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Sometimes Christian heroes die: The story of Christian ‘Riley’ Garcia and the Santa Fe shooting

“Be still and know I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

This powerful verse talks about the sovereignty of God in the midst of utter chaos and destruction.

This was the verse that high school student Christian “Riley” Garcia, 15, wrote on a two by four of the house his family was constructing just days before he died. He took a selfie of himself beside the verse.

Credit: Crosby Church/Christian News

Christian Riley Garcia Credit: Crosby Church/Christian News

A few days later on May 18, 2018, fellow-student Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, allegedly armed with a shotgun and hand gun walked into Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, 30 miles Southwest of Houston, and began shooting. By the time it was over 10 people were dead and 10 others injured.

Riley Garcia was one of those brutally murdered. But according to students at the school, Riley died a hero.

When the shooting started several students ran into a nearby closet that connected to the arts classroom. When the killer came to the door, Riley grabbed the handle stopping the gunman from entering giving more time for people to escape through the closet’s connecting door.

However, the shooter unloaded his gun into the door killing Riley. Courteny Marshall, Riley’s close friend, and a substitute arts teacher Ann Perkins were still in the large closet when the killer entered.

They tried to make a run for it as the killer reloaded his gun, however while Marshal escaped, Perkins was fatally shot.

At the funeral service, Keenan Smith, pastor of Crosby Church where Riley attended with his family, said:

“He lost his life when a gunshot came through the door. Took his life, but in the sacrifice of his own life, others were allowed to escape and some had time to get away. We know there were several lives lost, but his story is a story of true heroism. He gave himself so others would have a chance.”

According to reports, Riley, who was wanting to go into the military had been reading that verse in Psalms with his mother the night before the shooting.

There have been several stories recently of Christian heroes including Tammy Jo Shults, the pilot who safely landed a Southwest Jet after its engine exploded.

But sometimes brave Christian heroes die and in the midst of this the Bible states that God is still sovereign.

It is uncertain what caused the alleged killer to go to such a dark place. According to Wikipedia, two newspapers reported that Pagourtzis’s Facebook page, since taken down, had several disturbing images. It included a photo of a shirt with the words “Born to Kill” printed on it and an image of his trench coat with the caption:

“Hammer and Sickle=Rebellion. Rising Sun=Kamikaze Tactics. Iron Cross=Bravery. Baphomet=Evil. Cthulu=Power.”

The hammer and sickle was emblematic of communism. Baphomet was a satanic-looking goat, representing evil. In the 1400s, the Knights Templar were falsely accused of worshiping this idol.

And there may even be more to this Bible verse that Riley cited. It may be a message for our time. Psalm 46 starts with:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)

It almost has apocalyptic overtones. It speaks of the earth giving way, mountains falling into the sea, earthquakes that cause even mountains to quake and oceans to surge and roar (tsunamis).

Both earthquakes and volcanoes are signs of the end times. As I watched the recent volcanic eruptions on Hawaii I saw lava pouring into the Pacific ocean.

If we are entering the end times, the world will be shaken and the Bible tells that God is still sovereign. Don’t fight and fear these evil, chaotic times:

“Be still and know that I am God.”


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