Sunday night worship services had ended at Concord Assembly when someone felt the need for more prayer.
Doris Strong, the preacher’s wife, pointed to her son, Ben, and asked a man standing near the altar to pray for him.
“I didn’t really have any specific reason. I just felt he should,” she said Tuesday. “When he laid his hand on Ben’s head, he started praying for protection.”
Ben Strong needed that protection the next morning in his high school lobby: He approached a schoolmate who had just shot eight students and pushed him against a wall, ending the slaughter.
Ben, who was unhurt, had just concluded an informal morning prayer meeting at Heath High School with a prayer of his own:
“I prayed that God would go with us throughout the day … and that we would be bold Christians.”
Ben Strong, 17, has been all over the national media since those awful few moments Monday morning.
He’s been portrayed as the hero who acted without regard to his own safety. He’s been the consummate eyewitness, calmly telling the story of Mike Carneal, the 14-year-old who allegedly opened fire at the school.
He’s also talked about Christian principles of forgiveness.
“I liked him. I still do,” Ben said of Carneal.
Doris Strong, Ben’s mother, described her third and youngest child as a well-rounded teen who never gives his parents any trouble.
She said she has a hard time identifying with parents who complain about difficult teenagers.
“He’s always been a blessing,” she said.
Ben plays football and lifts weights, she said. He plays keyboard and the saxophone. He works some Saturdays at the Service Merchandise.
The central thing in his life is religion.
A little more than six years ago, he helped his father, the Rev. Bobby Strong, found Concord Assembly, a church with 60 members.
He helped build the church and often is involved in worship services.
Religion runs deep in the family. Bobby Strong’s brother, Zackery Strong, also is a minister.
His aunt, Diane Strong, was at the Sunday night service where the man prayed for Ben’s protection.
“That’s a testimony right there,” she said. “We really feel like God used Ben to intervene.”
Ben’s goal, his mother said, is to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle and enter the ministry.
He plans to do missionary work in Argentina next summer.
Then, at his parents’ request, he will attend a community college close to home for a year before transferring to a Bible college.
He wants to be an evangelist and perhaps use music in his ministry, Doris Strong said.
Tuesday, as Ben was helping comfort other students and speaking to a succession of reporters, she seemed concerned that her son had not realized the magnitude of the tragedy in which he played such a pivotal role.
“He’s trying to help other kids,” she said. “I don’t think he’s fully processed it all on his own at this point. He’s just been reaching out to help others.”