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An Evangelist Rises From the Ashes

Last Sunday I went to the church attended by theater shooting victim Pierce O’Farrill. You’ve probably seen him clips of him in the hospital – in his twenties, good looking with a thick head of dark hair, wearing a shoulder/arm sling. He was shot times in the arm, leg and foot.

The service, held in the gym of an Aurora High School, opened with a six-piece rock band—four guitars, a drummer and a young blonde singer in heels—playing songs the words of which were shown on screens around the room.  “I am yours, Jesus, All My Days, I Am Forever Yours.” A few feet down from me, Pearce, in jeans, short sleeve shirt and sling, was standing with the aid of an aluminum crutch. As he sang, his eyes opened occasionally to glance up at the screen. Cameramen were crouched at his feet.

The minister eventually took the stage and explained that church member Pierce O’Farrill would tell the story of what happened the night of the shooting and give us an inspirational message.

White couches were moved onto the stage, and Pierce took his seat across from the minister. He told the story of watching the gunman come into the theater and begin shooting.  He understood what was happening, and felt a moment of fear. He was hit in the leg and the arm, and went down. Waiting for the shot that would end him, he entered a state of prayer. He thought, OK, if it’s time for Jesus to take me home, I’m ready.

The shooter left for a moment, and then returned. Pierce could feel a dark shadow hovering close by. The firing started again. His only fear at that point was that if he died, others, his brother and his father, would blame God for what had happened.

Suddenly, the shooter’s gun jammed.  It was over. “God came into the theater and evil ran out.”

In the hospital, thinking about what happened, Pierce was clear on one thing: Jesus would not allow him to be angry. Jesus would not allow him to feel hatred for the shooter. The shooter was a lost soul, and he felt sorrow for him. Pierce told others, and us in the church that morning, that some day he would like to meet the man. He would say to him, “I forgive you.”  He would ask if he could pray for him. Pierce sees darkness in the heart of the shooter that can only be erased by the light of Jesus.

“Are you a hero?” the minister asked him. Pearce shook his head. “There’s only one hero. That’s Jesus.”

Pierce explained, as smoothly as if his whole life had led up to this very moment, that while he truly appreciated the many prayers others had offered for him, he really didn’t need them. He was already in an intimate relationship with Christ. He asked that the prayers go away from him and to the poor families of the survivors. He prays that one day the families of the dead victims will come to realize that their loved ones had not died in vain; that they will see the outpouring of love and grace resulting from their sacrifice.

Pierce laughed at one point and referred to himself as “Pierce the Evangelist.”  Indeed, you can see the future for the man.  Even the minister predicted  he would soon have his own platform to minister to others. From this terrible tragedy, he believed, would come the bright light of Christ shining down on others.

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