An Arkansas community is reeling after five of its own died in a highway collision out of state after they spent a week attending Bible classes.
According to KATV-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas, Salomon Correa, Magdalene Franco, Ava Luplow, Andrea Prime and Suzy Prime were on a church-sponsored trip at Jackson Hole Bible College in Jackson, Wyoming.
The five, who were all current or former students of Sylvan Hills High School and attended Faith Bible Fellowship in North Little Rock, died in a multi-vehicle collision that took place about 7 p.m. on Jan. 22, KATV reported.
The crash happened after a wrong-way driver hit several vehicles on Interstate 80. According to WCYB-TV, a Tennessee man is now facing 11 charges in connection the crash, including aggravated homicide by vehicle and driving while under the influence of a controlled substance with serious bodily injury.
In a statement, Jackson Hole Bible College said the Arkansas students “had spent this past week sitting in on classes and getting to know this year’s student body, as well as catching up with staff who were previous classmates to three of them.”
In this greatest of tragedies, however, the school was able to share in a statement what should be the enduring message behind these seemingly senseless deaths:
“There is no doubt that what they are currently seeing through their eyes is unspeakable joy, as they have finished the race set before them and are now enjoying fellowship with their Savior.”
The statement explained:
“It is with inexpressible joy that we tell you that our friends had placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. As a result, we know they are currently with Him, a reality we are quite envious of.
“We know from God’s Word in Colossians 1:16 that ‘by Him (Jesus) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth visible and invisible whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
5 Christian students killed in car crash spent final week attending Bible classes: ‘They finished the race’ https://t.co/1AmOJRSkFG
— The Christian Post (@ChristianPost) January 27, 2023
“Because our friends knew they were created by and for Him they lived and breathed this to those who would hear. It was and is their desire to proclaim Christ’s glory (splendor). It’s fitting that sharing their hope in Jesus Christ is the best way we can honor them,” the statement continued.
“Because Jesus lives our friends’ temporary departure from us creates a fraction of the pain compared to the infinite joy there will be in eternity with our Savior, ‘the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 12:2”
The church also included a passage from writer and theologian Tim Challies, who lost his son two years ago, according to the statement:
“While our loved ones have left us, they have not ceased to be. They’ve simply gone on ahead. Because Jesus rose again, they will rise again. Because Jesus conquered death, they will conquer death,” the passage declared. “Because Jesus lives, they live.
“And so we grieve. We grieve in times of loss and our grief may last many days, weeks, or years. The pain is real, the sorrow is real, so the grief is real. But we grieve hopefully because we are convinced we grieve temporarily.”
That doesn’t reduce the pain, of course.
“It feels like my heart is broken,” Lydia VanderVate, who grew up going to church with the deceased, told KARK-TV in Little Rock. “They all had such bubbly personalities, could get along, always laughing with each other.”
Meanwhile, two of the students — Suzy Prime, and Ava Luplow — worked at the Humble Crumb Bakery, where the owners said they would be closing for two weeks to grieve the loss.
“Our lives are forever changed and the bakery will continually feel this void. Our small team lost two of our own, two of our gems, on Sunday,” the bakery said via a Facebook post.
“We have ONE comfort and ONE hope and that is the comfort that comes only from God. Ava and Suzy loved Jesus and they knew Jesus as their redeeming Savior. They wanted to serve him with their lives and they were trusting in HIM for their salvation. They are now with HIM in glory and while we suffer their loss, our hearts are also filled with hope.”
The extent of the loss should also drive home the profundity of the love the Lord has for us.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” 2 Timothy 4:7 reads.
The race may have been short for these young women — but they ran it bravely and kept the faith.
That shouldn’t only be a source of solace and comfort for those who knew them, but a source of joy. The river of sorrows that runs through this vale of tears is nothing compared to the ocean of joy it empties into.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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