A GoFundMe page created for the family of a church planter and pastor who was killed in a highway accident as he was helping a driver who had stopped in the traffic lanes has raised nearly $300,000.
The account, set up for the family John Powell, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, stood at $284,365 Friday afternoon from donations of over 2,700 people.
On Twitter, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Andrew Walker, a family friend who set up the account, expressed his astonishment at the outpouring of support, adding that “the global body of Christ is a living portrait of Romans 12:15: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.’”
Powell was accidentally killed on July 18 in Sherman, Texas, after he pulled over to assist individuals who had been involved in a crash. The 38-year-old pastor was struck by a passing semi-truck and died at the scene of the accident. He left behind his wife, Katherine, and four children — Gunner, Bennett, Ada Kate, and Reese.
The GoFundMe page characterizes Powell as a “servant and gentle leader we all knew and love [who] gave his life so that others may live.”
“His life embodies what his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, said, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13),” it reads. “We are asking for friends and family to help care for the Powell family as they deal with unspeakable tragedy and grief. As they have shown all of their family and friends love in times past, let us now, as the body of Christ, show them love and care.”
Donors include friends, acquaintances, and even individuals who didn’t personally know the pastor.
A donor who manages the local coffee shop Powell often frequented said it was evident the pastor "wholeheartedly loved Christ and people.”
“He would typically come in to work on his sermons or bring his little girls in for a lunch date. Always wearing a plaid shirt and a bright smile," she recalled. "Compassionate, genuine, and kind, that was John. It’s clear that he left a legacy. Prayers for The Father’s embrace and comfort to be upon his family and church body during this tragic time. You are in our hearts.”
Powell’s death sparked an outpouring of tributes on social media from prominent pastors and Christian leaders.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, remembered Powell as “sweet-tempered, humble, absolutely devoted” to his wife, Katherine, and their four young children. He was everything I would want any of my sons to be when they grow up,” in a lengthy post shared on social media.
“It is impossible to imagine the heartbreak of this young family in the death of their husband & father & of this church in losing their pastor,” wrote Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But John Powell loved Christ, preached Christ, trusted Christ. Our hearts break for them. This is why we sing that all we have is Christ.”
A memorial service for Powell was held on July 23 at Emmanuel Baptist Church.