A 2-month-old baby boy was orphaned Sunday morning when his parents, Hunter Wilkes, a 21-year-old youth pastor, and his 21-year-old wife, Alexis, were killed in a two-vehicle crash on their way to church in Texas.
According to KSLA, the accident happened at about 10 a.m. just south of Carthage in east Texas.
A preliminary report said a 2008 Dodge Ram towing a trailer was traveling north on U.S. 59 in the left lane when Hunter Wilkes, driving a 2021 Mazda CX5 and traveling west on an exit ramp, attempted to turn left on U.S. 59. His vehicle was struck by the Dodge being driven by a 79-year-old man.
Hunter Wilkes, a student at Louisiana Missionary Baptist Institute & Seminary, and his wife were both pronounced dead at the scene. Their son, Jett, and the 79-year-old driver of the Dodge Ram were hospitalized in stable condition.
The child suffered "only a small bruise on his leg," reports KLTV.
Information from Hunter Wilkes' Facebook page shows that he began serving as youth pastor at Eastside Baptist Church in Gary on July 19, 2020.
Eastside Baptist Church Lead Pastor Raymond Walker told KLTV that he thought they had taken the day off to visit family when he didn't see the couple during Sunday school.
"The older I get, the less I remember, so I wasn't sure if Hunter had maybe told me they were going to be with his parents or something else that day. And I thought, 'well, you know, I'll just go ahead and stay in the class,'" Walker explained. "He taught the young people, so I went in there and stayed with them for a while and taught a lesson. And so, after church, I was going to call and check on them. But we received the call first. It came right as we had dismissed the morning service and found out they were involved in that accident."
When the couple, who lived in Minden, Louisiana, joined the church last year, Walker said he was happy to have them because they brought zeal and optimism.
"I've been in the ministry for 31 years, and when I started out, you have a lot of zeal sometimes and you cannot allow people and things to kind of hinder your excitement," Walker said. "So whenever Hunter and Lexi came, they brought a lot of zeal. And it's helped me a lot to try to be more positive. He [Hunter] said his parents are always positive, and I said, 'Well, I need some of that.' And so, a lot of that has helped me through this time. Because it's easy to get bitter in this world, but they've been a blessing."
In a statement Monday, the Minden High Baseball Batter Up Club described Hunter Wilkes as a promising athlete who declined to play baseball in college to pursue ministry.
"We are heartbroken by the loss of one of our own. Hunter Wilkes and his wife, Lexi, were taken, what feels like, too soon. Hunter was a 2018 graduate that played 3rd base and pitched. He was the type of athlete that every coach loves to have. He worked hard, loved the game and was a competitor," the club said.
"Hunter Wilkes embodied what MHS baseball strives to instill in all of its players. To know that baseball is a worthy endeavor and deserves your best but that there are callings much higher and more important. Hunter declined the chance to play college ball to follow his calling of the ministry. He was called to preach, to be a husband, and to be a father to their precious 2.5 month old son, Jett. Hunter did all of those things with gladness."
Hunter's brother Hayden Wilkes noted on Facebook that even though he is devastated by the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law, he is trusting in God.
"My heart hurts more than I thought was possible, but I don't grieve as others who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13)," he wrote.
"Hunter would often text me with Bible questions. His first moment in Heaven, he saw and understood more of the glory of Christ than I will ever learn in this life. Jett is fiercely loved by all of his family. He will be raised to love the Lord and will know of his parents and their love for him and for Jesus," he continued.
"I grieve deeply, but I also rejoice. My brother and sweet Lexi are with Jesus. We live in a fallen, broken world. I trust Jesus. I don't know why I lost my 21 year old brother and his wife. But I do know that God's promises are true. 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.' - Romans 8:28."
Visitation for Hunter and Lexi Wilkes will take place on Wednesday at First Baptist Church in Minden, Louisiana, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. A memorial service for the couple will be held at the same venue on Thursday at 11 a.m.