"We're going to celebrate a life, we're not accentuating a death," said Faith Bible Chapel pastor George Morrison, in opening a memorial service today for two people killed at a missionary training school in Arvada.I have many emotions about the YWAM and New Life Center shootings. I owe much of who I am to YWAM. Without my almost 7 years affiliated with them I wouldn't be where we are and doing the things we're doing now. When the shootings happened, it hit close to home for Melissa and I. We don't know anyone at the YWAM Denver office, other than a loose connection Base Director Peter Warren many years ago. However, I can't help but feel like we lost two of 'our own'. Melissa and I reflected last night on our emotions about the shooting, and how we feel connected to the events on a more personal level. We've been hearing from different YWAM friends and acquaintances over the past couple of days - like the family is coming together. I've had little to no contact with YWAM for almost 10 years - I still feel a strong connection to the organization.
The service is called "A Celebration of Life for Tiffany and Philip."
Philip Crouse and Tiffany Johnson died Sunday when a gunman opened fire at the school's dormitory.
Youth With a Mission director Peter Warren said today both Crouse and Johnson embodied the spirit of the group.
First the service focused on Crouse.
"Phil gave his life to Jesus Christ and was never the same again," said Zach, a friend of Johnson's who met him years ago at a youth ministry in Alaska. At the time, Crouse was tough and wouldn't let people get close to him.
"Over the years, Phil became a humble, teachable, sweet guy" who was able to reach kids with rough edges, he said.
Crouse's uncle also spoke.
"Philip's family in Alaska wants you to know that they're doing well, but found the thought of coming down to this event more than they could handle, said John Steiner.
Crouse lived with him seven years ago, and at the time was a troubled youth, and had trouble fitting in.
"He was dark and brooding, hiding his insecurities behind a perpetual snarl," Steiner said.
"Then, I saw that phenomenal change," Steiner said, brought about by Jesus Christ.
"A couple of years ago Phil felt God call him into the mission field," said Steiner.
"It is our hope that the horrible effort to snuff out the light of life and hope in Philip will instead prove to spread that light and those lives will serve as a source of inspiration to thousands touched by his tragic death," said Steiner.
Jessie Ferguson, Crouse's roommate, spoke next.
He recalled meeting Crouse for the first time, as they realized there was just one bed in the room.
Crouse insisted Ferguson take the bed, and instead used a mattress on the floor.
"That's just the type of guy Phil was," he said.
Crouse's father, Eugene, spoke next.
He recalled hearing the news about the shooting while he himself was in church.
He said the support he had been feeling since Sunday was "overwhelming."
Crouse led a standing ovation for local law enforcement and emergency workers who responded to the shooting.
"The main reason I wanted to speak today is for the YWAMMERS who are left," he said. He said many of them, with their youth and zeal, probably felt invulnerable. But now he hoped they'd recognize how difficult the work of a missionary would be, and find a way to focus on hope, instead of regret.
Also speaking at this morning's service will be Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien and Tom Hallas of Youth With a Mission.
I'm 'Godly' proud of the young leaders who were killed I also feel sadness for the Matthew Murray and his family. Matthew was obviously a confused, hurt and lonely young man. Philip, Tiffany from YWAM and the sisters at New Life gave their life for the Gospel. I'm inspired to live my life more committed to Christ and the Call by their example. I continue to pray for the YWAMers we know that are serving in far away places like Thailand, Amsterdam, Hawaii, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S.