The uncle of Matthew Murray, the reported gunman in Sunday's shootings, spoke at a press conference today at the Youth With a Mission training center where Murray began his attacks.
"Our family cannot express the magnitude of our grief for the victims and families of this tragedy. On behalf of our family and our son, we ask for forgiveness," said Phil Abeyta, pastor at His Love Fellowship church in Denver, speaking for Murray's family. "We cannot understand why this has happened. We ask for prayer for the victims and their families during this time of grief. We are cooperating fully with the police agencies involved in the investigation of the events that led to this tragedy." (The comments were published by The Denver Post and KUSA.)
At the press conference, YWAM director Peter Warren explained the organization's connection to both the shooter and to the victims at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The organization also released a similar statement on its website:
The victims at New Life Church, sisters Stephanie Works (18) and Rachel Works (16) were involved with a summer outreach organized by New Life Church and a ministry of YWAM which rents office space in the New Life campus. An older sister from the Works family participated in a YWAM Discipleship Training Program at a centre in Colorado Springs.
Murray was briefly a student at the YWAM Arvada training centre in 2002. He was enrolled in a Discipleship Training School (DTS) but did not complete the program. The DTS is a 12 week classroom course followed by a 12 week field assignment, usually to another culture. The goal of the program is to form Christian character and assist students in discovering their unique, God-given talents. Cross-cultural exposure and global awareness are special emphases throughout these courses, preparing the students to use their talents to obey the commands of Jesus. The program also involves local outreach with nearby churches and communities, and each student is involved in helping run the practical operations of the YWAM centre.
Not everyone completing a DTS necessarily joins YWAM. Many participate in a DTS to take time out to focus on their faith and consider whether God might be calling them to Christian ministry. For those who choose to go on into a career with YWAM, successful completion of the DTS qualifies them to apply for hundreds of staff opportunities or further training.
Murray did not complete the lecture phase of his Discipleship Training School, nor did he participate in the field assignment. The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to do so. Murray left the Arvada training centre and no one at the facility recalls that he has made any other visits or had any communication with the centre since that time.
YWAM would like to express its heartfelt condolences to the families of the other victims. Our hearts also go out to the Murray family, to whom we extend a spirit of forgiveness.
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