“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
The Church of the Brethren requests prayer for college communities in Kansas and Virginia following three separate and unrelated tragedies: McPherson (Kan.) College and Bridgewater (Va.) College, both Church of the Brethren-related schools, and Tabor College in central Kansas, which is related to the Mennonite Brethren denomination.
“Hold our colleges in prayer as they deal with the loss of life and tragedy,” requested Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. “Any of these events are enough to send a community reeling. This is where the church really has a role to play, holding all in prayer without judgment, asking for the Spirit of God to be present.” He added that the church has an opportunity and responsibility as people of faith to be in partnership with the colleges at this time to support students, faculty, and staff who are in mourning.
The community at McPherson College has been hit hard by the death of nineteen-year-old Paul Ziegler from Elizabethtown, Pa., a sophomore business major, who was killed Sunday afternoon when his bicycle was hit by a car (find a release, “McPherson College Mourns Death of Beloved Student,” at www.mcpherson.edu/news/index.php?action=fullnews&id=2282 ).
Also this past weekend McPherson student Alton Franklin was arrested in connection with the death of Tabor student Brandon Brown, and has been charged with “aiding and abetting murder in the second degree,” according to a report in the “McPherson Sentinel” newspaper. Brown died Saturday in a Wichita hospital, about a week after he was found injured outside a house in McPherson after an altercation at a party (see below for a statement issued by McPherson College president Michael Schneider).
Bridgewater College is mourning the death of senior Rasheda Alestock, 22, a business administration major who attended Bridgewater as a commuter student. She was killed on Sunday, Sept. 16, in a shooting at her home. The Carter Center Stone Prayer Chapel was open the day after the death for members of the college community to pray and light a candle for her, and the school held a service of prayer and remembrance last Tuesday. The college also is offering counseling and spiritual services to students, faculty, and staff. (Find the release, “BC Mourns Loss of Student” at www.bridgewater.edu/news-and-media/releases/1084-bc-mourns-loss-of-student ).
Dear McPherson College Alumni and Friends,
It is with a deep sadness that I write to you regarding an off-campus altercation involving McPherson College and Tabor College students. I want to communicate directly with you so that you might keep both schools and their communities lifted up in prayer.
At approximately 4:10 a.m. Sunday, September 16, 2012, officers of the McPherson Police Department were dispatched to a loud music call in the 400 block of North Carrie. Upon their arrival officers located a 26-year old male unconscious and unresponsive. He was transferred to the McPherson Hospital and later airlifted to Wichita in critical condition.
The student was identified as Brandon Brown, a Tabor College junior transfer student from Sacramento, California. On Saturday afternoon the McPherson Police Department arrested McPherson College student Alton Lamont Franklin in conjunction with the event.
Late Saturday night President Jules Glanzer from Tabor College informed me that Brandon Brown had passed away. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Brandon’s family and friends, and to everyone in the Tabor College and Hillsboro community.
It is the responsibility of our students, faculty and staff to maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning and consistent with our mission. Any behavior that is inconsistent with learning or adversely affects the welfare of our students will not be tolerated. The Campus Conduct Committee determined that any student arrested and charged in conjunction with this event should be immediately suspended. As a result, Alton Franklin has been suspended from the college.
McPherson College has spent the past week trying to comprehend how such violence could occur in our community. We are devastated that one of our own McPherson College students has been arrested in conjunction with this criminal act, and we pray for him and his family, as well.
We continue to cooperate with local and state law enforcement in their ongoing investigation and appreciate your help in keeping people focused on the facts. This is a difficult time for both campuses. I encourage you to pray for the Tabor community and all of those involved in this tragedy.
Tabor College and McPherson College are bound by a sense of community and faith. I will remain in regular contact with President Jules Glanzer from Tabor. We continue to pray for one another and our campuses as we look for answers.
Michael Schneider, President, McPherson College
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