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Death of seminary couple’s teen son revives struggling church’s ministry

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–For David Phelps, Proverbs 3:5 took on a whole new meaning Aug. 29.
That’s the afternoon his 16-year-old son, Jeremy, was hit by a car as he attempted to maneuver his bicycle across nine lanes of traffic on Louisburg Road in Raleigh, N.C. Jeremy later died at a local hospital from severe head injuries.
Less than four months after the tragic accident, David and his wife, Rebecca, still struggle with the loss of their son but are finding solace in the birth of ministry opportunities God has given them in the midst of their heartache.
Since Jeremy’s untimely death, nine of his friends have professed Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, creating a ready-made youth ministry for David, who is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological College and youth minister at Damascus Road Baptist Fellowship, Spring Hope, N.C.
Charlie Morgan, a Southeastern alumnus and pastor of the church, said the salvation of Jeremy’s friends in the wake of his death has revived a church that was on the verge of closing its doors. The church’s average attendance has more than doubled, increasing from less than 20 to about 40. A once nonexistent youth group now numbers 14.
“God is just working,” Morgan said. “It’s amazing. You can feel a completely different spirit in the church. Our youth group is booming. The kids are bringing more kids. Some are even bringing their parents. It’s almost as though God is rebuilding his church through this tragedy. We never dreamed this would happen. Healing is taking place in hearts and homes. Some families are even being reunited. It’s astounding.
“God has really used David and Becky in these kids’ lives,” Morgan continued. “They’re over at their house all the time. Those two are like their second set of parents or live-in counselors. Those kids know where they’re loved.”
Phelps and his wife meet weekly with the youth at their home discipling them in the faith. “They wanted to know why this had to happen,” Phelps said of Jeremy’s friends. “I think it shook them up. They began to think about their own mortality. They started to think in spiritual terms and they got scared.”
Phelps described his son as an “adventurous kid” who liked people, riding BMX bikes and go-carts, skateboarding and playing laser tag. Phelps said Jeremy, who regularly wore a cross necklace and “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) wristband, was not ashamed of his Christian faith.
“People just flocked to him,” Phelps said. “He was no saint. He was a typical teenager. He got into trouble, he messed up. But he accepted people for who they were. He just loved on them. … I remember one of our last trips to the beach. Jeremy didn’t know a soul there and before you know it, he had a bunch of kids hanging around him.”
That love, Morgan said, was evidenced by the nearly 100 youth who attended Jeremy’s funeral. “Jeremy was just a good kid,” Morgan said. “That boy walked the walk. People just seemed to like him.”
Phelps said he has also been overwhelmed by the love and support expressed by the seminary community. An impromptu love offering taken during a chapel service a few days after Jeremy’s fatal accident raised more than $8,500. An additional $1,200 was collected through the seminary with all the money donated to pay medical and funeral expenses.
“Everything just seemed to get paid for,” Phelps said. “We have seen God work so many miracles. He has been so very faithful through it all. The strength he has given me is beyond anything I could have ever hoped for. He’s given me courage and comfort. It’s just been grace upon grace. He’s met my needs and used it for good. I know this.”
Rebecca, Jeremy’s mother, said she is grateful to God for allowing her the opportunity to homeschool Jeremy for the past two years. “It was a real blessing in my life that I experienced the extra special time and talents that Jeremy possessed,” she said. Phelps said he will always treasure the time he and Jeremy had spent most recently restoring a ’65 Mustang. Now, Phelps drives the car that was to be his son’s first automobile.
Phelps said that with each new day he learns more about God’s sufficiency. “People ask me if I’m angry,” Phelps said. “I tell them that even though there has been a loss, my God is still a loving God. He has blessed so many through this. This might sound strange, but we’re honored to have gone through this. I never thought God would use my son in this way. He used one death to touch so many. He has brought others to himself, healed broken relationships, helped the church and who knows what else. He just keeps blessing us.
“If there is one thing people can take from this, it’s Proverbs 3:5, ‘Lean not on your own understanding.’ Don’t always try to figure out why things happen. His ways are very different than ours.
“And trust him with all your heart,” Phelps said. “More than anything, trust him. Trust him with all things, no matter how very precious they are to you. He has proven that he is true. He will be faithful.”

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  • Stacey E. Copeland