A Change of Plans

Thursday, December 20th began as a normal day. I had my thoughts together about what I was going to preach on and was about to study. All that changed; however, when I heard the news of a tragedy that happened on the church property the previous night.

On Wednesday night, just before 11:00 pm, a horrific accident occurred near our church property. A vehicle with 9 teenagers was struck by an apparently drunk driver who ran a red light. The force of the crash threw the vehicle with the teens onto our lawn. One of the teens (Scott Crouch, Jr.) died instantly at the scene. The rest were injured, some in critical condition. In the aftermath of this trauma, many students gathered on our church lawn Thursday. All of them were understandably dazed, grieved, and confused. They created a memorial with flowers, balloons, pictures, etc. at a light pole near the crash site. I had opportunity to meet some of them, express care and hurt for what they were going through, and pray for them.

Candlelight vigils took place on our church lawn for the next few nights. A number of people in our church mobilized to provide hot cocoa, cookies, and fire pits to give warmth during the chilly evenings. The largest gathering occurred Thursday night, with 125-150 people present.

On Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit Scott’s home. He lived with his dad (Scott Sr.), and his mom and older sister were also there. I listened, again expressed care and hurt for what they were going through, shared Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble,” and prayed.

I was asked to officiate the Memorial Service, which took place on Saturday, December 9th. Because of the expected large attendance, the service took place at a bigger church near ours. There were probably 700-800 in attendance. Scott’s life was remembered and celebrated. Some of his friends put together a slide show of pictures from throughout his life, a number of friends and family shared eulogies (including some very special and moving words from his father), and special songs were sung. Among other things, Scott was a passionate baseball player and fan, and his family asked that we have a “7th Inning Stretch” somewhere in the service. So midway through the service, that’s exactly what we did – everyone stood up and we sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Needless to say, that was a first for me!

I shared a brief message in which, by God’s strength, I sought to give a clear and simple presentation of the gospel. I set things up by sharing some of my own testimony, as it was in the fall of my senior year in high school that God brought me to saving faith. A pivotal event leading to my conversion was having two friends die in a car accident after they had been hit by a drunk driver. The accident occurred after a number of us had worked all night together at a fast-food restaurant, and it really shocked me into reality. I vividly remember thinking “is this all there is?” What a privilege some 30 years later to be able to share with the people gathered for the service that true hope, ultimate comfort, and lasting joy is found only in knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.

There are many ministry needs and opportunities related to this accident that I’m sure will carry on for a long time to come. The other students in the accident are all expected to recover, though three remain hospitalized. As God brings these matters to your mind, your ongoing prayers will be much appreciated. May God be exalted and His grace extended in the lives of all these dear people.

It struck me a few days after the accident occurred that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). This is certainly what we who are His disciples will share in more and more fully as He accomplishes His work in and through us.

In His Grip,