Virginia Tech, a Ministry of Presence

Wes Barts graduated from Virginia Tech and has been a staff member with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech for three years. Wes works with an undergrad fellowship that numbers about 150 students. He feels the shock of Monday’s tragic shooting on campus as much as anyone. “Though it feels like a dark cloud is over the Blacksburg campus,” he says, “God is present.”

“It’s good that we know a God who knows suffering in Jesus Christ,” Wes says. “He knows how we feel. In this time of mourning, Christ is with us in our pain. In Christ Jesus we find our hope and refuge.”

After the campus was opened up and declared safe, Wes and fellow staff members Lindsey Jones and Robert Howe concentrated on being available to the students who were still in shock from the events. “We walked around campus all afternoon, comforting people.”

Facing the inevitable “Where is God?” questions that are posed after tragedies like this, Wes says, “God is comforting those who mourn. There’s a lot of love on the campus right now.”

He’s mobilizing a group of students to minister to other students. “We want to go around and offer our ear and our comfort to anyone who’s still left on campus,” he says. “I am deeply encouraged by the love and comfort that our students give to each other and their friends. The Body of Christ is truly at work here.” Wes says the InterVarsity chapter has some specific prayer requests:

  • Pray for the body of Christ, through the churches and campus ministries, to be united in expressing the hope we have in God.
  • One freshman involved in the fellowship lost a roommate who was killed in the shooting.
  • One student in the fellowship overslept and missed his class in Norris Hall during the shootings. He lost his professor, and four of his classmates were wounded.
  • One senior in the fellowship was in a classroom in Norris Hall during the shootings. With the help of some classmates, he set up a barricade to prevent the shooter from entering the room. The shooter fired shots at the door, but failed to enter.
  • One junior in the fellowship is a resident advisor in West Ambler Johnston Hall. She was a good friend to one of the victims who was murdered in the residence hall. The victim was a fellow resident advisor.

Many students left campus right after the shootings, but others remained. Wes and the staff of other campus ministries prepared a Wednesday mid-day memorial service. “After an intense and painful day, we are in mourning,” he says. “Thank you for your prayers and for sharing in our pain.”

A report from Robert Howe, staff worker at Virginia Tech with InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry.

MP3 audio interview with Wes Barts, 11 minutes

Statement by InterVarsity president Alec Hill

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