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‘God didn’t do this’

Minister grieves slain wife, son.

In the midst of unimaginable tragedy, Les Ferguson Jr.’s faith survives.
“God didn’t do this,” said Ferguson, preaching minister for the Orange Grove Church of Christ in Gulfport, Miss. “This was just evil.”
Even as he clings to God, Ferguson can’t help but weep as he mourns his wife, Karen, and son Cole, 21, who were shot to death in the family’s home Oct. 10.
“They were just beautiful people,” Ferguson said. “My son struggled his whole life with disabilities. He was frustrated and hurt a lot, but he was a good boy. He wanted to do right, and he loved God. He loved to sing, even if nobody else understood what he was saying.”
Karen Brown Ferguson, 44, was “just the best mama and wife you could ever want,” the minister added. “She sacrificed her whole life for everybody around her. She did it again. I really believe she could have saved herself.”
The suspect in the double-homicide — Paul Ellis Buckman — died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his apartment about two miles away, Gulfport police Capt. Craig Petersen said.
Buckman, 70, had attended the Orange Grove church until he was charged in July with sexually assaulting Cole Ferguson, who had cerebral palsy, friends and authorities said.
The youngest of the Fergusons’ four sons — 5-year-old Casey — ran to a neighbor’s house and survived the attack, witnesses said.
Ferguson was attending a preachers’ meeting at the Rodenburg Avenue Church of Christ in nearby Biloxi that afternoon. The minister said his wife fought the killer.
“She fought him so hard, you just wouldn’t believe,” Ferguson said. “She saved one. She got Casey out of the house. She fought hard for Cole.”
Son Conner, 14, had spent the night with friends from church. Not long before the shootings, Conner stopped by the house and got money from his mother to play miniature golf, Ferguson said. Oldest son Kyle serves as campus minister for the University Church of Christ in Murray, Ky.
From near and far, the tragedy drew an outpouring of sympathy and prayers from members of Churches of Christ.
“Huge numbers of people have been touched,” said Milton Sewell, chancellor of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., and a next-door neighbor of Bob and Joan Brown, Karen Ferguson’s parents.
Many in Churches of Christ know Les Ferguson Jr. through his work with church volunteers from across the nation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
His father, Les Ferguson Sr., is a former president of the now-defunct Magnolia Bible College in Kosciusko, Miss.
Les Jr.’s brother, Billy Ferguson, minister for the Seventh Street Church of Christ in Columbus, Miss., delivered the eulogy at Karen and Cole’s funeral Oct. 14. An estimated 700 mourners packed the Orange Grove church building.
Close family friend John Dobbs praised the “outstanding response to this horrific tragedy” by the Orange Grove church.
“The family was never alone, never had a need, never was without someone ready to do whatever could be done,” said Dobbs, minister for the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, La., and a former minister for the Central Church of Christ in Pascagoula, Miss., not far from Gulfport. “And yet they did not smother the family — they were simply available.”
Dobbs suffered a tragedy of his own in 2008 when his 18-year-old son, John Robert Dobbs, was struck and killed on an interstate. Les Ferguson Jr. was one of the first people to reach out to Dobbs and spoke at John Robert’s funeral.
“I don’t know of any preacher who works as hard as Les, who is as relentlessly consumed with reaching out to the lost, who teaches and baptizes more people,” Dobbs said of his friend. “Even though Cole was afflicted, and they joyfully met every challenge with love and compassion, they still had enough compassion to rescue and adopt Casey. This family is a testimony of love, and everyone who knows them is simply crushed.”
In Tennessee, countless people from the Browns’ congregation, the Henderson Church of Christ, comforted the Browns at their home, sent cards, called and otherwise tried to ease their suffering, Sewell said. Bob Brown is a retired Freed-Hardeman physical science professor.
Dan Winkler, minister for the Huntingdon Church of Christ in Tennessee, whose son, Matthew, was shot to death in 2006, was among those who visited and encouraged the Browns.
However, Sewell said, “You can’t be around them very long before they’re encouraging you. They’re just that strong in their faith.”
The day of the slayings marked Les and Karen Ferguson’s 24th wedding anniversary.
That morning, Karen Ferguson posted a Facebook message wishing her husband — “the love of my life” — a happy anniversary.
“You are a great husband and a great father to our four boys! I love you ALWAYS!!!!” she wrote.
Before his world turned upside down, Ferguson posted a message of his own: “Happy 24th Anniversary to my beautiful wife Karen Brown Ferguson! Heaven couldn’t be any sweeter! I love you!”
Now, heaven can’t come soon enough.
“I’m ready to get home,” Ferguson said. “It’s still a nightmare. I’m still trying to wake up.”
AN ACCOUNT TO BENEFIT the Ferguson family has been set up at Hancock Bank branches. For more information, see www.ogcofc.org.

  • Feedback
    My husband and I are so deeply sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine what you’re going through, but we pray that God will give you peace and that He will help you through. I also wanted to let you know that I too suffer from CP. I would have loved to meet Cole. If you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
    Best Wishes,
    Howard and April Goodman (Jim and Becky Gardner’s daughter and son-in law)
    April Goodman
    Estes Church of Christ
    Henderson, Tennessee
    December, 10 2011
    Our hearts and prayers go out to you and your family over this senseless loss of life. I can tell you from personal experience that you God knows where you are..you are not alone. Be encouraged. Prayers for comfort and strength as you pull the peices of your life back together.
    Doris Lockett
    Suncoast Church of Christ
    Lake Worth, Florida
    November, 15 2011
    Hope for what we do not see is what gets us through. (Romans 8:18-27) Nothing I could say would comfort more than those words. When the burden gets too hard to bear, step back from what you can see around you, and concentrate on what you cannot see(but your wife and eldest son CAN now see!). Sometimes, kneeling at the feet of Jesus doesn’t put us close enough. It’s those times that we can envision ourselves climbing up in His lap like a little child instead.
    Russ Sharp
    Edmond church of Christ
    Edmond, Oklahoma
    October, 31 2011
    We are praying for you and your family. God’s blessings on you!!
    Keith Bellamy
    Woodville Church of Christ
    Woodville, TX
    October, 30 2011
    How beautiful heaven must be, and more beautiful now after this tragedy. Our hearts mourn for you here in WA state, and we pray for your family God’s comforting hand.
    Randy and Linda Hardy
    Foothills Church of Christ
    Lake Stevens, WA
    October, 30 2011
    I am so very sorry about your losses. When the article about John Robert Dobbs’ death was in the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE, our son and his wife were the couple killed by the tornado, which shared the article with John Robert. Still, I can’t imagine the pain you have endured; I can only pray that God will continue to sustain you.
    Wayland Whitlow
    Wayland Whitlow
    Clearwater Church of Christ
    Clearwater, KS
    October, 29 2011
    Les, we have no words that can offer any comfort right now. But please know that we are praying for your family. Warren Baldwin
    Warren Baldwin
    Ulysses, KS
    Ulysses, KS
    October, 28 2011
    I just wanted to say that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Faye Stanford
    Olive Branch church of Christ
    Byhalia, Ms.
    October, 28 2011
    Brother Ferguson,
    Rejoice, be at peace, and let it be “well with your soul”-because you know where your beloved wife and son are.
    Steven J Silva
    Echo Lake church of Christ, Westfield, NJ
    Cranford, New Jersey
    October, 28 2011
    Bro. Ferguson my heart aches at the tradegy you and your family are experiencing. I can only say that you are not alone. Brothers and Sisters are carrying your concern before our great God. Keep looking up because God is reaching down.–James A. Maxwell
    James A. Maxwell
    Holgate Church of Christ
    Seattle, WA
    October, 28 2011

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