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Man accepts Christ after killing deacon

TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (BP)–A 28-year-old man accepted Christ in jail after causing a tragedy that had left a pastor feeling responsible for the death of a church deacon.

Tim McGehee, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma, Tenn., and first vice president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said he was returning home from a hospital visit April 28 when he noticed a car speeding up behind him on a rural road. McGehee then noticed a Lowe’s truck parked in front of a home along the road ahead.

“When I looked back in the rearview mirror, that car was on top of me and he hit me,” McGehee told Baptist Press. “He knocked me into that Lowe’s truck, and then my truck spun around.”

The driver of the car, Kimery Hill, sped off with his 3-year-old daughter as a passenger. The pastor sustained minor injuries including a mild concussion, and when he tried to get out of his pickup he fell to the ground.

“Some Good Samaritans came up and told me to stay down. They had an ambulance on the way,” McGehee said. “When the ambulance got there, they told me, ‘This first ambulance is going to get the other guy.’ And I said, ‘What guy?’ and they said, ‘The guy you hit.’ I said, ‘The guy I hit? I don’t remember hitting anybody.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, you hit a guy.'”

Bobby Brown, a 69-year-old deacon at Longview Baptist Church in nearby Unionville, had walked out to his yard to direct the Lowe’s truck, which was delivering shingles. McGehee served as youth pastor at Longview 20 years ago, and Grace Baptist recently had ordained one of its members, Jonathan Osterhaus, to serve as pastor of Longview.

“I just was laying there on the grass waiting for another ambulance when Jonathan got there,” McGehee recounted. “He said, ‘Are you OK?’ and I said, ‘How’d you get here?’ and he said somebody had called him. I said, ‘Did they tell you I was in a wreck?’

“And he said, ‘Yeah. Bro. Tim, I’m going to go with Bobby to the hospital.’ I said, ‘Bobby? Bobby who?’ He said, ‘Bobby Brown. That’s who you hit.’ I said, ‘Oh, no!’ and I just started crying because I had known Bobby for 20 years. He was the treasurer, Sunday School director and a deacon at Longview Baptist Church, and I performed his son’s wedding.”

McGehee was transported to a hospital, where he learned that Brown had died en route. While he was waiting on a gurney in the emergency room for examination, McGehee said he saw police officers bring in a man in handcuffs. It turned out Hill had been driving about 100 mph and had passed an officer before causing the accident. That officer had turned her car around and was in the process of initiating a pursuit.

Someone who witnessed the accident followed Hill to his sister’s house and notified police of his whereabouts. He was charged with one count of vehicular homicide, five counts of reckless endangerment and one count of second offense driving on a suspended license, the local newspaper reported. McGehee said he was told Hill had alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine in his system when he was arrested.

“The very next day after this happened, I was in my bedroom weeping and my wife came back there and she said, ‘Are you OK?’ and I said, ‘I can’t believe I killed somebody,'” McGehee told BP. “She said, ‘You didn’t kill anybody.’ And I said, ‘I did,’ and she said, ‘No. You had no control. You got hit at that speed, and your truck was out of control.’ And I said, ‘I’ll never be able to go on. I won’t be able to forgive myself.’ But then I started thinking she was right. It wasn’t me. It was the other guy, and I needed to start praying for him that God could bring good out of this.”

The next Sunday, McGehee preached about the need to forgive Hill and to pray for God to bring good from the tragedy. The members of Grace Baptist also started praying for Hill, and Osterhaus went to visit him in jail. On the second visit, the pastor of Longview Baptist led Hill and another inmate to accept forgiveness and salvation in Jesus.

Hill wanted to be baptized, and a jail official was willing to make arrangements for the two inmates to go to Longview Baptist for a baptism ceremony.

“On July 9, two of the deputies brought him and this other prisoner to Longview Baptist Church — the very place where I used to be the youth minister and the very place where Bobby Brown was a patriarch, a pillar of the church — and Jonathan Osterhaus, the new preacher, baptized the prisoners at 2 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon to a church almost full of people. It was amazing. It was truly unbelievable.”

Shackles were put back on the prisoners’ ankles and wrists when they left the water, and they sat on the front row with two deputies. After the ceremony, McGehee approached Hill for the first time.

“I went up to him and I knelt down on one knee, and I said, ‘I’m Tim McGehee, the guy you hit.’ And he started crying and I started crying, and he mouthed, ‘I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘I know you are. I forgive you, but God has used this for good.’ Then we also have on video Bobby Brown’s wife hugging this guy and telling him she forgives him. It was just amazing.”

Hill’s grandmother attended the baptism ceremony and said she had been praying for years that her grandson would follow Jesus.

“She’s a godly woman, and she was there and just weeping and waving her arms. When he got baptized, she was so happy,” McGehee recounted. “I said, ‘I know you’ve been praying for him a long time.’ And she said, ‘I just hate that it had to take something like this.’ I said, ‘Well, before Saul could get saved, God had to blind him.’ She said, ‘You’re right.’

“I said, ‘Knowing Bobby, he would have gladly given his life up for someone to come to know Jesus.’ His wife said the same thing,” McGehee added. “She said if three of us would have been standing on the side of the road — me, Kimery and Bobby — and God said, ‘One of you has got to die today,’ she said Bobby would have been the first one to step up and say, ‘I volunteer because Tim is a young pastor with a young family and he’s got a church, and this other man is a lost man. I’ll volunteer.’ I thought that was amazing.”

Another twist to the story, McGehee said, is that when Osterhaus preached in view of a call at Longview two weeks before the accident, he told the church members he wanted to know individually if they were right with God.

“He said, ‘If you call me as your pastor, one of these days I will eventually have one of your funerals. When I do, I don’t want to speculate if you were a Christian. I want to be able to stand before everybody assembled at your funeral and say I know without a shadow of a doubt this person was a Christian,'” McGehee said.

“After the service, the first man that came to him was Bobby Brown. And Bobby said, ‘I want you to know I’ve accepted Christ and I’ve been living for Him many years.’ Two weeks later Bobby was killed and that was Jonathan’s first funeral.”

In order to follow up on Hill’s decision to follow Christ, McGehee said he sent the prisoner a book for new believers and a book by Max Lucado along with a “note that said I want him to be assured I love him and I’m praying for him and I forgive him.” Osterhaus, meanwhile, has asked to become the chaplain at the Bedford County Jail where Hill is being detained about an hour south of Nashville.

“The jail didn’t have a chaplain, so this may work out for even others,” McGehee said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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