On February 13, 2008, a Northern Illinois University co-ed named Lauren Carr prayed to grow close to God and find true meaning for her life. The next day, however, her desire to draw near to God would turn to anger. As she sat down on that Valentine’s Day in the third row of the auditorium in Cole Hall for her oceanography class, a few rows away from her childhood friend and former soccer teammate Gayle Dubowski, she had no idea that her life was about to be impacted forever. A lone gunman burst into the classroom, killing five people—including Lauren’s friend Gayle. Everyone in that section of the room was shot, except for Lauren.
Gayle was a Christian, a faithful member of the campus ministry at NIU.* Her parents, Joe and Laurel Dubowski, are faithful members of the West Suburban Ministry Center of the Chicago Church of Christ; every year, Joe, Laurel, and their son Ryan attend the memorial services at NIU to remember those lost on that horrible day in 2008. Laurel admits that she does not really want to attend the memorial ever year, but she denies herself and simply goes so that she might have an opportunity to impact someone—to share God’s truth with someone else who was affected by this painful tragedy.
Lauren recalls Laurel telling her that God had spared her, but Lauren was doubtful of God’s love for her and had been angry at God since that awful day in 2008. Joe and Laurel prayed that Lauren would one day be interested in learning about the God who saved her. In the meantime, they kept in touch with her regularly.
This year, however, Lauren had a change of heart. She accepted Laurel’s invitation to study the Bible; her first study was just days later, on February 19th, with Laurel and one of the campus girls, Kara Clawson. Kara had also been friends with Gayle growing up in the church, and Gayle and Laurel had even studied the Bible with Kara when she was first seeking a relationship with God as a teen.
Lauren’s first visit to church was initially unsettling, as the auditorium reminded her of Cole Hall at NIU. She pushed through the emotions with the help of the campus girls and soon her vibrant personality was shining through. Lauren was especially touched by Jessica Fridley, as she shared life-changing (and mind-changing!) scriptures such as Philippians 4:4-8 while she helped Lauren clean her apartment. Lauren eagerly met for more Bible studies, accepting God’s word and immediately putting it into action.
April 27, 2013, was an emotional day as Lauren was baptized into Christ in the Dubowski’s backyard. Those of us who remember the pain of February 14th, 2008, were filled with joy as we reflected on how happy God surely is that Lauren has turned to Him even amidst such a senseless, painful tragedy. The faith of the Dubowski’s inspires us all, as they tenaciously hold on to the God of all comfort…and He graciously wraps His arms around them.
*For more background on this story, click here.