(March 2, 2007) — Church of the Brethren members are called to prayer today for Bluffton University, a Mennonite school in Ohio, after members of its baseball team were killed in a tragic bus accident this morning; and for Americus, Ga., and other communities across the south hit by tornados last night. The call to prayer included Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala., where several students died when a tornado hit the school yesterday.
A charter bus carrying the Bluffton baseball team fell from an overpass onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Ga., early this morning. The team was traveling to a tournament in Florida, and was to play Eastern Mennonite University in Sarasota on Saturday. Six people were killed including the bus driver and his wife and four students, and several other students were critically injured. The coach, James Grandey, is in serious condition but expected to improve, according to an MSNBC report.
“This is a profound and tragic day in the life of Bluffton University,” said school president James Harder to reporters, according to MSNBC. “This is deeply impacting all of our students, faculty, and staff.”
Among communities across the south affected by tornados last night was Americus, Ga., where the headquarters of Habitat for Humanity are located. Church of the Brethren congregations and members frequently partner with Habitat chapters to build homes for low-income families.
Nine people were killed by tornados across southern Georgia, with two people killed in Americus, according to CNN. In Americus, a tornado destroyed the offices of the American Red Cross, hit Sumter Regional Hospital, and destroyed up to 200 homes as well as downtown businesses, CNN said. Storms also destroyed a neighborhood and mobile home community near Newton, Ga., among other destruction.
“Uplift the Bluffton College community and the family members of those who were on the bus,” requested Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board. “Remember in your prayer also the students, staff, and families of Enterprise High School. Pray for the town of Americus, the staff and families of Habitat and the Red Cross, and keep in prayer all those affected by these deadly storms.”
Staff of the General Board’s Emergency Response and Disaster Child Care ministries reported that they have been in touch with partner organizations in disaster response, including Mennonite Disaster Service, which is involved in the aftermath of the bus accident, and the national Red Cross.
Disaster Child Care coordinator Helen Stonesifer said that her program is concerned to find out where needs may be following the swath of tornados yesterday and last night. “We have been in touch with partners to find out how we can help, and our services have been offered to the Mennonites,” added Roy Winter, director of Emergency Response. The Brethren Disaster Response program also is exploring the need for rapid response following the tornados.