“Jesus Wept,” a message written in colorful chalk on many of the concrete sidewalks of Isla Vista on Tuesday, set the tone for a speedily organized worship and prayer night for students and community members to come together to find strength and healing in the aftermath of Friday night’s violent rampage.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Embarcadero Hall, only blocks from where several of the deaths occurred, to sing praise songs and to pray for the victims, their families and the community of Isla Vista.
More than 400 people indicated their plans to attend on the event’s Facebook page, Hope for IV, created by UCSB student Tony Hui, who said it was “put together super last minute.” Students used the hash tag #IVHOPE to popularize the page on Facebook and other social media.
“We wanted to give anyone and everyone — Christians or not Christians — a space to seek a greater hope that is beyond ourselves,” Hui said. “We wanted IV to know that hope indeed is not dead, and that hope and love is alive and well.”
Hui is involved with Cru, a national Christian campus ministry organization, and helps lead Epic Movement, a Cru ministry focused on “serving and reaching out to the Asian American student population.”
Three of Friday’s victims were Asian American students. Cheng Yuan Hong and George Chen, roommates of 22-year-old killer Elliot Rodger, and their acquaintance Weihan Wang were all killed in their unit at the Capri Apartments, 6598 Seville Road.
Tuesday evening’s event began with gentle acoustic guitar notes strummed by Hui and his friend John Han, accompanied by words printed on handouts for the crowd to follow as they sang, with song titles such as “God of This City” and “Hope’s Not Dead.”
After the music, Cru leader Chris Comstock shared a message with the crowd. He emphasized the hope that he and the Cru students had for Isla Vista, saying, “Jesus is the hope for Isla Vista, and he’s also the hope for the world.”
Comstock’s words were followed by more from his friend Jason Lomelino, pastor of Isla Vista Church. He then turned it over to his wife, Holly Lomelino, to pray for those in Isla Vista struggling to cope with fear and sadness.
Organizers then asked those in attendance to form smaller prayer groups, prompting them to pray for victims and their families, for the community of Isla Vista and for people around the nation grieving over the news.
Afterward, groups were encouraged to venture out on the streets of Isla Vista for a prayer walk, stopping to pray for healing and peace in front of apartment buildings, parks and street corners just beginning to return to their normal hustle and bustle after a chaotic weekend.
Comstock and Lomelino also extended an invitation to stay at Embarcadero Hall and pray with pastors from local churches, including Isla Vista Church and Santa Barbara Community Church, or to talk with professional counselors.
Groups found their way to the locations where several of the victims lost their lives on Friday night. In front of the Alpha Phi sorority house, in the 800 block of Embarcadero Del Norte, flowers, teddy bears, candles and even a Starbucks coffee were lovingly laid out for Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss, members of the Tri Delta sorority who were gunned down by Rodger.
Fond memories, personal messages and Bible verses were scrawled on the sidewalk with chalk by grieving friends and well-wishers.
A similar offering was laid out in front of the Isla Vista Deli Mart on Pardall Road, where Rodger shot Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez.
Those paying their respects lit candles in front of the store as the evening grew darker, surrounded by signs of life in Isla Vista returning to normal.
Placed at both of the street memorials were signs with the “Jesus Wept” message.
“Our hope for IV is that we’d walk through this tragedy together as a community,” Hui said of the Cru ministry. “We want to be able to love people well, and encourage them and strengthen them for life.”