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Highland Lakes churches pen letters of love, support to Newtown victims’ families

ROUND MOUNTAIN — When members of a Walnut United Methodist Church Bible study posed a question among themselves about how they could help families personally effected by the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., their answer came from the story of Mary and Elizabeth.

“We were studying the story where Mary goes to visit Elizabeth (before Jesus’ birth),” the Rev. Grady Roe said. “It took a lot of effort for Mary to make that trip, but Elizabeth was such a good friend and encourager. We wondered how we could be better encouragers like Elizabeth?”

So after members of the study contemplated the question, Roe decided to reach out to a Methodist church in Newtown, where 26 people — including 20 children — died in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

It turned out, Roe said, two of the children killed in the incident had attended that church.

Roe went to his Walnut congregation and his Highland Lakes United Methodist Church congregation in Buchanan Dam with the idea of writing notes to the families of the two children who attended the Newtown church.

“I think one of the main things we wanted (the families) to know is while there are bad people in the world, there also are lots of good people,” Roe said. “We also wanted to remind them that they are not alone and there are people who they don’t even know who care about them.”

During the Dec. 23 service at Highland Lakes UMC, each bulletin contained a note for people to write encouraging and loving words on to be sent to the Newtown families. Roe told the congregation to pen the notes as they sat in the service.

“I said I didn’t even care if they listened to me,” he said. “Just write the notes.”

The congregations have already sent some notes off to the Newtown church with more to follow. Church officials in Connecticut will pass the letters on to the two families.

“I don’t even know who is going to get these notes other than these are other human beings who need our love and support,” Roe said. “People here just wanted to do something.”

It all goes back to living life and loving people as Christ calls us to do, the pastor said. An example demonstrated by Mary and Elizabeth.

“We’re all called to carry Christ into the world as Mary did, but also love and support those around us as Elizabeth did,” Roe said.