Less than a week ago, an 18-year old girl/young woman was abducted, forced into her car, whisked away and slain. The news caught my attention because it occurred in Overland Park, KS. I grew up in Overland Park at 7901 W. 91st St.
Kelsey was shopping at a Target store in the Oak Park Mall at 95th and Quivera. The mall was built when I was in my freshman year at Johnson County Community College nearby. My wedding ring was purchased in that mall at Helzberg's. The last time I remember being at that mall was 27 years ago when Teena was pregnant with Rachel. Five of us (Jay, Marilyn, 4-month old Elizabeth, Teena and I) went to see the movie Popeye (with Robin Williams). When we were leaving the mall, we witnessed a single car accident in which a 17-year old girl was killed.
Some would surmise that there is a "curse" secluded to such a location because of the 2 events. I don't think that way. There's a universal curse that is indiscriminant to location (you can read about it in Genesis 3). For me, it was a bringing home type of emotion since I knew the area. Similar to what my friend James Coleman felt when he saw the news footage of the massacre at Virginia Tech 2 months ago (James was an engineer student there in the 80s).
I didn't realize until a few days later that I knew Kelsey's father, Greg Smith. When I was about 7 or 8, his family moved into the house across the street from us at 7900 W 91st St.. He was about 3 at the time. Jay (my twin bro) and I were the "big kids across the street." I remember times where we would play football with him and another neighbor boy and would have fun dragging them around on our legs as they tried to tackle us. His parents were committed followers of Christ.
I grew up and left for the Navy in 1973 and saw him from time to time when I would visit home. I believe he also joined the Navy (I can't remember if he was a Seal or on a sub). I do recall his mom expressing concern to me about some wild oat sowing and such, but apparently he survived.
On the news the showed a conference where the family expressed thanks to law enforcement and volunteers. Greg read from Psalm 46 (the "what happened God? I know you're still there" passage). Later I found out that the news conference was held at Hillcrest Covenant Church. Teena and I started our journey together there, as I was a youth pastor at Hillcrest. I also went to the family web site and saw numerous references to scripture and the journey of following Christ.
I can't imagine what they're going through. My own children are still alive. I often uttered a very selfish prayer that asked that God would spare my entire family of tragic peril. My prayer is that they would receive peace and strength but above all - opportunities to reflect the light of God's love which many would doubt due to this circumstance. It seems that this is already happening.