March 21st started as any other day for the students of Red Lake High, but when it ended six of its students, a teacher, and a security guard lay dead upon the classroom floors. Other student were wounded. The killing rampage, which began when a 16-year-old shot his grandfather and his grandfather’s partner, ended when he turned the gun upon himself, leaving behind a shocked and grieving community.

The day will forever be etched in the memories of the people of the Ojibwe (Chippewa) Nation on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota.

 

Now, over three months later, about a third of the students have been back to school and the building, once a bloody crime scene, is scrubbed clean. But nothing can wash away the pain that haunts the people of Red Lake. It’s in this climate of fear, anger, grief and despair that Darrell Auginash, founder of First Nations Ministry, serves his people.

 

When Darrell first heard about the shooting, he rushed to the hospital to minister to the wounded and their families. His sister met him at the door with the news that Darrell’s nephew, Ryan, was one of the wounded. Darrell’s first thought was for Ryan’s spiritual well being. After reassurances that Ryan knew Jesus, the two made a pact to forgive the gunman.

 

Since that fateful day, Darrell’s efforts to care for the hurting of Red Lake have been tireless. He’s visited the families of the wounded, including relatives of the gunman. Darrell and Ryan went to their home to offer forgiveness and pay last respects to the teen.

 

Bruce Porter, founder of Torchgrab Ministries and a minister during the Columbine tragedy, traveled to Red Lake as soon as he heard about the shooting. “My experience of living and working with Darrell during the first days after the massacre was a revelation,” says Porter. “He is a son of Red Lake who has taken up Christ's commission to share the gospel with his people. The love and compassion of Christ radiated from him as we sat together at wakes late into the night and ministered to his hurting brothers. His efforts are relentless.”

 

But ministering love and encouragement in this stricken community is no easy task. Wounded teens suffer from survivor guilt and memories they can’t shake. Many attempt suicide or run from the tragedy through alcohol, fighting, and drugs. “These kids need to know someone cares for them. They need Jesus,” says Darrell. “Just last week a mother had to cut down her daughter who tried to hang herself. The girl couldn’t handle the guilt.”

 

Another young man struggling to face the murder of his brother, became intoxicated, started a fight, and ended up breaking the law. According to Darrell, he is only 21 years old and in need of help, not punishment. “The young man needs trauma counseling. Instead he faces a four-year jail sentence. Now he’s thinking of suicide.”

 

A 15 year old, asking why he was allowed to live, turned to alcohol one night and then hit the streets, attracting the attention of a policeman and begging the officer to kill him. 

 

Some days the situation overwhelms Darrell, but instead of giving up, he looks for answers. One answer, he believes, is to rent a small house where teens can go for grief and trauma counseling and stay the night if needed. “The kids need a place where they can be talked with and prayed for,” says Darrell. “They don’t really want to die. They want help.” Darrell’s been in contact with Christian counselors, trained to work in trauma situations, to staff the center. Now he’s pursuing the $800/month it will take to rent the house.