Following a local church tragedy that brought national attention, Foursquare churches across the nation are called to unite in prayer for Eastpointe (Bonney Lake II Foursquare Church) in Bonney Lake, Wash., this week.
Youth leaders Josh and Vanessa Ellis, and their 8-month-old son, Hudson, died Monday when a large concrete slab from a highway overpass fell onto their pickup truck. The Ellises were in their 20s and had been youth leaders at Eastpointe for four years. They were to have dedicated their son at the church this coming Sunday.
General Supervisor Tammy Dunahoo has asked pastors around the nation to pray for Eastpointe pastors, the families, the church and the community. "They have experienced what can only be described as hell's fury launched against them," she says.
She continues, "I'm convinced this year's theme, 'Sent,' is already being lived out, and it is our enemy's greatest concern.” In light of this tragedy, Tammy also encourages pastors of the importance of living in community with one another. "Let's join together and strengthen one another,” she adds, “lifting each other's arms, carrying each other's burdens through our times of prayer, sharing our stories over coffee, hearing the Word the Holy Spirit will speak through one another. We must stand together arms linked, hearts united, with effectual fervent prayers for one another in these days no one can go down on our watch."
Close to 1,000 people turned out for a candlelight prayer vigil for the Ellises on Tuesday evening, reports Sue Christianson, ministry director at Eastpointe. Among those attending were members of fellow Foursquare and non-Foursquare churches in the area, and people from the local community.
Following worship, Senior Pastor James Ludlow spoke and shared a portion of the message Vanessa had delivered to the church's youth group on Sunday evening—drawing from her notes that had been found in the auditorium.
The Ellises were loved for their vibrant faith, says Sue. "They loved well, and everyone that came into contact with them felt like they were their best friends because they took you in, no matter who you were. They were big encouragers."
“We must stand together arms linked, hearts united, with effectual fervent prayers for one another in these days no one can go down on our watch.”
—Tammy Dunahoo, general supervisor of The Foursquare Church
In a message at his Facebook page, Pastor James thanked people for their outpouring of love and concern. Those at Eastpointe were "stunned, shocked, wounded, broken and dismayed," he posted. "But we know one thing for sure ... they are in glory in the loving arms of our King Jesus." The accident was "not a question of 'Why, God?’" he wrote in another post. "The real question is 'What now, Lord Jesus?' We may never know the first question, but God is showing us the latter!"
On Wednesday, around 50 staff and members from Eastpointe went door to door in the Ellises' neighborhood, speaking with people and offering to pray with them. "We just wanted to minister to the community," says Sue. "We were well received by people."
The church posted the Ellis family's picture on the homepage of their website this week, where the couple had said of themselves: "We love to laugh. We are passionate about seeing young people discover the love and grace that Jesus abundantly pours out on them ... We believe that the local church is the greatest instrument God is using to bring His kingdom to Earth. Our favorite place is in His presence, and we love to worship with our church body."
There will be a service for the Ellis family on Monday, April 20, at 6 p.m. at Puyallup Foursquare Church's north campus (Puyallup III Foursquare Church) in Puyallup, Wash.
The Ellises' accident is not the first time in recent years Eastpointe has suffered a tragic loss. A member of the congregation was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along the side of the road in 2013, and youth worship leader Sam Stephens died when a drunk driver hit him in Sept. 2010.
Heidi Moran, assistant to the Northwest Foursquare District supervisor, urges other Foursquare churches to also pray that members of Eastpointe would be able to grieve fully despite the media spotlight, drawing comfort from some of the Psalms, which show David expressing his sadness and anger, while continuing to trust and worship God.
Praying for Eastpointe Foursquare Church and for the Families
As the greater Foursquare community, we have the opportunity to come together and pray for a local church and families who are grieving and mourning such a tragic loss. You may find the following prayer points helpful as you pray with your church staff and congregation:
For the families of Josh, Vanessa and Hudson: Pray for the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit to be with them as they grieve. Pray that they will have strength and hope for the future. Read 2 Cor 1: 3-4 and Eph. 3:14-19.
For the students of Eastpointe: Pray for comfort and hope in a difficult time. Pray that this shocking tragedy will be used to deepen their faith, even through grief. Read Psalm 23:1-2 and Psalm 42:5-6.
For the church family: Pray for protection from further attacks of the enemy. Pray for strength and restoration by the authority we have in Jesus’ name. Read Eph. 6:10-12 and Psalm 61:1-2.
For the community: Pray that an effective door for ministry will remain open. Pray that the people of God will be able to share the hope that goes beyond this lifetime. Read 1 Cor. 15:19 and Isa. 61:3.