Front Street tragedy: Worship when faith is under fire
    November 4 2013 by Kenny Lamm, Guest Column

    It is easy to praise God in the good times, but what about the bad times? Never before have I seen such a display of what it means to worship God through all circumstances than in the six days with the survivors of the Front Street Baptist Church (Statesville) bus wreck and their families at the UT Medical Center in Knoxville, Tenn.

    A memorable day

    Wednesday, Oct. 2, will be a day forever etched in my memory. I was walking on the beach with my wife Sandy at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly (Caswell), enjoying a moment of relaxation during one of my busiest times of the year. I was to teach a class on worship to church planters early Thursday morning. My great friend, Tim Stutts, pastor of Front Street, called me and told me something terrible had happened: the church bus returning from Gatlinburg carrying many of their senior adult group, was involved in an accident. Several of the passengers were killed. Many were in critical condition.
    The [18] people on board were very good friends – many very close friends. I had served on staff at Front Street for 23 years before coming to serve at the Baptist State Convention, and many of these dear people had shared life with my family. Now we knew that some of them were gone and others were in critical condition.

    Destination: UT Medical Center

    After resting in God’s strength to teach the worship class early Thursday, Sandy and I began a trek across the state ... to Knoxville. Since the pastoral staff at Front Street had to deal with worship services, funeral/memorial services, and so much more, Sandy and I offered to go spend some days ministering to the victims and their families. By the time we arrived, we had learned that six of our group had gone on to their heavenly home, seven were divided between three different intensive care units, four were in regular hospital rooms and one had just been discharged. In addition, two others lost their earthly lives – Trent Roberts of Tennessee (passenger in the SUV) and Moses Farmer of Louisiana (the truck driver). A [hospital] chaplain helped us navigate the facilities and find a room that would become home until the following Wednesday.

    God’s grace abounds

    The next days were emotionally difficult but absolutely amazing. The grace of God was apparent everywhere I looked. First, it was seen in the responders to the accident. Then there were the organizations, such as the Red Cross, N.C. Baptist Men, Tennessee Baptists, Rapid Response Team chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, individuals, churches and more. The UT Medical Center staff displayed the hand of God in their interactions with our people. I think of one nurse who was so committed to his patient in ICU that he stayed several hours after his shift was over to do all he could to keep his patient off the ventilator. The same nurse was caught singing a hymn to his patient. I could go on and on, but perhaps even more astounding were glimpses of God’s grace in the lives of victims and their families. Let me share some stories with you.


    Doris was church pianist when I began my ministry at Front Street. We served together for 23 years. Doris has continued to be instrumental in worship leader training across North Carolina and has accompanied me in mission trips to Asia on four occasions. I could not ask for a better pianist. Doris suffered many serious injuries in the accident; her right hand was shattered. Her sister shared with me that Doris had just learned that she could lose her hand. I marveled at the great attitude, strength and grace she displayed. A former pastor of the church and his wife visited with her, and she told them something like this: “The doctor is telling me that my right hand is so severely damaged that I might lose it. That’s not good for a piano player, but I’m not going to dwell on that. I’m just so grateful to God for the many years He allowed me to play.” Doris’ dream, as a young girl, was to be a church pianist, and she has blessed many with her ministry over the years.

    The Roberts family

    Only God’s grace can explain what I witnessed with Trent Roberts’ family. Trent was the young man who died when the bus hit the SUV. Pastor Tim had come to Knoxville for the day, and while there, we received word that Trent’s family would like to meet with Tim. Tim asked me to accompany him to the meeting. Trent’s parents, brother, aunts, friends and co-workers gathered with us in the hospital chapel. Trent’s mom spoke of how they wanted to come and visit with our people, pray with them and find ways they could help.
    They helped us catch a glimpse of their wonderful son and talked of the joy he was experiencing in his new heavenly home. They inquired of needs of our families, looking for ways they could meet those needs. Trent’s mom said something that blew me away: “God gave His only Son for me, so why can I not give my son so that God will be glorified.” What a mature faith and such grace that was seen in this family.

    Afterthoughts ...

    I could go on about each person a part of this accident. These are not so much their stories as they are God’s stories. In each person I talked with – many facing months of rehabilitation, many losing a spouse, many realizing that their life will never be the same – I saw worship. Not self-pity, not despair, not anger, but WORSHIP.
    I was constantly reminded of the song, Blessed Be Your Name, that talks of worshipping God in the bad times as well as the good times. Then there’s the part that says, “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your name.’” It’s easy to sing those lyrics when life is “normal,” but when the “taking” comes into our lives, are we able to say, “Blessed be Your name”?
    For 26 years I have seen many of these dear friends live out their faith in God, but now I really understand how powerful that faith is. I have truly witnessed worship when faith is under fire. This will forever shape my life, my ministry and my worship.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Kenny Lamm is BSC senior consultant for worship and music. Contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5638, or Full version:
    11/4/2013 1:58:08 PM by Kenny Lamm, Guest Column | with 0 comments
    Filed under: bus wreck, crisis, worship

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