A small church community based in Johnson County gathered Sunday and mourned three teenagers who were killed last week when a church van crashed on the way to a float trip.
But as the church members grieve, they hope to see the teens again in the afterlife.
The teenagers were part of a group from Faith Chapel Assembly of God that was driving across Missouri on its way to a float trip when a rear tire on the church van blew out. The van left the highway and overturned on Missouri 13 about five miles north of Bolivar, Mo.
The teenagers pronounced dead at the scene were David “Tommy” Martin, 16, of Olathe; Hannah Foy, 14, of Louisburg and Samara Bayse 17, of Stilwell.
“Unfortunately we lost a kid from each campus,” said the Rev. Bob Cave of Faith Chapel Assembly of God, which has three church campuses, one each in Overland Park, Louisburg and Gardner.
“Other than the fact that they are with Christ, nothing softens the blow for us,” Cave said. “We are grieving, we are hurting and we are in terrible pain. It is hard to make sense of it.”
Seven people, including driver Bradley Bailey, a 34-year-old youth pastor, were treated at a hospital for moderate injuries and released. Three others remained hospitalized Sunday.
Cave on Sunday remembered the teens who were killed, saying they were “shining examples of Christianity and the Lord.”
Tommy was one of the worship leaders at the Faith Chapel in Gardner, where his uncle, the Rev. Andrew Thomas, is the senior pastor.
“Tommy was a very quiet kid, but a wonderful kid,” Cave said. “He was studious, very talented. He played keyboards and led worship.”
Tommy went on a mission earlier this year to Guatemala and returned “really fired up,” Cave said. Tommy’s uncle asked if he wanted to talk about it to the congregation.
“He goes, ‘Yeah, give me the mic,’” Cave said. “He went up there and start talking about it, which is very not Tommy-like.”
“He was just beginning to just shine, coming from being very shy.” Cave said.
Samara was the effervescent butterfly — the funniest person you could meet, Cave said.
“She’s the brightest light of any kid that I’ve seen,” Cave said. “She’s amazing.”
Samara had returned from camp this summer and told Cave that the Lord told her that she was supposed to be a youth pastor.
While at camp, she had earned a scholarship from the Assembly of God Ministries for her first level of ministry credentials.
“That was no surprise to us,” Cave said. “Samara was just amazing. Bubbly, fun and jokey, but very serious about serving.”
Cave said his knowledge of Hannah was limited because she attended another church, but she attended a lot of church activities.
“She was very close to God,” Cave said.
Over the weekend, friends and family of the teens shared tributes on social media.
David Reneau of Montgomery, Ala., was Samara’s youth pastor during her elementary school years in Clearwater, Fla., where she was a class leader.
“Her smile was infectious,” he said Sunday in a phone interview. “She was a super-sweet girl.”
Reneau shared a video of Samara as a fifth-grader on Facebook. She and two others explained the church’s classroom rules. Samara was an easy choice for her role, he said.
“It needed someone with a little sassiness who could have some fun with it,” he said. “She was a lot of fun.”
Keean Bogle wrote on Facebook that he had shared coffee with Tommy and Samara after meeting them at a religious conference in June.
Bogle said Tommy had “a heart for worship that was so passionate.”
“Me and my sister have his phone number saved in our phones as FFC (Favorite Fake Cousin) because that is what he was to us. Family.” Bogle said. “We didn’t get to see him often but when we did it was that immediate reconnection and friendship.”
He said Samara loved children and loved “being able to shape young lives.”
The church community of about 360 members is devastated over the loss, Cave said.
They know bad things happen to good people, Cave said, and they will try to make sense of the tragedy the best they can.
“The biggest thing for us is recognizing that there is not a lot we can do about these kind of events,” Cave said. “It’s how we respond to these kind of events that really helps us move forward in our lives.”