The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
A SON’S LONG JOURNEY AFTER TECH
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
“To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
By PAMELA GOULD
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The first thing Ernest Custalow did when he heard about the Connecticut school shooting on Friday was call his older son.
Ben Custalow was a senior at Virginia Tech five years ago when a student fired on classmates and professors in what remains the nation’s deadliest mass shooting.
“How is that impacting you emotionally” Custalow asked Ben on Friday.
“I think I’m all right. I think I’m all right,” he answered.
Today, Ben Custalow is married and works for a consulting firm on water issues in the Tidewater area.
On April 16, 2007, he was a civil engineering student who—if he had enrolled in the class of a favorite professor—may well have been killed with that man and his classmates.
One of Ben’s first challenges after those shootings was grappling with why he didn’t die.
Survivor’s guilt is common in tragic situations.
A NEED FOR HEALING
Ernest Custalow is senior pastor of Grace Church of Fredericksburg.
On Sunday when he ascended to the pulpit, he began with a time of prayer for the families of the 26 children and staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
He led the congregation of several hundred in prayers for the fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins who would never see their loved ones again.
He also led the church in prayer for the survivors, for their community and for this nation.
Custalow noted the alarming rise in mass murders in the U.S. since 2007 and said the church has a duty to act.
“One of the ways we respond to that—not the only way—is we hit our knees. We begin to pray and ask for God’s mercy on our nation,” he said.
Custalow then preached from Isaiah 61:1-2a, the passage Jesus read when he proclaimed himself the promised Messiah and Savior as recorded in Luke 4.
He came, the passage says, to “preach good tidings to the poor,” to “heal the brokenhearted,” to “proclaim liberty to the captives,” and to open the prison to those who are bound.
That healing, Custalow said, is still available today.
It is what is needed by the families in Connecticut, continues to be needed by the families impacted by the tragedy at Virginia Tech, and is needed in this nation.
Churches need to pray to close the breach ripped open by evil, schools need to address security issues, and society needs to return to the morality of Scripture and biblical values, he said.
There needs to be a respect for life and for people to think more highly of others than of themselves, he said.
“What happened [last] week touched the psyche of a nation,” Custalow said. “I think the president was right. Something is wrong.”
Ernest Custalow rushed to Blacksburg on April 16, 2007, to be with his eldest child and offer comfort as he tried to cope with the shock and pain of 33 deaths on his college campus.
Months later when he visited again, Custalow watched as his son covered his face with both hands while tears flowed.
They drove to a bridge where a memorial had been placed for one of Ben’s slain friends and he cried again.
Grief has no time frame, no rigid pattern. Each person goes about it at his own pace and in his own way.
In the Bible, King David grieved for seven days over one son’s death, five years over another’s, Custalow said.
On the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, Ernest Custalow called his son. He did the same thing on the second anniversary and the third and the fourth.
This year, on April 16, Ben and Tara Custalow visited a doctor’s office to find out the gender of their first child.
Custalow told Ben he saw God’s hand in the timing.
“I think that God has allowed this to happen on this specific day to redeem and recover something that you lost on that Virginia Tech shooting day, because now when you remember that day, you’ll remember that’s the day I learned I was going to have a son.”
That is God’s way and what Jesus was saying in a synagogue some 2,000 years ago when he declared himself the prophesied Messiah.
That is part of the message of Christmas, Custalow said in his sermon.
Jesus came to rescue people from the sin that separated them from God and had them destined for hell.
He also came to redeem them and restore what had been lost in a fallen world where evil looms and the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.
On Friday, after Ernest Custalow spoke to his son and found out he was more focused on the needs of his baby than news in the nation, he saw God’s work of recovery and restoration firsthand.
“I got off the phone and said my son has recovered.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972