INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–A small-town Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and two small children were killed Jan. 1 when a dead tree fell on top of their car, crushing the passenger compartment.
Stanley Paul Jones, 46, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland, was killed along with his wife, Beth Ann Hobbs Jones, 39, and two of their children, Lauren, 6, and Tyler, 10.
Another daughter, Emily, 4, survived and was listed in fair condition at an Indianapolis-area hospital.
There appeared to have been no wind or other circumstances that caused the tree to fall just as Jones’ car was passing underneath on the two-lane road.
How do you explain the deaths that came a few hours into the new year?
Jones was westbound on Hancock County Road 100 South, approaching the intersection with County Road 200 West, about seven miles east of the church he served. There are woods in the area. A dead tree, said to have been 5 feet in diameter, fell just as Jones’ vehicle was passing underneath, according to Hancock County deputies.
“Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re exempt from tragedy,” said William Smith of Cumberland Christian Church, who knew Jones and helped his church. “There’s no explanation for it, but we believe that an all-knowing God is in control of everything.”
The four will be buried Jan. 4.
Charles Sullivan, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, said the Baptist community is in shock over the deaths.
“This is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” he told Baptist Press. “Stan had been a very faithful member of the pastoral staff here in Indiana and he had a precious family.”
Sullivan said the state convention is reaching out to the small church and will assist the congregation in finding interim help.
Inspired by the ministers he knew, Jones felt the calling to go into the ministry. He grew up in Greenfield, went to Greenfield-Central High School and attended Calvary Baptist Church in Greenfield.
A few years ago, that Southern Baptist church decided to set up satellite churches in the area and sent Jones, an associate pastor, to Cumberland.
Paul George, an associate pastor at Calvary Baptist, told the Indianapolis Star that the Greenfield church sent Jones and several families to Cumberland to start Buck Creek.
J.E. Hail, pastor of Calvary Baptist, said he and Jones were part of a group of ministers who got together every few months for lunch and prayer.
“He was a fine, faithful, dedicated young man,” said Hail, who has been in the ministry for 25 years. “I’ll miss him.”
The church started in a karate studio at Washington Street and Cumberland Road, said church member Ron Merrill, Jones’ friend.
“Stan was the kind of person who reached out to the congregation. He was a loving pastor,” Merrill said. “He just preached the truth and the Bible. And he was a good friend to everybody.”
For a time, the fledgling church also held services at Cumberland Christian Church. “We gave them a key to get in,” Smith said. “There was no competition between us.”
It wasn’t until 1997 that Buck Creek had its own building. In August of that year, Southern Baptist carpenters and builders traveled from Alabama to construct a church building at 135 S. Muessing Road. The building was dedicated in April 1998.
The church building became a familiar site for community meetings in Cumberland, a small town straddling the Hancock and Marion county line. Buck Creek hosted advance meetings for the 1999 Billy Graham crusade, Bible conferences and town planning meetings.
Sullivan said a memorial fund is being set up to help Emily. He said donations can be sent to the state office at 900 N. High School Road, Indianapolis, IN 46224.