As Alabama church mourns after bus crash, comfort and a witness from its lone victim

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The family of Sarah Harmening speak with media, when they shared Sarah’s recent thoughts on Scripture and what it meant to serve God. Sarah was the lone death in a bus crash that injured 33 on Camp Creek Parkway in Atlanta Thursday afternoon. CBS46/Special

NOTE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Katelyn as Sarah Harmening’s cousin. They are sisters.

HUNTSVILLE — On the bus towards Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Sarah Harmening felt a little sad. Then, she decided to read her Bible. After that, she wrote about what it said in 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1.

The bus crash on Camp Creek Parkway, about seven miles from Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, involved two other vehicles, injured 33 of the 38 passengers, and took the life of Sarah Harmening, a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL. CHANNEL 2 ACTION NEWS/Special

“It talked about watching over their flock entrusted to you, which would be my little buddies in Botswana, humbling yourself which I will need to do (and that also means being a little uncomfortable),” she penned.

Those details from Sarah’s final journal entry, shared by her mother, Karen, became public after the church’s bus crashed and rolled over seven miles from the airport. According to The Alabama Baptist, the group of 11th and 12th grade students, as well as chaperones and at least one student minister from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL, were scheduled to fly to Botswana for a mission trip. Reports placed those injured at 33 out of 38 passengers. Sarah Harmening, 17, was the only one to lose her life.

Sarah Harmening, 17, wrote her final journal entry shortly before the bus crash in Atlanta that took her life. Harmening and her group of 11th and 12th grade students, as well as chaperones and at least one student minister, had left Mount Zion Baptist Church in Huntsvill for a mission trip to Botswana. KAREN HARMENING/Facebook

Responding to horrific news

Just prior to 4 p.m. Thursday word reached the church of the bus accident. Within hours the church placed an announcement on its Facebook page as well as a request for prayer that has since received more than 2,300 likes and nearly 2,000 shares.

With the injured scattered among several local hospitals, parents and family immediately began making their way to Atlanta after word of the crash. Fulton County police have since determined the crash began due to an improper lane change. 

Mount Zion Baptist remained open throughout the night for those wishing to gather for prayer. This morning the church shared another message on Facebook: “As a new day begins we are completely brokenhearted but we have not lost heart. Completely overwhelmed by the love and compassion of those who have reached out. We rest in [our] great God and His unfailing word.”

A passage from Lamentations 3:21-24 followed the post: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.”

Sarah Harmening, 17, expressed a fear of traveling but nevertheless was preparing to take part in an international mission trip with her student group. FACEBOOK/Photo

‘A love that was tangible’

“She loved the Lord with a love that was tangible,” testified Karen Harmening to reporters late last night in a press conference. “I know you guys in the media don’t like to hear a lot about that, but I hope you listen, because it was what she lived and breathed for.”

Harmening proceeded to read her daughter’s final journal entry: “…God has called me here and he’s done so for a reason. So I know he’s going to do incredible things.” Then, she turned her attention to all gathered.

“We know the ‘incredible thing’ is impacting the world for Jesus Christ. And we want you to know of the love of Jesus Christ. If you do not know Him as Savior and Lord, for our precious, precious Sarah, please seek Him today for His word.”

 

Even before her death, Sarah Harmening made it a point of proclaiming her faith. The personal bio on her Instagram account contains only a single quote from C.S. Lewis: “He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man that was made, he would have done no less.”

After Karen Harmening’s words, Sarah’s sister, Katelyn, approached the microphone to share a text sent by Sarah recently invoking 1 Peter 5:23-25.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever,” she read emotionally before adding Sarah’s own thoughts shared in the text.

“She commented on this and said, ‘This is such a great reminder. We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment. And this is not about us; life is not about us. It’s about God, who is eternal.

“So I want to dedicate the one moment I’m here completely and entirely to him.”

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