EDMOND, Okla. (BP)–“We’ve had a lot of experiences, being a church of about 5,000 people, but no doubt this has been the most difficult, the most challenging experience our church has faced,” pastor Dennis Newkirk said of the death of 15-year-old Marci Wintz during a church-sponsored mission trip.
Wintz was killed and another student injured March 12 when the church van they were riding in hit a guardrail and flipped over in San Antonio, Tex. Wintz was one of 135 youth and adult sponsors from Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., who were headed to Matamoros, Mexico, for a spring break mission trip.
The driver, a 40 year old chaperone, was not cited in the crash.
Newkirk, who addressed a news conference two days after the tragedy, said, “We will continue to go on mission trips. We have done this for years, and our kids don’t want us to stop.”
The pastor flew to San Antonio immediately after the accident and made the decision to cancel the mission trip.
Two students who joined Newkirk at the news conference at the Oklahoma church said they nevertheless would eagerly go on another mission trip to share their faith.
“This has made me want to get out on the front lines for God even more,” said 18-year-old Michelle Bruner, “and makes me want to change this world, because so many people don’t have the hope that we have … as the body of Christ.”
“I know all of us have been changed for the better, both in our relationships with each other and in our relationship with God,” said 15-year-old Matt Mitzner, who was also passenger in the van. “We all want to live for him even more.”
Mitzner described Wintz as “a beautiful, sweet girl. She had a great heart for God and had a great relationship with her parents and with every friend she ever made.”
Wintz’s parents have requested a memorial fund for their daughter — the Marci Wintz Memorial Mission Fund — be established at Henderson Hills, with the proceeds to help fund future mission trips.
Both Bruner and Mitzner credited their faith in God and his help to the youth group and members of the church in general in dealing with the aftermath of the accident.
“I think that, through this, all of us have realized how short life really is, and it has made us cling to God, knowing that we don’t have to mourn like those who have no hope,” Bruner said. “We have God to cling to, and he’s the only one who’s going to get us through this.”
“This definitely has touched my heart,” Mitzner added. “It has showed me how, through someone’s death, many can learn about life and live for God, knowing he has a plan for all of our lives.”
“It’s really amazing that God has given us all a peace,” Bruner said. “And it’s a peace that comes only from him … even right after the accident, we all had a peace, knowing that he was holding our hands, and that he was carrying us through this time.”
During the accident, Mitzner recounted, “It was like God gave us a calm spirit as we swerved back and forth maybe four or five times, and there was no screaming or anything. It was very quiet, and then, God gave the guys in the van peace of mind to be able to help everybody get out of the van after it happened.” Wintz was later pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Donations to the Marci Wintz Memorial Mission Fund may be mailed to Henderson Hills Baptist Church, 2300 S. Boulevard, Edmond, OK 73013.