Service remembers 2015 murder victims in Kansas City

2015 murder victims in Kansas City were remembered during a service Saturday night, Dec. 19, at Leawood Baptist Church, Leawood, Kan.

The service is called “The Longest Night.” It is designed to help bring comfort to the victims’ families and to pray for peace in the city.

2015 marked the fifth Longest Night service. It originally was held at Wornall Road Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., but was moved to Leawood Baptist Church for the 2015 service. White crosses bearing murder victims’ names were placed on the church lawn.

The Longest Night service grew out of the murder of Rickey King on Nov. 20, 2011.

“He was an honor student at Southwest High School. He lettered in varsity baseball, and he excelled at ROTC, one of his true loves. He was a leader and a gentleman,” Mark Clifton wrote in a Facebook post.

At the time Clifton was pastor of Wornall Road Baptist Church, which is located two blocks north of Southwest High School. The church serves the school in many ways including serving pre-game meals to the athletic teams.

Clifton now serves as senior director of church replanting at the North American Mission Board. He and his wife, Jill, continue to make their home in the Kansas City area.

“The day Rickey King was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting he picked up a Thanksgiving turkey to deliver to his grandmother,” Clifton continued.

“I knew Rickey. He was a senior at Southwest High School—he had eaten pregame meals at our church.

“His death opened my eyes to the scourge of murder in our city. We placed a cross on our church lawn for Rickey a few days after his murder. But then realizing he was only one of more than 100 that year, we placed a cross on our church lawn for every murder victim in our city. Then we placed the name of that murder victim on that cross.

“And then on the longest night of the year we personally invited all the families of murder victims to come together so that we could embrace them in their sorrow and let them know they were not alone at Christmas—their first Christmas without their loved one.

2015 marked the fifth Longest Night service. “Since we began the services well over 500 citizens of our city have been murdered. Think of the collateral heartache, all those families affected by the violent death of a loved one,” Clifton continued.

“Christians must run toward the pain in our world just as Christ ran toward us in our time of helplessness and need. Christians, sometimes we need to peel ourselves away from parties, festivals and pageants and hang out with people who are deeply hurting at Christmas.”

The date and location of the 2016 Longest Night service will be announced in November.