Dear Ozark Family,
It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you that one of our students, Jace Smothers, was killed Friday in an accident near Paducah, Kentucky.
Many of you had the privilege of knowing Jace—as a student, classmate, Strong Hall brother, or friend—and you will remember his big smile, loud laugh, and huge heart for Jesus and teenagers. He was a youth ministry major and a local Young Life volunteer.
I’m sure more details about the accident will be forthcoming in the days ahead, but in the meantime, I want to be sure that you, as the OCC family, know these three things:
Second, your prayers are needed. I have spoken with Jace’s parents already, expressing on behalf of the OCC family our sorrow and love. I assured them that hundreds of Ozark folks would be lifting them up. Please pray for Jace’s parents Terry and Sharon Smothers and the entire family. Of course, there are many others grieving: Jace’s home church in Norton, Kansas, Jace’s roommate Sam Kiefer and his dorm brothers in Strong, his CIY teammates, and the young people he served at Young Life.
Third, while we grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). It is certainly right and healthy for us to grieve. Death is not our friend, and there is no shame or lack of faith in tears of sorrow at times like this. Even Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. But the powerful promise of the gospel is this: we have in Jesus Christ the firm and wondrous hope of heaven. A day is coming when we shall see our brother Jace in a place where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain, a place where God makes all things new. That is the hope we hold on to and the gospel we are preparing men and women to proclaim.
As we learn details about memorial services for Jace, we will be sure to communicate those to the Ozark family, and when the 2019 fall semester begins, we will have a time of remembrance together in chapel. Until then, may “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles” give you his grace today (2 Cor 1:3-4).
The accompanying video is from KSN.