(Photo: AP / The Virginian-Pilot, Stephen M. Katz)
Classes at Virginia Tech were canceled for the week and the campus began to quiet down as many students left for home after the shooting massacre. For those still lingering and in mourning, numerous faith groups have been on ground to lend a shoulder to cry on and answer the prevailing question "Why?"
"Though it feels like a dark cloud is over the Blacksburg campus, God is present," said Wes Barts, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff member at Virginia Tech.
Since Monday morning's two shooting attacks that killed 33 people, including the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, teams of Christian students and staff have spent the past several days walking around campus comforting people.
Many faced the inevitable question "Where is God?" or "Why did God allow this to happen?"
"They always tag this on God," evangelist Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), told the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The questions also come as NBC News received a 1,800-word statement and 27 QuickTime videos showing Cho talking to the camera discussing his hatred of the wealthy and complaining about Christianity. The mail had been postmarked during the more than two hours between the two shootings at the West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory and Norris Hall engineering building at 9:01 a.m.
"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," said Cho in one of the videos that aired Wednesday night on NBC. He said he felt he had no other choice.
Meanwhile, the world renowned evangelist says, "God has given us a free choice and there's evil in this world. I tag this on the devil. He's responsible. He's the one who wants to seek and he's the one who wants to destroy," according to CBN.
While God's love is for every person, it doesn't mean bad things are not going to happen to people, Graham explained. What Cho did was not increase the death rate, he said.
"Every one of us is going to die. Every one of us is going to have to stand before God one day." As the Virginia Tech tragedy reminds everyone of the brevity of life, the question is, are we prepared to stand before God, Graham posed.
Another prominent evangelical, Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., answers the question "Where was God while all this was going on?"
"He was hanging on the cross," he states in his book Turn it to Gold.
"The cross is Gods ultimate solution to sorrow and suffering. Thus all of our pain is in His heart. Our God does not hold Himself aloof from our difficulties. He is right here, in the midst of our suffering, enduring more of it than any of us ever has or ever will. And not only that, but He gives us the power to bear our suffering."
Offering further insight into the question, Kennedy said that God uses pain and adversity for good in our lives. Suffering is used by God to make us more compassionate to others, to bring us closer to God, and to shape in His followers the character of Christ, he said.
While some mourning the death of a loved one or a close friend may be questioning God's presence or searching for Him, Christian groups from around the nation and right on the Virginia Tech campus have maintained a "ministry of presence," as the BGEA put it, displaying God's love through their prayers and counseling.
Graham's ministry sent 20 chaplains from the Rapid Response Team to the shooting site beginning Monday to talk with students still shocked by the nation's worst shooting rampage in U.S. history. As of Wednesday morning, the BGEA team prayed with over 250 students, six of whom made decisions for Christ.
Campus groups like InterVarsity and Chi Alpha Ministries are more focused on being available to hurting students and praying and ministering to them when opportunity arises.
Graham chooses to take a bold approach, directing students to "Almighty God."
"There's nothing I can say to ease somebody's heart," Graham told CBN. "But God can. God supernaturally can reach right into the heart [and] the soul of a human being to provide His comfort."
"The Bible makes it very clear that God loves us. He cares for us," he added. "I want students to know that God loves them and God has not abandoned them and that He's there for them right now if they'll just reach out by faith."
Still, in a time of mourning, sometimes the chaplains give nothing more than silent support and pray when requested.
The school's Baptist student center, the United Methodists' Wesley Foundation Center next to campus, and local area churches - including St. Francis Anglican Church - have opened their doors since the day of the shooting to welcome mourners and offer prayers throughout the day.
Campus Crusade for Christ urged for a concerted gathering across the country on Thursday to call on God. "It would be an incredible testimony and blessing to the Virginia Tech community to know there has been such an outpouring of love demonstrated by prayer," the national office stated.