It was the most unforgettable weekend in my life. In December of 1990, I was serving at a very busy time in Pigeon Forge, TN. I had gone to Liberty Baptist Church with great anticipation to serve with the pastor who was very instrumental in my Christian life, Pastor Robert Settle.
This was the man God used to lead Tabernacle Baptist in Hickory, NC to start a school, Tabernacle Christian school. My mind goes back to fond memories in my high school years there of singing in special groups, getting out of class for a week with the Academy of Arts, playing soccer and basketball, and a special week of school camp each year at The Wilds in Brevard, NC. It was through the school that I grew in my faith and learned many Bible verses along with how to apply them to my life. To this day, I am extremely grateful to the LORD for leading my parents to put me there after they learned of the school from our neighbors.
After having served with Evangelist Dave Kistler in a revival meeting at Liberty in Pigeon Forge, it was an honor to be invited by Pastor Settle to come serve as his assistant! My work that year centered on directing the choir, overseeing children’s church and the bus ministry, as well as running a bus route. I soon learned that the church usually performed a special Christmas program each year. That year, I chose the cantata by Ron Hamilton entitled Born to Die.
Every morning, Pastor Settle came to have a time of prayer with whoever could come to the downstairs of the church parsonage where I was blessed to live (upstairs) rent free. I cannot recall exactly which morning it was, probably Friday, as we were just beginning to meet for prayer, when Janie the head deacon’s wife, came rushing downstairs to the phone, exclaiming that there had been an accident!
Outside the church, a busy, two-lane road took tourists from Pigeon Forge to Cades Cove. Each morning during the school year, in front of the church was where school buses stopped to pick up and let off children. That morning, there had indeed been a terrible accident!
I’ll never forget the scene as we all ran to the road not knowing what we’d see. A small crowd had gathered on both sides of the road as traffic had stopped and was backed up both ways, one side behind a school bus. In the other lane sat a dump truck a short distance from the bus. Between them, lying in the middle of the road, was the body of a child, a young boy face down in a pool of blood. The air was heavy with both the chill winter and of death. I watched with dismay as the older brother, apparently not understanding what happened, approached the body of his brother to pick up his hand in an apparent brief and feeble attempt to get him to come with him…to no response.
No one but the older brother and other children there would know what had happened that day, but the thought was that there were some children possibly playing chicken with the traffic. When the older boy crossed the road in front of the truck, his younger brother had followed him and the truck driver tragically was unable to stop in time.
Some odd and memorable things transpired that tumultuous weekend and afterwards, the tragedy on Friday, a wedding at the church on Saturday, a cantata rehearsal Saturday evening, the cantata performance Sunday evening, and the funeral of the boy on Monday evening. The most memorable fact from that weekend was the title to the cantata, “Born to Die.” after the death of a child, a young boy at that! The second most memorable occurrence from that time happened a short while later.
You see, those two boys whose names I cannot now recall, being that this all took place more than 30 years ago, were in junior church at Liberty. I was overseeing junior church, but I hadn’t been there very long and was still getting to know the names of the children. Probably within the next week I was perusing the notebook in which I had the roll for keeping track of attendance. As I turned the pages looking for the names of the two brothers, I found the older one in the list with all of the others, but as my eyes scanned the pages, I did not see the name of the younger one…until. I turned to the last page and a chill went up my spine. There was his name! The younger boy’s name was by itself at the top of an otherwise blank piece of paper. As I removed the page, the thought hit me that it was as if the child had never been there…that he’d been “born to die.” Many “Why?” questions naturally run through one’s mind, but only the God of Heaven knows.