A South Carolina deacon, his wife and two of their young children died in a tragic fire that ripped through their family home Tuesday morning.
Scott Kelly, 42, a deacon at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, along with his wife Mandy, 34, their son Judah, 10 months; and daughter Lizzie, 9, all died in the early morning blaze that erupted at their Lexington County home, according to WISTV. The couple's oldest children, Bekah and Jared, survived along with their grandmother who is currently being treated for burns.
"Early this morning, we suffered the loss of a deacon, women's ministry leader and Sunday school teachers. Scott and Mandy Kelly along with two of their children passed in a house fire. Two of their children survived along with Scott's mother who was air-lifted to the burn center in Augusta. Please be in prayer for this family," Trinity Baptist announced on its Facebook page Tuesday.
While the cause of the fire is still being investigated, WISTV reported that firefighters were called to the scene just after 1 a.m. Tuesday. Lexington County spokesperson Harrison Cahill said when crews arrived "it was a pretty fully-involved fire" that completely destroyed the home.
Senior Pastor Eddie Coakley of Trinity Baptist Church, who is now serving as the family spokesperson, said they were asking for privacy during their grief but remembered the couple and their departed children as people who loved God.
"The Kellys were an amazing family that loved God wholeheartedly," Coakley said. "They chose to live life sharing the love of Jesus with everyone. Their extended family is asking for prayers for the two children who survived and that their privacy be respected at this time."
Mandy's friend, Rikki Travis, 36, told The State that she watched the news of the fire on television and was devastated.
"That's when I broke down and physically cried," Travis said. "I was hoping it was a misprint and it wasn't true. Once I went back and looked at the house and looked through the pictures – that's Mandy's house."
She revealed that Mandy and her husband adopted 10-month-old Judah as a newborn. She said she last saw Mandy and Lizzie while shopping at Wal-Mart two weeks ago.
"Lizzie came up and gave me a big hug," Travis said.
"Full of energy, always talking about God," she said recalling the girl's strong faith. "I guarantee you she was smiling when she went to heaven today."
Mandy was a stay-at-home mother who ran a Christian blog called "Worshipful Living." Her last post was about "Seeing Jesus for Who He Is."
Scott Kelly worked in IT support at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, according to The State. He married Mandy five years ago after meeting her online. Scott, who was a widower when he met Mandy, is the father of the three eldest children.
Coakley told WISTV that he and the church family are hoping to collect donations to help the three survivors of the fire but noted that he believes the couple would want families to share Jesus with their children.
"I think what Scott and Mandy would want people to do is not write a check. I think Scott and Mandy would want people to go home and realize that God loves them tremendously, and they would want parents to share the love of God with their children," said Coakley. "I think you could take [the] time to tell them who Jesus is, to read them Bible stories. I think that would make them really, really happy."
On Wednesday night, hundreds of family and friends gathered to remember the family in a service at Trinity Baptist.
"Losing anyone that you love is difficult, but when it's children involved, it takes on a whole different hurt and pain. The only thing that I can say is I know if Baby Judah had to leave and to be in Heaven, I know that's where Mandy would want to be," said Rick Shull, a member of the church and a Sunday school teacher.