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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Mercy in a mad world

"We're giving each other enough mercy to keep going," says David Jensen, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colo.

"Your small acts of mercy are what God uses to do great things in the world," Jensen told the shocked congregation following the Oct. 22 suicide of member Carla Hochhalter.

Hochhalter is the mother of Anne Marie Hochhalter, 17, who was shot several times — and partially paralyzed — at Columbine High School, Littleton, Colo., in April.

The suicide occurred a week after Anne Marie moved her legs for the first time since the shootings. Carla, who had been clinically depressed since a series of family deaths starting in 1996, walked into a suburban Denver pawn shop, examined a handgun then fatally shot herself with ammunition she had carried with her.

Carla dealt with "a world gone mad ... by praying the Psalms," says Jensen, who cited Psalm 11 at her funeral. "The Psalm says God is our refuge ... but it also talks about how the wicked take aim at the good. The world became too much for her when evil took aim at the good."

Hochhalter had been hospitalized for depression for about a month before her suicide. The family issued a statement about Carla's prolonged depression "to set the record straight," Jensen says. "Columbine has claimed enough victims. This wasn't all because of Columbine.

"Ted (Hochhalter) says he doesn't know what the family would have done without the church."

"If it's got to be done, it's an honor," Jensen says of his difficult ministry. "I just wish it didn't have to be done."


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