Pastor: How Will Kelsey’s Death Shape Your Life?

Post a Comment » Written on June 12th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, KS (June 12, 2007) – Hillcrest Covenant Church pastor Mark Seversen encouraged mourners at this afternoon’s memorial service for Kelsey Smith to consider how they will live in response to her tragic death, assuring them that God will be present to comfort them.

Part of Seversen’s message drew upon John 10:10, a passage Kelsey had highlighted in her Bible: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Seversen based much of his message on 1 Corinthians 13:9-13. The text acknowledges the limitations of understanding the present, but also looks toward the hope of the future held in God’s hands, Seversen said, noting the final words: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

“This tragedy will shape you. How? How will it shape who you are?” Seversen asked. He encouraged the gathering to live out the words of one of Smith’s favorite songs, “Testify to Love.” The song, made popular by the Christian singing group Avalon, includes these words:

For as long as I shall live,
I will testify to love,
I’ll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough;
With every breath I take I will give thanks to God above.
For as long as I shall live,
I will testify to love.

Kelsey had sung the song during an event at Shawnee Mission West High School, having practiced it intensely. Seversen concluded his message encouraging everyone to sing it as loudly as the teenager would have sung it.

At the end of the service, many at the gathering stood in response to a call to commit or recommit their lives to Christ. Pocket New Testaments were made available to each of the attendees.

The nearly two-hour memorial service began at 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection because there was not enough seating available at the Hillcrest church, where Kelsey’s family has attended for three months. A local news station broadcast the service on a live Internet feed.

Roughly 900 people attended the visitation at the Methodist church on Monday night to express their condolences. Last Wednesday, more than 700 people attended a prayer vigil at the Covenant church.

Smith’s abduction from a Target store on June 2 and murder has drawn worldwide attention. Hundreds of people participated in the search for the 18-year-old before her body was found just hours before last week’s prayer vigil.

Seversen said earlier in the morning that he hoped his words would encourage all who are mourning, but says the line separating truth from platitude can be thin. Several years ago, his brother was shot in the line of duty as a police officer and left a quadriplegic, able only to turn his head. “Earnest people said, ‘All things work together for God, and this will make you such a better pastor.’ I told them I would give anything to have my brother back. It’s all a matter of timing.”

The pastor said Hillcrest has walked the line well. “I’m just amazed at the people of Hillcrest. On Wednesday, we had hundreds and hundreds of kids grieving and weeping.” The congregation was able to minister to the students and the rest of the community in such a way that people who had not been to a church expressed their surprise at how authentic Christian community can be.

Seversen said he considers being able to deliver today’s message and walk with the family over the past week and a half to be a privilege. He and others have marveled at the desire of Kelsey’s parents, Greg and Missey, to make sure others have been consoled during the ordeal. To read more about their efforts to encourage others, see a previously published story, “Reaching Out.”

A fund has been set up to help the family. Contributions may be directed to Kelsey Smith Family Support, Metcalf Bank, P.O. Box 4249, Overland Park, KS, 66204.

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