A Canadian couple serving as missionaries were killed alongside their two children when their vehicle was hit in a head-on collision in South Africa on Sunday.
Missionaries Brendan Perrott, 33, his wife, Melissa, 32, their children Evelyn, 5, and Colton, 3, along with an orphan they were mentoring named Sabelo Sibeko were all killed along with four other victims when the vehicles exploded in the crash.
The Perrotts were high school sweethearts who began doing missionary work with Bulembu Ministries full time in 2016, the CBC reports. The Christian nonprofit operates a community church, a Christian academy, a health clinic, and care for about 350 orphans and vulnerable children in Bulembu. At the time of their deaths the family lived in Bulembu, a small town in the mountainous Highveld region of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.
“They were all burnt beyond recognition. Preliminary investigations reveal that one vehicle attempted to overtake. It then collided with another on-coming vehicle,” an SABC report said.
“It’s a Navara double cab that collided with a Subaru vehicle and after they collided they also caught fire. In the Navara it had two occupants and they were declared dead, five occupants in Subaru were declared dead on the scene. All in all we lost nine lives in the accident,” Free State emergency services spokesperson Sipho Towa told SABC.
A statement from Bulembu Ministries given to Times of Swaziland said the Perrotts who are from Alberta, Canada, were returning from Sabelo’s adventure race in the Drakensberg, South Africa, when an oncoming car overtook their vehicle at an extremely high speed.
“It crossed a solid line, lost control and hit our precious family in a fatal head-on collision. We mourn and grieve for ourselves, as well as with their families, relatives and friends as we bring them home,” the Christian nonprofit said.
In another statement on Facebook, Bulembu Ministries said the Perrotts were helping Sabelo live his dream.
“Sabelo grew up and completed his schooling in Bulembu as one of our children. He was incredibly talented in sport and Brendan and Melissa encouraged and helped him live out this passion through adventure racing,” the organization said.
“We as Challenge Ministries and Bulembu Ministries are devastated at the loss of the Perrott family and Sabelo. Brendan, Melissa and their two children came to serve the people of Eswatini but especially the children of Bulembu. They followed the call of God and loved whole-heartedly and impacted so many people's lives,” Bulembu Ministries added.
According to the CBC, Melissa was working as a massage therapist while her husband, was an electrician, felt compelled to do more with the ministry when they decided to move to Eswatini.
"They fell in love with the children there and the people, to the extent that they wanted to make a long-term commitment to go over there," Dave Perrott, Brendan's father, told the CBC. "Their passion was fueled by a belief in Jesus Christ and a desire to serve Him and for people to come to know Him. They had a desire to serve and a loving nature and a real passion for these children who became family to them,” he added.
Nanette Perrott, Brendan's mother, said family members are being comforted by their faith.
"There are just no words and yet we know they're in the Lord's presence and that's what gives us peace," she told the CBC. "We know they're all together and I know they wouldn't change a thing. They would not. They were devoted to God's work and God's children. They literally laid down their lives for these kids. And their very last mission was serving this orphan boy and encouraging him for his future."
The family of the Perrotts said the couple had plans to establish an office in Alberta to support the children of Bulembu and they hope to continue their work.
"We don't want to glorify them but to make sure that their legacy continues, that their work in Bulembu continues," Nanette Perrott said. "We want to make sure this passion and this legacy continues far beyond them."
More than $50,000 has already been raised through a GoFundMe campaign to help support the family of the missionaries.