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Bus crash survivors treated to Ga. camp

ATLANTA (BP)–Little could have prepared Mark Moore for the events of June 24. Driving the lead vehicle of four en route to Louisiana from Texas, Moore’s world was suddenly shaken when his cell phone rang and a voice on the line screamed: “The bus crashed!”

Moore reached the bus within seconds and what he saw frightened him. The charter bus containing 40 of “his” youth bound for Student Life Camp at Louisiana Tech University had crashed into an interstate bridge abutment. The left side of the bus was completely sheared away. Moore, youth pastor to the 40 teenagers from Metro Church in Garland, Texas, frantically searched through the wreckage for his youth — 35 were injured, four died.

“It was a horrific scene,” Moore remembers too vividly. He recalls thinking: “Oh no! Can these youth handle this?” But, without pause, Moore’s youth ministered to each other, sometimes holding the hand of an injured friend as they held an IV bag or a bandage, praying and reassuring as helicopters and ambulances rushed in and out of the mayhem to nearby hospitals.

“Ten thousand sermons would never be as strong as what these youth preached to me that day,” said Moore. Now, Moore’s youth are preaching another sermon to him, one of courage and healing.

With June 24 still fresh in their minds, 74 Metro youth, some in wheelchairs, others on crutches, boarded Delta Airlines Flight 1264 on July 21, bound for summer camp in Georgia. Upon arriving at Hartsfield International Airport, the youth were a bit “shaky” as they again faced a second bus-ride barely four weeks after the crash. This time they were headed to “Go Tell” camp at Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa.

“Yes, it was strange,” Moore said. “So, I asked ‘Is everybody alright?’ They were okay, and so we prayed, and then headed for Toccoa.”

“Getting on those buses was an important hurdle; it was better for all of us to attend camp right away instead of waiting a year. Thank God for Rick Gage!”

Rick Gage is a long-time friend of Scott Camp, senior pastor of Metro Church in Garland, Texas. When news of the June 24 crash reached Gage in Atlanta, he immediately phoned Scott who was at the crash site at that very moment.

“Just pray for us brother,” was all Camp had time to say before hanging up.

“Then, the Lord burdened my heart to help those kids and that church,” says Gage, who operates “Go Tell” Ministries, http://www.gotellministries.com, an evangelical organization geared toward youth.

Gage explained his burden: “It didn’t matter if it cost $100,000, I got on the phone and talked to several folks and we put together the airfares, the bus charter, and various things. I called Scott several days later to say ‘Bring those kids to Georgia, no charge, and let’s help God heal them.’ That’s it! It was an opportunity to meet a need.”

When Camp announced Gage’s offer to the youth and his Garland congregation, “everyone began applauding and praising God.”

“Out of tragedy, God creates something positive,” Camp said as he hugged Casey Kimmons, brother of Lindsay Kimmons, age 16, who died from the crash.

“She kidnapped me to take me to church,” Kimmons said. “That’s when I got saved.” Moore said Lindsay left her brother and all her friends an indomitable spirit for influencing others for Christ.

“I’m hoping to be healed by soccer season,” said Stephen Butterworth, who celebrated his 14th birthday the day of the crash. Butterworth’s spiked hair and bright smile is proof of the bright spirit that Moore speaks of.

Josh Like, 15, leaned on his crutches, his leg is fractured in three places. “I can’t ride my bike, but I will,” he said grinning.

Billy Berthelot, 17, is an offensive lineman at Naaman Forest High School in Garland; his football teammates may have to wait a while as he recovers in a wheelchair.

“I’m healing — we’re all healing — all the time,” Berthelot said with his Metro friends surrounding him. They smile and hang on each other often.

Except for crutches or wheelchairs, you wouldn’t single-out the Metro teenagers from the more than 1000 youth attending the “Go Tell” camp.

“We have ‘low-keyed’ these kids so they can just blend,” Gage said. “And, they’re doing great.”

“And to think I wondered if their faith would be strong enough,” Moore said. “Sure, we’re sad, but we’re uplifted, too. Two hundred or more people have come to know Christ as a result of these youth’s strength and testimony.”

Moore explained how people in his church, surrounding communities, even in other states, have been touched by this bittersweet occurrence. Mark received an email from a teenager who explained she had opened her heart to Jesus because of the continuing testimony of Lindsay Kimmons, the three other Metro youth who died, and the friends they leave behind.

“I remember her writing: ‘Life is just too short!'” Moore said. Then, he turns to high-five “his” brave youth who are boisterous at one moment, then quiet and sensitive in another. They are learning to be disciples, and they preach a living sermon.

“And, they preach it well,” Gage observed while watching the teenagers with Moore. “That is how God heals, and it’s awesome to watch.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RECOVERING.

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  • Greg Brett