NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – First Baptist Church of New Braunfels senior pastor Brad McLean said Thursday that 13 members of his congregation who died in a bus crash near Garner State Park "will be deeply missed."
McLean addressed the media one day after the two-vehicle crash that also left a church member in critical condition. The 20-year-old driver of the pickup that hit the van head-on on U.S. Highway 83 is also hospitalized.
McLean said he didn't have an answer as to "why would God allow this to happen," but was "confident of God's perfect plan" to get he and his congregation through the difficult moment.
He said the church's priority to care for the families who lost loved ones.
"We want to take care of them. We want to help them through these difficult days," McLean said.
McLean said the victims were on their way home from a retreat when the crash happened. He said dozens of other church members also attended the event, but went in private vehicles.
He said that many of the victims attended missionary trips as a group and were church members for years.
"These are individuals that we have sat next to, had dinner with, laughed with and cried with, worshipped with. They were part of our church family," McLean said. "I remember the smiles. I remember the hugs. I remember the couples coming in together. You see them together all the time. I remember so many walking by and saying, 'pastor, we're praying for you.' Pastor, thank you for what you do.
"You live life with folks, so you just share so many small interactions that add up to relationships that impacts you and strengthens your heart."
McLean encouraged people to pay for the family of the pickup truck driver.
"That family is hurting. I encourage that we show grace for them and pray for them and show love for them as they work through a very difficult time," he said. "Those families are people. They have love in their heart. They have a concern for a family member. They're hurt for the loss of life that occurred yesterday."
McLean said that the congregation is supporting one another to get through the tragedy.
"Our church family is doing what we are supposed to do. Lots of prayer, lots of support for those families. Crying with those families," he said. "We work together. We worship together. Some of our families are very close to one another. Our church family is doing what we should do, in coming together and grieving. Weeping with those who are weeping because they've suffered loss and we hurt with them."
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