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Church Near Helicopter Crash Site Transformed into Care Center

The Church in the Canyon was engaged in their typical Sunday morning activities routine when its normal routine was shattered by the sound of a helicopter crashing into the hillside across the street. Pastor Bob Bjerkaas, sensing that the crash was fatal, immediately led his small congregation toward the parking lot for a moment of impromptu prayer. The Presbyterian pastor expected to see first responders descend on the area. What he didn’t expect was a steady influx of news reporters, camera crews, and fans of all walks of life.

They were coming to remember the lives of those who perished in the crash: Retired basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, a budding basketball player; baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and Alyssa their basketball-playing daughter; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; basketball coach Christina Mauser; and helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan.

Pastor Bjerkass were unprepared for the number of visitors, but they quickly found ways to be hospitable. According to The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver, the church offered coffee, water, and fruit as refreshments, provided outlets and power strips to charge smartphones, and welcomed grieving visitors into impromptu prayer services.

“The Bible says we’re to practice hospitality,” said Bjerkaas, “That’s what we did. We prayed with people who were emotionally overwhelmed, in tears, and in open grief. Sometimes all people need is a hug, a ‘God bless you,’ a short prayer, and a cup of water. I’ve always believed more good is done in this life if you can get close to the ground and share life with the people around you.”

Possible Preaching Angle: God is honored when we can shift our priorities around to respond to the needs of our neighbors, especially when it can serve as a testimony of God’s care.

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