Summary: The stories coming out of Bart Township, Pennsylvania, are nothing less than incredible, nothing short of inspirational. Ten little girls imprisoned and sought to be cruelly used by 32-year-old man. Five killed and the other five seriously wounded, one st
Naomi Rose Ebersol, age 7;
Lena Zook Miller, age 7;
Mary Liz Miller, age 8;
Anna Mae Stoltzfus, age 12;
Marian Stoltzfus Fisher, age 13.
All little girls; all targeted by a 32 year-old man specifically because of their youth and their innocence and their gender.
All died early this week, killed by a man who shot them to death before taking his own life in their one-room school house in an Amish community in rural Pennsylvania.
Naomi and Marian died at the school; Anna was declared dead on arrival at Lancaster General Hospital; Lena and Mary both died early Tuesday at the hospitals where they were being treated.
Imagine their fear; imagine their terror; imagine their hopelessness when they realized that this man fully intended to do very bad things to them.
Anna Mae Stoltzfus’ 8-year-old sister, Rachel Ann; Marian Stoltzfus Fisher’s 10-year-old sister Barbie; 6-year-old Rosanna King; an unidentified 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl lay recovering from multiple gunshot wounds in nearby hospitals. 6-year-old Rosanna was taken off of life support and sent home to die, but later showed signs of recovery, so she has been returned to the hospital for further treatment. She may still die – only God knows at this point. Marian and Barbie’s little sister Emma escaped before the shooting began.
Who are these little Amish girls and why were they treated so cruelly? What was the reaction of their families and their community? Is there something we can learn from this that will help us in our own walk of faith?
The stories coming out of Bart Township, Pennsylvania, are nothing less than incredible, nothing short of inspirational.
These people known as the Amish are living out the Christian faith in a way that is the most perfect illustration of our text today that I could find anywhere.
Jesus said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).”
Thirteen-year-old Marian Fisher pleaded with Charles Carl Roberts IV to shoot her first, hoping the gunman would spare the younger girls imprisoned with her in their tiny one-room schoolhouse.
As the Amish community laid Marian, three of her classmates to rest Thursday, and one on Friday, details emerged of the grim moments inside West Nickel Mines School before Roberts opened fire.
The girls were not frightened by Roberts initially when he entered the one-room schoolhouse and began talking to the children in a normal, if somewhat rambling way.
But when Roberts brought a gun into the school, ordered the boys and adults out of the building, tied up the girls and began barricading windows and doors, the girls knew something very bad was about to happen.
Marian’s 11-year-old sister, Barbie, who was wounded in the attack, is now awake and telling her family what happened inside the classroom Monday morning.
Her family has relayed the story to community members. Barbie told her family that Roberts, who left a suicide note saying he hated God and had been dreaming of molesting little girls, asked the girls in the classroom to pray for him.
One of the girls then asked him, “Why don’t you pray for us?”
When the girls realized Roberts planned to kill them, Marian said, “Shoot me first.”
Barbie said, “Shoot me next.”
They were trying to offer themselves so the younger girls could be saved.
Their courageous effort failed.
They displayed courage and faith in the face of a real and present danger, and they did so with poise and grace. Thinking not of themselves but of the younger girls who were crying softly around them, these girls offered themselves in an attempt to save the others, or at least to take up time so that help could arrive in time to save some of the others.
The response of the family members and the members of the rest of the Amish community should cause all of us to recalibrate our idea of being Christians, of being sheep among wolves, of being “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives a few miles away from the school where the shootings took place and a relative of Anna and Rachel, said that the victims’ families will be sustained by their faith.
"We think it was God’s plan, and we’re going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going," he said. "A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors."
Another grandfather was asked if he had forgiven Roberts. “Yes; in my heart I have,” he replied.
When asked, “How can you do that?” he replied, “With God’s help.”
There is no seeking of revenge, no demand for stricter gun laws or tighter enforcement or anything of that nature. There is only a calm, somber sense of quietness and an atmosphere of forgiveness in the midst of the mutual grieving. Many of the Amish in the community, including the families of Roberts’ victims, have openly and privately sent messages of forgiveness and support to Roberts’ widow whom many have known since she was a little girl herself.