By Carl Stagner
“Exactly two weeks after our grand opening, I was at work at the golf course and I received a text from my daughter Jordan, who is a sophomore at Marysville Pilchuck High School. The text said, ‘HELP!’” The urgent message sent to Mike Reynolds, pastor of Hillside Church in Marysville, Washington, was certainly not the kind that any parent hopes to receive. The October 24 school shooting hit too close to home for the Reynolds family, who had just celebrated the opening of a coffee shop ministry adjacent to the worship center. While Jordan’s life was spared, the trauma and grief left in the wake of the shooting has led the four-year-old Church of God congregation to offer their coffee house as a place of comfort and healing.
Like other bivocational pastors in the Church of God, Mike Reynolds pulls out all the stops to provide for his family, keep the ministry functioning, and care for his own health. But this week, he and his family have put the needs of the community far ahead of their own. “Our community is heartbroken,” he explains. “MPHS has cancelled classes for at least the next week or two, and at least half of the kids in the district did not show up at school on Monday. Still today, everywhere you go, you will still see people huddled together, hugging and crying, trying to deal with the loss and the fear.” The Hillside congregation sees the timely opening of the coffee shop as wholly providential.
“We had dreamed that this place would be used to introduce people to the gospel through the way that we serve and love them,” Mike reflects. “We had no idea how quickly that would start happening.” The church posted on social media that the coffee shop would open up each day as needed from 8:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night as a place where the community could gather to grieve together and heal together. Within minutes of the post, the news had been shared all over Facebook and Twitter.
“By Sunday morning, we had people and businesses coming by to tell us what they could donate,” Mike recounts, “and we had most of the churches in the city telling us that they would provide volunteers and counselors to be here in shifts. We have sports teams from the schools who are meeting here and comforting each other. High schoolers and their families are a constant presence, as they retell their stories, and search for meaning and comfort during this time. Police officers, media members, city government officials, teachers, and school staff are all here gathered together, not wanting to leave each other’s side.”
Though the Reynolds family are grounded in the peace and strength of the Lord, they are shaken up, too. The chaotic scene still replays in Jordan’s mind, who, breaking her routine on that day, chose not to sit at the lunch table targeted by the shooter.
Please pray for all who were affected by this unspeakable tragedy, the Hillside Church, and nearby Tulalip Church of God.
For more information about Hillside’s response to the Marysville shooting, watch the local news report.