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Divine Providence or Mixed Messages? A collection of news items showing how Christians suffer just like the rest of us.

Divine Providence or Mixed Messages?

Collapsing Church Buildings Kill Many

In 2014, 116 people died when a multistory guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos, Nigeriaʼs largest city. Most victims were visiting South African followers of the megachurchʼs influential founder T.B. Joshua. Then in 2016 a church in the Nigerian city of Uyo collapsed during services killing at least 23 people. “A building contractor was lifting the steel with cranes to get at dead and injured,” he said.

Over 100 Children Dead after People From Around the World Prayed for their Safe Release

Over a hundred children were taken captive in a schoolhouse hostage situation in Russia (2004), which included several children of Baptist missionaries, who died in the final act of that hostage tragedy. Prior to the childrenʼs deaths an email was sent out worldwide by the Baptist World Alliance begging for prayers for the children.

4-Year-Old-Girl Killed Accidentally by Falling Headstone only Minutes before Her Vacation Bible School Lesson was to Begin

“Peyton Townsend was killed just minutes before a vacation Bible school study. The kids were just burning off energy before the start of class. The churchʼs backyard doubles as a small cemetery, where about two dozen people are buried. The pastor says Peyton was standing on a headstone when a massive cross fell on top of her and crushed her. The pastor estimates the cross weighed more than 1,200 pounds.”
4-Year-Old Girl Killed by Part of Headstone, Deep Gap, N.C., Saturday, June 9, 2012

2 Children Lost in Car Accident on Way to Church

Sunday morning, August 30, 2015, a woman in the car with her two children tried to cross a busy street and drove in front of a moving truck she had not seen which caused her to swerve into the front window of a branch of Arthur State Bank in Greenville, SC after which the bank caught fire. One child ran inside the building that had begun to burn and the mother ran after that child, then the other child ran in after the mother [according to news reports]. The County Coroner said the two boys, ages 3 and 5, died from smoke inhalation. The mother and a passenger made it out alive. A relative said the family was on the way to church.
2 Dead After SUV Crashes into Bank in Fiery Wreck, Updated Sep 01, 2015

Christian Rock Stars Suffer Accidental Deaths

In May, 2008, Maria Sue, the 5-year-old adopted daughter of Grammy-winning Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman was struck and killed in the familyʼs driveway by a vehicle driven by Chapmanʼs teenaged son. (Previously Chapman had released a book about Maria Sue titled “Cinderella: The Love of Daddy and his Princess”)

Rich Mullins, whom some called the “John Lennon” of Christian Rock, was best known for his worship songs “Awesome God” and “Sometimes by Step,” both of which have been embraced as modern classics by many Christians. On September 19, 1997, Mullins and his friend Mitch McVicker were traveling to a benefit concert when his Jeep rolled over. They were not wearing seat belts and were both ejected from the vehicle. When a passing semi-trailer truck swerved to miss the overturned Jeep, Mullins, who was too injured to move out of the path of the oncoming truck, was hit and died instantly. McVicker was seriously injured but survived.

Another notable Christian rocker killed in a traveling accident is Keith Green. On July 28, 1982, at the age of 28, Keith and two of their young children, Josiah and Bethany, were in a small plane crash. Keith was one of Americaʼs best-selling Christian musicians and songwriters, recording 5 albums in his lifetime with over 1.5 million in distribution.

5 Christian Aid Workers Killed Soon After they Arrived in Iraq Because they Took a Wrong Turn

Five Southern Baptist aid workers were in Mosul, Iraq, to provide clean water to the city. While driving on the east side of the city the Baptistsʼ car came under attack. One couple was new to the mission field. The husband had just graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2002, and his wife was still officially a student there. Another couple were longtime missionary veterans, having worked most of the last 25 years in Honduras. They were scheduled to leave Iraq later this month to close their Honduran headquarters and permanently relocate to Iraq. Also killed in the attack was a single woman who converted to Christianity in 1997 and had recently quit her job . . . to work full-time in missions . . . In February, a taxi carrying several Independent Baptist church planters (not Southern Baptists) was attacked as it returned from Babylon to Baghdad. John Kelley, pastor of Curtis Corner Baptist Church in Wakefield, Rhode Island, was killed in the shooting. Three others were injured. [The article further explained that it was not the fact that they were missionaries that got them killed, but they had lost their way in the streets and simply driven into the wrong side of town and were gunned down simply for appearing to be Americans.] — reported in
Christianity Today

3 Missionaries Dead After People Prayed for their Safe Return

In Pucuro, Panama, three missionary men were taken away from their families in 1993. After eight long years of praying for the safe return of the men, their families recently learned that they had been killed by their captors five years previously.

Missionary Dead from Brain Tumor

The Christian (who later became a missionary) and about whom the Oscar winning movie, “Chariots of Fire” was made, died of a brain tumor while a missionary in China.

Missionary Shot Down, Mistaken for Drug Runnerʼs Plane

A few years prior to 2006 on the television news program, 20/20, the story was told of a South American missionaryʼs small airplane that was gunned down with the missionary inside by a military jet aircraft who mistook the tiny missionaryʼs plane as a drug-runnerʼs plane.

Ships Carrying Missionaries Sink at Same Rate as Other Ships Sent Round the World

In the 1800s Francis Galton examined the insurance rates for ships. He reasoned that ships carrying missionaries and pilgrims should have lower rates since frequent praying by the occupants should decrease the number of accidents. He found that the rates were the same; ships carrying missionaries and pilgrims sank just as often as other ships.

Pastor Electrocuted During Baptismal Service in Front of 800 People

Kyle Lake, 33, pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, died Sunday after being electrocuted while standing in the church baptismal during a morning service. Lake received a shock while adjusting a microphone before baptizing a woman… About 800 people were attending the service, which was more than usual due to Baylor Universityʼs homecoming weekend, reports the Associated Press. Lake was a rising leader in new church movements such as Emergent. Lake is survived by his wife and three children.
—CT Staff, “Pastor Electrocuted in Baptismal: Pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco Dies After Adjusting Microphone.” Christianity Today, posted 10/31/2005

Youth Pastor Killed by Lightning Strike

Kris Guglielmucci, 39, was a man of God who loved his music and mentoring members of his young congregation. He was a respected Victory Church youth pastor and father of four. He was struck and killed by a bolt of lightning at Cornerstone College, Mt Barker. He had been running a two-day Summerfest Youth Camp for about 100 high school students when he was fatally struck down. My Christian Daily 2016-01-23

Faith Healer Dies in his Early 50ʼs of Cancer Even Though the Survival Rate for his Type of Cancer is Generally Much Greater & he had Thousands Praying for Him

I looked up the survival rate for his disease. “According to the American Cancer Society, the overall 5-year relative survival rate for patients with non-Hodgkinʼs lymphoma is 63% and the 10-year relative survival rate is 51%.” But even with thousands praying for him, he lasted a month.
- John Tyrrell

Famous Faith Healer not Delivered from Booze & Drugs, Dies

Asa Alonzo Allen (1911-1970) was a prominent, flamboyant and controversial Pentecostal ‘healing evangelist’ of the 1940s-1960s. On June 14, 1970, listeners in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines were hearing a recorded message from A. A. Allen on his radio program saying: “This is Brother Allen in person. Numbers of friends of mine have been inquiring about reports they have heard concerning me that are not true. People as well as some preachers from pulpits are announcing that I am dead. Do I sound like a dead man? My friends, I am not even sick! Only a moment ago I made a reservation to fly into our current campaign. Iʼll see you there and make the devil a liar.” At that moment, at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, police were removing A. A. Allenʼs body from a room strewn with pills and empty liquor bottles. The man who had once said that ‘the beer bottle and gin bucket’ should have been on his family coat of arms was dead at 59 from what was said to be a heart attack but was in reality liver failure brought about by acute alcoholism.
(p.88, The Faith Healers by The Amazing Randi)

Many Christians Killed by Lightning

Some 400 church towers were damaged by lightning and 120 bell ringers killed in a 30 year period (after which lightning rods were installed). In one church a bolt of lightning struck the tower and melted the bell, electrocuted the priest, deprived a parishioner of her sensibilities and destroyed a painting of the Savior. The Republic of Venice had stored in the vaults of the church of San Nazaro at Brescia, over two hundred thousand pounds of gunpowder. In 1767 it was struck by lightning, the powder in the vaults was exploded, one sixth of the entire city destroyed, and over three thousand lives were lost. In Austria the church of Rosenberg was struck so frequently and with such loss of life that the peasants feared to attend services. Three times the spire had to be rebuilt. Such was also the history of St. Brideʼs and St. Paulʼs in London, the cathedrals of Sienna and Strasburg and of other churches throughout Europe and America. The tower of St. Markʼs in Venice (prior to installing a lightning rod) had been struck again and again by lightning, sometimes with such disastrous effects that it had been almost destroyed.

Five Children Gathered Around a Cross Are Killed by Lightning During Religious Ceremony

Five children between 9 and 16 years old died and several others suffered burns when lightning struck a white-painted metal cross set on a hill in the town of Santa Maria del Rio, Mexico, early on Sunday. “The lightning went straight into them and killed them instantly,” local Red Cross chief Eduardo Suarez said. Several families had been participating in a midnight ceremony as part of a local religious festival that centers around the cross.
Lightning kills 5 Mexican children in prayer,”
Youths between 9 and 16 die praying at metal cross in central Mexico Reuters, April 24, 2006

Eleven Churchgoers Killed by Lightning

About 40 people had gathered in the Church of Central African Presbytery in Mzimba, South Africa, when lightning struck on Saturday afternoon, said Fletcher Ndhlovu, an elder of the church. “Strong lightning struck the church building, sending everybody into shock,” Ndhlovu told AFP. The victims were taken to the district hospital “where 11 people were pronounced dead on arrival,” said Mzimba hospital physician Barton Jere. “The persons arrived here when they were already dead but we admitted eight people and 10 others were treated as out patients,” Jere told AFP. “They were all in a state of shock.”
Lightning Kills 11 In Church,” Dec. 18, 2005

Man Holding Cross During Christian Funeral Killed by Lightning

A man died after lightning struck a metal cross he was holding during a funeral in a village near Ljubljana, the Slovenian news agency STA reported Thursday. It said the 62-year-old man died in hospital Wednesday evening, several hours after the incident in the village of Brezovica. Another person at the funeral was slightly injured.
— Reuters, “Man Dies After Lightning Strikes Metal Cross,” June 23, 2005

Boy Scouts (Who do not Tolerate People who are Atheist or Agnostic) Killed by Lightning

A 15-year old Boy Scout (the Boy Scouts of America do not tolerate people who are openly atheist, agnostic, or unwilling to say in the Scout Oath they they will serve God) was killed and three others were injured last night when a bolt of lightning hit the log shelter they were sleeping in. Last Thursday, a 13-year-old Scout was killed by lightning in California. Four Scout leaders were electrocuted in Virginia earlier that week. — “
Scout killed by lightning strike, Another Tragedy Hits Organization,” August 3, 2005

Woman Struck Down by Lightning While Praying

Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown, 65, stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm rumbled through Baldwin County, Alabama. She said “Amen” and… lightning suddenly exploded in her house, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a blackened area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured. Fire officials think the lightning likely struck across the street from the coupleʼs home and traveled into the house through a water line. The lightning continued into the coupleʼs backyard and ripped open a small trench.“
Woman Hit By Lightning While Praying,” (, Associated Press, May 30, 2006

Independent Fundamentalist Church that Had Just Completed a New Addition & Had Plans for Further Expansion, Destroyed by Lightning

Century-old church destroyed by fire: Lightning bolt seen striking buildinga… Charter Oak had completed a new addition within the last year and had plans for further expansion. It is part of the Independent Fundamentalist Churches of America, an association of independent churches.
Lightning Destroys Century-Old Church,” November 17, 2005

Religious Book Seller Struck by Lightning, Dies After Friends Pray for His Recovery

Hailu Kidane Marian was a young man working with others, selling their religious materials door-to-door (to raise money for their religious education) when he was struck by lightning. “I heard a boom, and I looked and the guy jumped back, and he just laid there, stiff,” said witness Maria Martinez. Paramedics say Marian was not breathing and his heart was not beating when they arrived, but they were able to revive him and rushed him to Jackson Memorial hospital, where lay comatose.
Members of his religious group waited outside the hospital throughout the night for word of his condition, praying for a miracle, and sending emails to others around the world to pray for his recovery. But Hailu died.

Instead of taking this as a mixed message from God, his fellow believers saw it as a sign that once again their religion, Seventh-Day Adventism, was the right one:

“I donʼt belive this story is mere coincidence, or God scolding him as some have speculated. He may in fact be sending a wake up call to those of us who remain.”

“In considering the facts, hereʼs a guy visiting a country other than his own spreading the Gospel. In the very middle of him taking the Word to the streets, heʼs taken out with one deadly strike. As a missionary, what better testimony? What better strategy to leave this planet than with your last breath honoring and glorifying the One itʼs all about? Even in his death, his dedication to Christ in his life story lives on and has touched the hearts of many. Itʼs unfortunate… this sudden tragedy. But when I consider the widespread coverage of what was supposed to be just an ordinary missionaryʼs venture into America… I know God must have been the mastermind behind this exit strategy. He will be remembered for his passion.”
Janice A. Becca, “Preferred Exit Strategy” on her blog, Adventist Youth

ENDNOTE This was the second incident in as many months of someone being struck down by lightning from a clear sky in South Florida. Last month David Canales, a gardener who worked in the Pinecrest area, was killed when lightning apparently struck him from a rainless sky. CBS Miami Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said ‘dry lightning,’ which can strike even when the sky is clear, can be very dangerous because victims are not expecting it and donʼt prepare as they might with a storm threatening. Measurement of lightning strikes in the area Sunday showed only a few bolts compared to the last few days, making Marian especially unlucky to be struck by one of them.
Religious Book Seller Struck By Lightning, Jul 9, 2007

After Famous Pentecostal Evangelist & Healer Warns His Daughter-In-Law that she Would Be Killed in a Plane Crash if She Ever Divorced his Son & Left the Ministry, that Same Ministerʼs Daughter (not the Daughter-In-Law) Dies in Plane Crash

Rev. Oral Roberts claimed he had a dream in which God told him that his daughter-in-law, Patti, would be killed in a plane crash if she ever left his ministry. Patti did leave the ministry, distressed at the way her husband, Richard Roberts, was being turned into a clone of Oral, and the way they rationalized their expensive lifestyles. But the year Patti left his ministry, she did not die in a plane crash, while Rebecca, Oralʼs own daughter, did. See Patti Robertsʼ book,
Ashes to Gold

Influential Texas Fundamentalist Minister Dies in Plane Crash While on His Way to Preach at an Evangelistic Rally

On November 2, 1982, Rev. Lester Roloff (who had appeared a year earlier on “60 Minutes” stating his defiance of the what he called “Texasʼs Godless juvenile home system”), along with a female staff member and a ladies singing trio, were killed when their plane crashed during a storm near Normangee, Texas, on their way to a preaching and singing service they were scheduled to conduct.

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