Wofford study abroad student among those in Paris during attacks
By Jessica Brodie
LEXINGTON—When news broke Nov. 13 about the terrorist attacks in Paris, one Lexington mother, Stephanie Cox, immediately turned to her church family for help.
Cox’s daughter, Ashlyn, a senior at Wofford College, was out to dinner with friends at a café in Paris when Islamic State terrorists stormed a concert hall, stadium and several restaurants in the city, leaving 129 dead and 352 wounded.
“It was a really scary situation,” Cox said.
Ashlyn, a biology and French major in the middle of a study abroad semester, texted her mother a picture of the restaurant with chairs blocking a door.
“Because of social media, they knew the attacks were happening, and people immediately barricaded the doors,” Cox said. “It’s not a picture any mother wants to see. Then we learned the Metro was closed, and her host home was outside Paris 40 minutes away, and we didn’t know what else was going to happen, if it was going to continue. Even if she was safe at the moment, she was still barricaded in a restaurant.”
Cox, a member of the Prayer Warriors team at Mount Horeb UMC, asked her church family to begin praying right away.
Her daughter was one of the lucky ones; she was able to take an Uber cab to a friend’s house for the night, and today she is still in Paris, planning to finish out the rest of the semester.
Others were not so lucky. Cox said her heart is still breaking for the Gomez family in California, who lost their daughter during the attacks.
“She was doing the exact same thing as Ashlyn that night,” Cox said. “She was a young woman on her study abroad for college in Paris who went out to eat with her friends that night. She just happened to be in one of the restaurants that the terrorists targeted. I cannot even imagine the depths of her parents' sorrow.
“By the grace of God, my daughter is alive and theirs is not.”
Now, Cox joins other United Methodists in urging people of faith to continue to pray for Paris and for the world.
The president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., issued a statement about the attacks.
Citing how Jesus wept in John 11:35, Brown wrote, “This week, we weep for those in Paris. We weep for the senseless violence. We weep for the innocents whose lives were cut short. We weep for those who are grieving, who are frightened, who are hurting. We weep for those whose hearts are breaking, in France and all over the world. As several world leaders have stated, this is an attack on all humanity.”
Brown called for United Methodists to be in prayer for Paris and the people of France, for other communities around the world that cringe under the threat of violence, and that the Holy Spirit illuminate ways that will break this cycle of violence.
The executive committee of the United Methodist Germany Central Conference sent a letter of prayer and solidarity to the Protestant Federation and United Methodist congregations in France.
The Rev. John McCullough, of Church World Service, also called for prayer, stating, “The 37 member communions of Church World Service stand alongside our interfaith partners as we condemn the continued violence perpetrated by ISIS. Hatred and violence have no religion, nationality or belonging in any community.”
World Methodist Council General Secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams extended condolences from the WMC to the next of kin of those killed and to the French nation.
“May God help us work toward and realize a day when violence no longer exists,” Abrahams said.
And Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches, condemned the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, as well as attacks in Beirut and Baghdad.
“We stand in solidarity with peace-loving people everywhere and urge these acts of horrific violence not be mistaken as part of a war between Christianity and Islam,” Winkler said.
In Lexington, the Coxes and their church family at Mount Horeb continue to pray fervently—not only for peace but also for God to somehow use this terrible situation to bring good in the world.
“There are so many students who are very fearful,” Cox said. “I’ve been praying for God to bring good out of this, to bring revival, to use Ashlyn and other believers to be a shining light there.”
For United Methodist resources on how to respond after violence, visit www.umc.org/topics/topic-responding-to-violence.
Statement on Paris attacks from president of UMC Council of Bishops:
John 11:35 Jesus wept. This week, we weep for those in Paris. We weep for the senseless violence. We weep for the innocents whose lives were cut short. We weep for those who are grieving, who are frightened, who are hurting. We weep for those whose hearts are breaking, in France and all over the world. As several world leaders have stated, this is an attack on all humanity.
Even as we weep, we know that God is with us, that he sustains us with hope and that he will dry our tears. Once again, the forces of evil have tried to dominate; but, as disciples of Jesus, we must make our witness that the darkness will not overcome our light.
Let us be in prayer for Paris and the people of France. These events have impacted them in the way September 11, 2001, grieved the U.S. Also, please pray for communities around our world that will not make the news, but cringe under the threat of violence. May the Holy Spirit guide us in ways that will break this cycle of violence.
Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr.
President, Council of Bishops