Editor's note: This story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.

As a theology teacher at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School in Las Vegas, Sarah (Porisch) Crowder desires for her freshmen students to experience the joy and peace that comes from knowing the Lord and reading His Word—even in the midst of tragedy and grief.

Crowder, a 2000 lay ministry graduate, has even designed her classroom to model the security that can be found in Christ. Strategic mood lighting and comfortable seating lets the students who enter know that they are in a safe space, and a large, backlit cross hung prominently on her classroom wall serves as a constant reminder of students’ true source of peace.

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Security became a commodity for the Faith Lutheran community on Oct. 1, 2017 when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 people and leaving 851 injured. Ten students from Faith were in attendance at the concert. Two sustained serious injuries but survived. The incident sent the Faith community reeling, recalled Crowder.

“What do you do to help students feel safe again when that sense of security has been ripped away from them? The best thing we can do when truly traumatic events like these happen in our lives is to turn to the Lord.”

So Crowder set to work to help remind students of their firm foundation in the midst of trouble. A couple of students, in particular, would call on Crowder when they were having a particularly difficult time.

Using her prep period for one-on-one time, Crowder was able to walk with these students, literally, in the midst of their grief, engaging in conversation, reconnecting them with their surroundings, and providing a place of peace when the post-traumatic stress was otherwise overwhelming.

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Crowder also rallied the community of believers from across the nation to share messages of support and hope with students. Crowder sent out appeals through social media and email to LCMS schools and organizations nationwide in the days after the tragedy, and asked fellow believers to consider recording a video message that would be played in chapel at Faith. Concordia University Ann Arbor and Wisconsin joined in the effort, along with several dozen others.

“It was amazing to witness the outpouring of support from our fellow Lutheran schools and communities near and far,” Crowder said. “It was a teachable moment to be there with the Faith community and share with them the power of the physical presence of the Body of Christ.”

The spring 2019 Concordian hit mailboxes the beginning of May. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 262-243-4333. 

— Rachel (Ferry) Thoms is a member of the strategic communications department at Concordia University. She may be reached at rachel.thoms@cuaa.edu or 734-476-7736.

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