On March 24, 2018, it is estimated that 800,000 protesters* attended the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. Others attended large sibling rallies in cities such as New York, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburg, Minneapolis, and Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed during a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School. During the D.C. demonstration, victims of school shootings and celebrities spoke and/or performed while thousands of teens and young adults attended as advocates for gun-control. Many Christians, including Adventists, attended demonstrations across the U.S., undoubtedly feeling called by Christ to participate.
But one Parkland shooting victim and survivor who has gained some notoriety through numerous, televised interviews wasn’t in D.C. Or in Parkland, for that matter. On that March day, Samantha Grady was a state away from the Florida demonstration.
While Grady is still healing from wounds from two bullets, and even though she has participated in rallies in her community and at her high school, she decided to quietly stay out of the spotlight, not watching the CNN special that aired Friday night, nor attending any marches on Sabbath. That weekend, Grady traveled to Georgia with other Pompano Beach Seventh-day Adventist Church members to participate in a regional Pathfinder Bible Experience event.
“After CNN filmed me [for a profile], a group offered to pay our way to the march,” said Grady. “Hotel, airplane, everything. But going just wasn’t the right thing for me to do.”
Instead, she worshiped, prayed, and studied the Bible. A gifted soloist, pianist and viola player, Grady also took time to praise God with her supportive church family.
“My faith has brought me through this trial,” said Grady. “It’s a big part of who I am and I’m not afraid to talk about it or share it.” Grady is also not afraid to live it. For her—and her family—that meant, while casting no aspersions toward others, declining to participate.
“It’s not for us to decide what’s right for others,” said Sally Grady, Samantha’s mother. “For us . . . we will do what we always do on Sabbath. How could we do anything less?”
The Grady family, clear in their faith and reasoning, declared that it wasn’t luck that protected Samantha as the gunman fired shots into her fourth period classroom. “God intervened in her life and that is why she was saved,” said Mrs. Grady.
Samantha’s father agreed. “That’s the reason Samantha can carry on. God’s got plans for her and she knows it,” James Grady said. “It’s our faith in God that brought us here and our faith that will continue to keep us going on.”
“We don’t understand why God permits these things to happen, but He’s still in charge and He loves us,” said Mrs. Grady. “It was a very difficult time and still is, but I know with God’s grace we will get through it. I told Samantha that when darkness comes to her, remember Philippians 4:8.”
For Grady, she will continue to pursue her goal of being a pediatrician. And she will continue participation in her school’s Christian club, in her singing ministry, in Pathfinders and the Pathfinder Bible Experience, and with teaching kids at church.
As the Grady family, and a community, continue to heal in body and spirit, these words come to mind: “God's people are neither to fear nor to despise their enemies. Putting their trust in God, they are to go steadily forward, doing His work with unselfishness, and committing to His providence the cause for which they stand” (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 645).
* This figure was reported by March for Our Lives organizers; other groups have estimated the D.C. gathering to have been anywhere from 200,000 to more than 500,000.
— Kimberly Luste Maran is an associate director for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Office of Communication; material for this article came from a video interview and conversations with the Grady family; video of the interview coming soon.