Recovering as a Community | Horizon Coverage of Excel Shooting

by The Horizon Staff

It’s been one week since Cedric Ford shot and killed Renee Benjamin, Josh Higbee and Brian Sadowsky at Excel industries. One week since Police Chief Doug Schroeder ended the shooting spree by killing Ford. It’s been one week since we huddled in our dorm rooms and offices, waiting for the campus lock-down to end. The Horizon offers these three previously published articles in response to Feb. 25 as a part of our “Recovering as a Community” coverage.

Excel Workup TIMELINE
Timeline of Events by Billy Bass

Hesston community responds to violence with prayer

Zachary Headings – Horizon Features & Kendra Burkey – Horizon Advisor

Bel Canto performs at the Sunday evening prayer service held at Hesston High School. Photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications
Bel Canto performs at the Sunday evening prayer service held at Hesston High School. Photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications

March 1, 2016 |  In a series of shootings Thursday, a gunman killed three and injured 14 more. The shootings ended at Excel Industries just a few blocks from the college, when the gunman, now identified as Cedric Ford, was killed by Police Chief Doug Schroeder.

While the violence never touched campus, an atmosphere of anxiety and fear certainly did. Several students reported hearing gunfire coming from Excel, just blocks away. The campus went on lock-down for about 75 minutes as students, faculty and staff watched their phones for an all-clear text authorities.

Thursday evening's prayer service at Hesston College Mennonite Church.
Thursday evening’s prayer service at Hesston College Mennonite Church.

At 8:30 that evening Hesston College students, faculty, and staff gathered together in the Hesston Mennonite Church sanctuary along with Hesston community members, responding in the best way they knew how: They prayed.

President Howard Keim led the service.

“We thought it would never happen in Hesston,” he said. “It happened.”

At the end of the service, another call for prayer: “Take the time to pray for yourself, for all of us here at Hesston, and especially for those at Excel Industries,” said Keim.

Emma Roth, a sophomore, said she was impressed with the college’s response. The norm, she said, is to match violence with violence.

“We didn’t do that,” she said. “Howard talked about the love of Jesus and how we respond with love instead of hate.”

The service ended quickly, but many students stayed behind, comforting those around them.

The greater Hesston community gathered again Friday evening for a candlelight vigil and again last night in the Hesston High School gym for “Harvey County Service of Sorrow and Hope,” which filled the gym to capacity. Area pastors lit candles for the 18 individuals shot, including one for Cedric Ford.

In an email to Hesston College students, faculty and staff sent earlier today, Keim thanked the campus for the compassion shown to the Excel community, naming the many ways they’ve responded with love: signing cards for Excel, Bel Canto’s singing at Sunday services, three students who were at the scene with First Responders, staff who volunteered as counselors, food service providing food for response workers Friday.

“The care you are showing to each other and the Hesston Community is a tribute to this place, where we seek to educate and nurture in Christ centered community,” Keim said.

The list is long. And the need doesn’t end there.

“In the coming days and weeks, there will be more opportunities to show support as the Hesston and Excel community moves from response to recovery. Continue to pray for all of the victims of this tragedy, and for Excel leaders and employees as they re-enter their place of work in the coming days. Pray for the leaders of the city, EMS workers, law enforcement, and all who are working to help our community recover.”

Why You Should Care: From Excel Onward

by Caleb Schrock-Hurst – Horizon Columnist

March 1, 2016 | This week we were hit in the gut.

No one ever thought that a shooting like this could happen here, not in agricultural Harvey county. No one ever expected it.

But it happened. And we will be dealing with the fallout for a long time to come.

Though I have been overwhelmed with sorrow and pain, I have also been overwhelmed with joy at a community that forgives and moves forward. We have comforted each other and the grieving in a way that I am tempted to think only Mennonites can.

In a show of support for Excel Industries, the Hesston College maintenance department lined up their fleet of Hustler machinery on Main Street.
In a show of support for Excel Industries, the Hesston College maintenance department lined up their fleet of Hustler machinery on Main Street.

It’s safe to say none of us want this to happen again. How we prevent violence, though, is something that we can, and do, create a lot of violence over. The past few days my Facebook feed has seen posts about how a concealed carry permit would have stopped the shooting faster sandwiched between posts about how the US needs to ban all guns immediately. Though I certainly have my own opinion (and would love to share it, just not right now), the larger issue is our inability to be civil to one another in a time of grief.However, as is always the case, there are some people who take it too far. Typically, I am one of those people.

We must first acknowledge our collective grief and then come together to discuss and solve problems. We must be able to examine facts and then act on what the data says. As a community, this means we must sometimes sacrifice and make choices that benefit our whole community (and country), not one group or another. I am willing to make sacrifices so we don’t ever have to spend another hour and a half sitting on a bathroom floor clutching our phones and watching the body count rise.

So, what can we do? We can continue providing loving communities where everyone is welcome. I truly believe that Cedric Ford has been forgiven and am astounded by the grace he has been shown. This is irresistable grace. This is what Jesus would have wanted.

Every time we create community we are preventing violence. We are bringing Christ’s kingdom to Earth.

I am reminded of what Shane Claiborne says in Jesus for President, which, by the way, he is giving away for free to any Christian who supports Donald Trump. Spread the word. Shane is discussing our call as Christians, saying

Shane Claiborne, last weekend's Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series speaker, posted this on his Facebook page.
Shane Claiborne, last weekend’s Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series speaker, posted this on his Facebook page.

I believe that our reactions to the deaths this week have made the lost witnesses. Heroes. Their deaths can spread the gospel of grace.“In an age of violence and terror, it’s important not just to live well but to die well. We are not called simply to live like Christ, but we are called to die like Christ. And he died loving. The heroes of our faith are not war heroes, but martyrs. Martyr means ‘witness,’ and the ripples that their deaths made are part of what spread the gospel of grace. They are not people who died killing but people who died loving.”

And so far, they have.

We, as a Hesston community, are singing that song of love and grace that Jesus has called us to sing. Our community is witnessing to the power of forgiveness and Jesus’s love. Let us continue shining our light. Our squabbles can come later. For now, let us love, forgive, and remember.

Caleb Schrock-Hurst is a Sophomore at Hesston College where he works as a Writing Assistant, Ministry Assistant, and Horizon contributor. He would like to study everything, but when forced to choose selected English, History, and Music. Outside of academics his main interests are tennis, Bernie Sanders’ political campaign, the global church, and Arsenal Football Club. Feel free to contact him at or find him on campus if you wish to exchange verbal or physical blows. (Editor’s note: Caleb Schrock-Hurst’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Horizon staff or Hesston College.) 

When grief is not normal

by Billy Bass – Horizon News Editor

March 1, 2016 | The Hesston College community is one that supports its people. As this community processes Thursday’s tragic events and mourns the loss of friends and colleagues, we try to make sense of violence in our world. It is normal that we should all feel a wide range of emotions. It’s normal that we cope with our grief in different ways.

But if grief is too extreme, or if you have trouble recovering from the events of last week, you may need help.

Campus counselor Julie Lehman provides guidance on how to distinguish between the two:

The community gathered at Hesston High School Sunday evening to express their grief during a prayer service.
The community gathered at Hesston High School Sunday evening to express their grief during a prayer service.

Lehman says its important to realize that everyone’s grief process is different, so don’t expect a formula.

What is normal in times of grief?

“For those familiar with the stages of grief, we often think we will go through those steps in a linear way: This, then this,” she said. “Everyone’s grief process is different, and we often compare our grief process with others, when we all grieve in our own way.”

We may see a wide variety of expressions of grief in others.

“They may cry or have a blank face, where their emotions are churning inside. For some, it is an anger response.”

What’s most important, Lehman says, is to let yourself experience the pain of grief in a comfortable place.

“Give yourself the space to experience what you’re experiencing.”

Lehman describes how in a tragedy, our brains try to make order. It’s the way they were designed. We can help that process of creating order by doing what we know has been helpful in the past, whether that’s through reading, prayer, conversation or time outside in nature.

What is not normal in times of grief?

While withdrawing is okay, Lehman says there’s a limit.

“If you notice within yourself, or within others that, in time, that you cannot engage with your day-to-day activities, eat, get out of bed, take a shower… if you’ve become completely disengaged from your surroundings, it’s time to reach out to someone.”

It’s also important to be observant of your peers. If an individual is violent, outraged, or wishes to respond by seeking revenge in some way, speak to someone immediately. These extreme comments are worth noting, and need to be handled promptly.

All in all, be mindful of your fellow Larks, and lift up and support each other in God’s grace.

“Holy Spirit, come with power, breathe into our aching night. We expect you this glad hour, waiting for your strength and light. We are fearful, we are ailing, we are weak and selfish too. Break upon your congregation, give us vigor, life anew.”

Hymnal A Worship Book, 26  (Neufeld Ropp)


Campus Contact Persons

If you need support in this time of grieving, consider these resources.


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