MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Dr. Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, said the news of a church van from Mount Zion Baptist Church crashing in Atlanta hit close to home for a few reasons.
"The pastor there, Ron Madison, used to be a member here at First Baptist Montgomery, so we have a deep connection to that church," Wolf said.
Secondly, First Baptist suffered a similar tragedy in 2010 when a van of 14 students headed to Lake Martin for a church function turned over on Interstate 85, ejecting eight students from the vehicle. Wolf called it a "miracle," since that incident did not claim any lives. However, he said he can relate to the pain the Huntsville-based congregation feels after that crash injured many and killed one teenage girl.
"It was heartbreaking," Wolf said. "The bottom line is that we live in a fallen world. We need Jesus, and we need each other. That's my simple bottom line."
Wolf said the incident in 2010 led to changes in the way the church handles transportation.
"We made some alterations in the kind of vehicles that we use," Wolf said. "What we basically do now is have professional drivers, and we have transportation that comes from leases. We don't really have our own fleet anymore. We decided we would use professional people and get rid of some of the liability of maybe aging equipment or people who don't usually do this every day."
However, he said he doesn't believe this is necessary for all churches and said what happened in Atlanta was not a result of any of the church members doing anything wrong.
To Wolf, there is a lesson in everything, and what happened to the students from his church and then to those from Mount Zion seven years later are lessons meant to teach a lesson. He said it is important for people to learn what he called "the right lesson."
"Will a bad experience like this make us stop doing missions? Of course not. That would be learning the wrong lessons," Wolf said. "These kids were doing everything right. They were going to Botswana; they were going to share Christ with people who need the Word of God. In route to Atlanta, an accident happened. That's the world we live in. That just amplifies, to me, that importance of sharing Christ with our world."
He said his faith journey has showed him that God doesn't cause bad things to happen, but that he always works things together for good. He believes this situation, though tragic, is no exception.