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Metro pastor urges forgiveness during memorial service

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–In what seemed more like a worship service than a memorial service, over 1,000 people gathered at Metro Church in Garland, Texas on Wednesday evening, June 26 to honor the lives of four teenagers lost in a recent bus crash.

Five people died after a charter bus carrying 40 students to a youth camp crashed into a concrete pillar east of Terrell, Texas on Interstate 20, June 24. The service honored Metro church members: Michael Freeman, 12; Lindsay Kimmons, 16; Amanda Maxwell, 13; and Arapaho Road Baptist Church member, Michelle Chaney, 14. The 51-year-old bus driver, Ernest Carter, also was killed. Thirty-five students and adult chaperones sustained injuries as well.

Family, friends and community members flocked to the church, located in the Dallas metroplex, seeking comfort and answers. The walls of the large auditorium were lined with people who could not find seats, and about 200 people filled the nearby overflow room. Many sat outside the church prayerfully listening to the service through a speaker.

Standing on a stage filled with dozens of floral arrangements, handwritten notes of encouragement and photos of the youth who died, Metro Church senior pastor Scott Camp urged memorial attendees to trust in God in the face of such an inexplicable event.

“In times of trouble, we turn to the Lord,” Camp said, while the light music of a piano could be heard behind his comforting words. “And we don’t try to understand everything.”

As congregants and teenagers held one another in grief, their tears flowed as freely as their praise. Led by the voice of a small choir, participants collectively sang praise choruses including “Lamb of God.” With arms swept into the air and hands waving, those in the sanctuary acknowledged Camp’s counsel to rely on God.

Parents approached the altar and on bended knee prayed for healing for the families who lost loved ones and expressing gratitude for the protection of their own child. Tissue boxes were distributed and set out on seats throughout the auditorium for those overcome by grief.

“Lord, we’re here to worship,” Camp said in a prayer. “We don’t feel like it, but we’re going to do it, because you’re God.”

“Youth camp came here, Amen?” exclaimed Camp, referring to the destination of the charter bus bound for a Student Life camp at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La.

As Camp comforted the crowd, he also spoke of the importance of forgiveness.

“We don’t know if it was a bus default, or a problem with the equipment, but you forgive the owner of that bus company,” Camp said, also urging those involved in Monday’s crash to forgive the bus driver as well. “Would you pray for that bus driver’s family? We’re contacting them and sharing Jesus with them. Would you forgive him? Just forgive him in your heart. Would you forgive him and that bus company?”

“We release him. We release the bus company owners. We forgive,” the pastor said.

As evidence of the forgiveness that should dwell in a believer’s life, Camp shared about the ultimate forgiveness. He pulled a female student onto the stage who was wearing an orange T-shirt, which read, “Live your life so that the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.”

Camp assured participants that the teenagers who died in the crash had lived lives pleasing to God and were in heaven.

“They made it,” Camp said. “They beat us home.”

Among those who spoke during the service was Metro youth intern Charlton Younkin, a Texas A&M student, who was riding in the bus at the time of the accident. Still bandaged from a blow to the face, Charlton’s words from the platform were broken by tears.

“I’ve only been here a month, and I love you kids so much,” Younkin said, lips quivering. “God gave me a glimpse of what it feels like to be a father.”

Younkin was instrumental in saving the lives of many students as he sprung into action pulling teenagers from the wreckage and placing the bodies of dead students out of sight.

Survivors overcome by grief also expressed gratitude to parents for their prayers and support, but also to God for protection.

“I just wanted to say thank you,” one teenaged-boy said, breaking down in tears and sobs. “Thank you.”

Camp also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of help from area churches and community members.

“I want to say on behalf of the families of the children who were injured and the children who have graduated to heaven, thank you so much for being here,” Camp said. “So many people have asked, ‘What can we do?’ Well, you’re doing it.”

For the seven students who remain hospitalized due to injuries, Camp asked for specific prayer, citing each teenager by name.

Metro church will host funeral services for the three youth today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues around the cause of the crash. More information concerning Carter’s personal driving record was recently released which includes more than 20 citations and convictions in both Texas and California, including: two convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs; seven convictions for driving without liability insurance; and three convictions for speeding.

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  • Melissa Deming