Willard plane crash has broad impact

Springfield schools and many in our community have been affected by the unexpected deaths of the Lambert family and family friend who were flying home from a Royals game. Their single-engine plane went down for no apparent reason, and friends and family are left grieving this inexplicable tragedy. You can read more about how Glendale High School remembered two of these students here. 

Death is hard for all of us, but especially when young people are involved. It is hard for adults to reconcile these losses, and it is hard for fellow students to deal with them too.

A few weeks ago I had two college students come into our church during the week, looking to “see to the pastor”. Usually when that happens there is money involved or some other financial assistance. This time, however, was different in that the young man was struggling with the death of his newborn nephew. He and his friend were new Christians, saw our building, and wanted someone to pray with about it. This was especially painful in that he found out about the news on Facebook. Apparently a friend of his sister posted the information without getting in contact with the immediate family, and the result was anger, sadness, and shock. He and his friend were new believers, and confessed their faith in Christ but at the same time were unsure as to what larger purpose this had to be.

Many years ago when I served as a pastor in another state, there was a similar tragedy which made me think anew about faith and tragedy. The driver had been married for only a few months, and his bride was pregnant with his child. I was very close to this woman and her family. He was rear-ended while driving a large truck, taken to the hospital, and been declared brain-dead.

When I got there to be with his wife and family, I saw his pastor talking to his side of the family,  claiming that he was not dead and that God would perform a miracle if they all had enough faith. He started praying over this lifeless body “in the name of Jesus.” Looking back on this moment, I think it was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I’ve ever had. He was dead, and no one could do anything about it. And it wasn’t due to a lack of faith. What I remember most about this terrible situation was the anger that his parents felt about losing their son, and how unfair it all was.

I’ve tried to be cautious in saying “this was God’s will” as it relates to accidents and tragedies. What I do believe is that God is big enough to sort through the pain and hardache to bring about something good for those followers of Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28). There is a difference between personal knowledge of this truth and propositional, but the former does in fact depend on the latter.

No one thinks about his/her mortality, especially as a teenager. I don’t remember thinking a lot about it, and really, who would want to? It’s more exciting to think about life and what’s ahead, and that’s what I want my children to focus on. But, part of living is dealing with pain and grief, so my thoughts and prayers are with the family members of those flying in that plane. 

Let’s do our best to encourage and look for listening moments with our students. And let’s also seek to be a little more patient and kind with each other, not knowing whether what we said to our friends earlier in the day will be our last.

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