Memorial Service Held For Slain Missionaries

Friend: Crouse Found Himself Before His Death

A memorial service was held Wednesday for the two victims who died in Sunday's missionary training school shooting.

The service was held for Tiffany Johnson and Philip Crouse and is called "A Celebration of Life for Tiffany and Philip."

Missionary students Dan Griebenow and Charlie Blanch were injured in the same shooting.

Police said the gunman, Matthew Murray, 24, later shot and killed two more people at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and wounded three others. He killed himself after he was shot by a church security guard.

A memorial service is planned Wednesday evening for the Colorado Springs victims.

At Arvada's Faith Bible Church, about 1,000 people gathered to remember Crouse, 24, and Johnson, 26, with tears, laughter and song.

Afterwards, their families said that they have already forgiven Murray, and planned to meet the gunman's parents.

"We believe that she (Tiffany) would want to forgive. I just want to extend from our family to theirs forgiveness. They have done nothing wrong," Johnson's uncle, Andy Ronchak, said.

"If Matthew, the person that took Tiffany's life was here, I believe she would want us to forgive him," said Johnson's father, Tom Johnson.

They noted that, like Murray, Crouse once was a troubled youth before missionary work. At one point, the teen with the "rough edges" was even described as a skinhead. But he turned his life around and devoted his life to God.

"Phil, you were your biological father's son, but today you're your heavenly father's son," said Philips father, Eugene Crouse, crying.

His pastor, Zack Chandler, said Crouse would often ride on city buses.

"He would ride in the back and tried to minister to kids that look like what he used to look like. He can tell that they were very hardened," said Chandler.

Johnson, meanwhile, spent her time with the mission counseling youth. Friends say it was impossible not to love her, she had a heart of a child, a zest for life and wanted to travel the world and change it for the better.

"I miss you," said her friend Petra Russell, sobbing. "It hasn't even been a week but it feels like forever. Goodbye, dear friend."

Johnson's mother thanked everyone for embracing her.

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart for how much you loved my baby girl," said Diane Jacobson.

Both were remembered as people who were committed to their faith and found meaning through Youth With A Mission.

"We are here to celebrate life," said pastor George Morrison. "There are people from around the world celebrating with you."

Blanch, who survived the shooting, received a round of applause during the service and afterwards said, "They were happy with the lives they lived. It makes me even more happy with the life I'm living right now."

Friends Say Crouse Hit Rock Bottom Before He Turned To Christianity

A close friend of Crouse said he didn't like church very much growing up. That all changed several years ago.

"It was just an awesome, awesome transformation," said Shiloh Ryan Tuesday evening.

Ryan grew up with Crouse in Washington, Pa.

He told 7NEWS Crouse was different as a teenager. Crouse often wore dark clothing, trench coats, and even frightened teachers, according to Ryan.

"We all thought he was humorous," said Ryan.

After high school, Crouse hit rock bottom while living in Alaska and ultimately turned his back on drugs and other problems, according to Ryan.

"He became a born-again Christian," Ryan said. It became Crouse's mission to help other people.

A year and a half ago, Crouse moved to Colorado to work at the Youth With a Mission Center in Arvada.

"That job meant everything to him; he knew that was his purpose of being in this life," said Ryan. "He was so full of dreams, he was so full of ambition."

Crouse had planned to serve in the mission field in Russia and eventually own an adoption agency.

The 23-year-old was shot and killed by a gunman Sunday at the missionary training center he loved so much. Tiffany Johnson, 26, also died. Two others were wounded.

Ryan said strength for her family comes in knowing her longtime friend had truly found himself.

"(Crouse) was ultimately happy and at peace with who he was," Ryan said. "And that's how he died. What more would you want then to know who you really are?"

Print this article Back to Top