SHALIMAR, Fla. (BP) — A moving truck crash that claimed everything has prompted pastors and friends to help one of their own in a new beginning.
Carter McNeese and his wife, Audrey, were at their new home in Shalimar – a Gulf Coast town bordering Destin, Fla. – when they got the call. It was from a North Carolina state trooper who also was the brother-in-law of a deacon at Fairmont First Baptist Church in Fairmont, N.C., where McNeese had just concluded a five-year tenure as pastor.
The trooper confirmed McNeese’s identity, then asked him if a moving truck with his possessions was on the way to Florida.
“At that point I knew something was wrong,” McNeese told Baptist Press Jan. 8.
A head-on collision had started a fire that destroyed everything they had in seconds. Although the driver of the moving truck was OK, the other driver did not survive.
“We’re asking folks to pray for the family of the gentleman who lost his life,” McNeese told Baptist Press. “Also pray for the moving truck driver, Steve, who got out and tried to save the other man but couldn’t.”
McNeese and his family had arrived in Florida late Saturday night. The next evening, Jan. 7, he was writing a post about the accident that claimed almost everything that wasn’t packed in their suitcases.
“Tonight we hug the boys and each other more tightly and know that in God’s providence all things work together for the good of those who love him,” he wrote.
Some items, like a pair of beds for the boys that were hand-made by McNeese’s dad, were already safely at the new house. Items lost included clothes, pictures, baby books, toys and various family heirlooms.
That also included the couple’s wedding album. Today, Jan. 9, marks their eighth anniversary.
As big as the material loss was, though, the response has been even more overwhelming.
Within an hour of McNeese hearing of the accident, friends in Shalimar (it’s his hometown) had brought over appliances and cookware. James Ross, pastor of the Church on Bayshore had reached out as had the Emerald Coast Baptist Association. Todd Unzicker, North Carolina Baptist state executive, heard about the accident from Ross, a personal friend, and prayed with McNeese.
Fellow pastors Allen Murray, of Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly, N.C., and Griffin Gulledge, of Madison Baptist Church in Madison, Ga., had become online and in-person friends with McNeese. They decided to set up a GoFundMe account that as of 2:30 p.m. Central today (Jan. 9) had raised $3,625 toward a $10,000 goal.
“Online interactions are good as a supplement, but they can also lead to real-life friendships,” said Gulledge. “We’ll get together when we can at things like the [SBC] annual meeting and reconnect. If Allen and I hadn’t have done it, I think someone else would have.
“I just hope Carter and his family are blessed by it. And if people can donate, or give an outfit or toy for their boys, that would be great. It’s something to do to take their minds off what was lost.”