By Jessica Brodie
AIKEN—Nearly three dozen confirmation students from St. John’s United Methodist Church, Aiken, had a close call last month after their charter bus crashed on the way home.
But other than a few bumps and bruises and one youth ministry staffer with a mild concussion, everyone was fine.
According to St. John’s senior pastor Dr. Tim McClendon, the sixth and seventh graders were heading back home Sunday afternoon, March 6, after a confirmation retreat at Hinton Rural Life Center in North Carolina. They had just emerged from the mountains and were in Westminster when the bus experienced an electrical issue and lost power.
“By God’s providence, they were off the curvy, steep roads just above Clemson,” McClendon told the Advocate, noting the driver lost all ability to control the bus beyond slowing it down.
But thankfully, McClendon said, they had just come to a level, grassy, “marvelously flat place,” and the bus rolled into a ditch.
“The kids fell from one side of the bus to the other, which was frightening, but they were all fine, thank God,” McClendon said.
Another blessing in what could have been an awful experience was the encounter they had with the Westminster community, who showered them with love and care in the aftermath of the accident. As McClendon, two other associate pastors and parents were driving to meet the bus and care for their flock, community residents, Westminster fire and rescue workers and even a member of the county council showed up to help get everyone out of the bus and assess for injuries. McClendon said a nearby church, Lifeline Community Church, ferried the kids to their church building, where they fed them and let the kids play basketball until their parents and pastors arrived.
“There were so kind,” he said.
St. John’s held their confirmation ceremony March 27 and took up a collection for that church as a gesture of appreciation for all they did.
“It could have been a horrible, horrible tragedy, and if had happened 30 minutes earlier (in the mountains) it probably would have been,” McClendon said.
Instead, it was an example of God’s providence and the love shown by God’s people.