Small plane crashes don’t usually grab international headlines, but there was one last month that garnered more attention than usual.
It’s also a human tragedy that reminds us we’re not made for this world, but the next.
Bill Garner, Tyler Patterson, Tyler Springer, Steve Tucker and Kennon Vaughan were all members of Harvest Church in Germantown, Tenn., which is a suburb of Memphis. Back on January 17th the five men were headed together in a single engine Piper plane to Yoakum, Texas.
The weather was less than ideal. It was wet and foggy, and the plane went down just south of the Yoakum Municipal Airport. Of the five passengers, only the senior pastor, Kennon Vaughan, survived.
Later that day, the church issued a statement, noting “heavy hearts” over the tragedy. “All were beloved members of Harvest Church, and their loss currently leaves us without the proper words to articulate our grief,” read the release. The church then cited the apostle Paul’s message to the Thessalonians:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
Bill Garner was the executive pastor at Harvest Church, Tyler Patterson and Tyler Springer were church members, and Steve Tucker was an elder.
Just this past Monday, the church announced Pastor Vaughan had been released from the hospital and returned home. His fellow passengers were welcomed into their eternal homes last month, and the community is continuing to honor their lives and pray for their respective families.
Bill Garner was a graduate of Baylor, and devoted his life to pastoral ministry, including starting Grace Evangelical Church. He loved to golf, fish, and spend time with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Tyler Patterson was remembered as “a cowboy, golfer, Mississippi State cowbell-ringing, cattle-loving, plane-flying, mint Oreo-eating, black cowboy hat-wearing, God-fearing, loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend.”
Tyler Springer was the second of five children, attended Dallas Baptist University, and was called “a free spirit with a warrior’s heart” who loved the Lord, traveled the world, and was bold about sharing his faith.
Steven Carl Tucker was a horseman, and president of the Circle Y Saddlery. His lasting legacy won’t be his business, but instead his family and his ministry to others. Before joining Harvest Church, Steve and his family were members of Bellevue Baptist, where he sat under the teaching of Dr. Adrian Rogers. Steve was inspired to become a disciple maker, and for years led a 6 AM Bible study for young men on Friday mornings.
Darrell Nephew is executive vice president with Circle Y Saddlery. “Steve was a tremendous man who lived a Spirit-controlled and victorious life,” he told me.
By man’s measure, all four of these men were taken too soon. It’s perplexing to us why the Lord chooses to take people in their prime, but His timing or purposes aren’t always ours. He is perfect – we are not.
When tragedy, difficulty and disappointment strike us, it’s the mature believer who doesn’t ask, “Why me?” but rather, “What are you teaching me, Lord?”
Our hearts ache for the families of these four men. Pray for them. And what a heavy burden Pastor Vaughan now carries. He is undoubtedly grateful to be alive, and on the mend, but watching four of your friends die beside you is a gut-wrenching experience.
What’s most remarkable and yet also most reassuring about this tragic story are the redemptive and even celebratory services of each of the men. That’s because as the apostle Paul reflected, Christian family and friends may mourn and grieve the passing of fellow believers, but they do so knowing they will see these giants of the faith again. They also live with the promise of the Psalmist who wrote, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).