A major focus of my ministry was with children and youth. The summers of high school found me working at our church’s camp, washing dishes, carrying out garbage, swabbing floors, building campfires, painting cabins and, well, you name it! During college, I was a camp counselor for two and a half summers. Seminary years allowed me to serve as youth director/worker for two churches, an internship year followed by a senior year at the same church involved me in founding and directing a community youth ministry in north Minneapolis.

Pastoral ministry focused on youth and education, developing after school ministries and teaming with other youth leaders to found a Lutheran Athletic League in Denver. The apex of my youth ministry was 17 years as executive director of two camps, Shetek in SW Minnesota and Sky Ranch in Colorado. Retreats and summer youth/family ministry on steroids!

My understanding of “church” and Christ was grounded theologically in nonviolence. The ’60s, coupled with Vietnam, Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation, Earth Day and multiple tragic assassinations, schooled me in a profoundly nonviolent ethic. Youth and nonviolence wedded as one.

Hence, it was with urgent sadness that I read reports from CBS News this week. The first reported “deadly unintentional shootings by children increased 43% in March and April compared to average gun deaths during the same two months over the last three years.” The second report stated “April was the 4th highest month for background checks since 1998.” There is a close relationship between the two. More guns equal more gun violence. The United States has more guns per capita than any other nation. The child gun death rate for USA children far exceeds that of other nations. Into the mix we can toss COVID-19 coupled with fear as concocting a deadly brew for our children and youth. The last six ENGAGE Blog posts address this truth. (See: www.engageelca.org/Blog.)

PLEASE, for the sake of your children, if you have guns in your home, 1) Unload the weapon; 2) Lock the weapon in a safe; 3) Lock the ammunition in a separate safe.

One of my favorite Biblical passages is written in Matthew, Mark and Luke, “Let the children come to me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” Matthew deep dives to Jeremiah 31:15, writing “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.”

Lock ’em up! Love your children.


Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)