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Serving in the Aftermath of the Red Lake High Tragedy

  • Paula Moldenhauer Contributing Writer
  • Published Jul 01, 2005
Serving in the Aftermath of  the Red Lake High Tragedy

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.


Darrell and Porter are also working together to take Red Lake youth on a road trip to Colorado. There, the most directly affected youth will meet with Columbine survivors and counselors. “Maybe they can open up to people they don’t know as well, people who’ve been there,” says Darrell.


A coach bus has been donated for the journey and enough counselors have volunteered so that each student would be one on one or one on two with an adult. With that in place, Darrell is on to the next step of his planning—finding sponsors for the teens to defer the travel costs, room, and board.


But Darrell isn’t just looking to serve the kids in the short term. He carries a vision of establishing a school for Native American students that not only emphasizes excellent academics, but also honors the culture of the Native American people.


Darrell has been planning this school for some time. He believes consistent discipleship of youth is the future of his people. “This is where we will get our leaders,” says Darrell. “We will teach them about Jesus and train them up to be productive servants.”


The shooting has brought the plans for the school to the forefront. “Some of these kids are too traumatized to return to the high school right now,” says Darrell. “We need to get this school going for them.” In typical Darrell fashion, he’s gathered a team who are meeting this summer to plan the school. The school will have both classroom and home school components as well as a discipleship course for parents.


In the midst of all his working and planning, Darrell continues to do what he does best. He meets regularly with students who witnessed the shooting. “We just hang out. We talk and I pray for them.”


Darrell’s passion, humility, and love for his people are an encouragement to Porter and the many Darrell’s ministry touches. “I believe God is raising up this man for such a time as this,” says Porter. “We need to offer him our support and prayers.”

To help Darrell’s plans become a reality, you may donate to the First Nations Ministries. Darrell is also looking for teams to help build the buildings needed for the school. You may contact Darrell Auginash at darrella@paulbunyan.net, call him at 218-586-3334, or write First Nations Ministries, 11559 Sandpiper Rd NE, Bemidji, Mn 56601. For a more detailed look at the Red Lake tragedy and its comparisons to Columbine, visit Torchgrab ministries at http://www.torchgrab.org/redlake.htm.


A mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer writes from her home in Colorado. Her website, www.soulscents.us offers a free weekly devotional as well as Christian book reviews, home schooling hints, and a parenting page. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us