father laying there I heard God say, ‘He’s in heaven.’ It was horrific – but comforting.”
“Mindy has shown such remarkable faith,” Hamilton told me. “We’re celebrating the lives of Bill and Reat on Good Friday, remembering Christ’s suffering and how God used this for the redemption of the world. Mindy and her family are praying that God will bring good from the tragic death of Bill and Reat.”
Our prayers should be the same.
Steve Beard is the editor of Good News.