Calhoun, Georgia, United States …. [Mark A. Kellner/Équipe ANN]

More than 3,300 people packed the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center on Dec. 7 to remember the lives and ministries of three Seventh-day Adventist church leaders from the Georgia-Cumberland district in the United States.

The three — Pastor Dave Cress, 47; Pastor James H. Frost, 53; and Jamie Arnall, 29 — were among five people killed Dec. 2 when an airplane owned by the Georgia-Cumberland district crashed shortly after takeoff from the airport in Collegedale, Tennessee. Pilot and Adventist church member John Laswell, 36, and Pastor Clay Farwell, 67, also perished in the crash; a copilot, Jim Huff, 37, a volunteer copilot and member of the Standifer Gap Seventh-day Adventist Church, survived but was injured and briefly hospitalized. (See ANN, Dec. 2, 2004.)

“I would have to say that it truly was a celebration of life,” said Pastor Phil White, senior pastor of the Calhoun, Georgia, Seventh-day Adventist Church, where the three were members.

Among the speakers at the service — which was attended by leaders from the world headquarters, North American church region and many local districts in the United States — was Pastor Gordon Retzer, president of the Southern United States church region.

Referring to the theme of the service, “Comfort in Our Coming King,” White noted that Pastor Retzer told worshippers, “If Jim [Frost], Jamie [Arnall], or Dave [Cress] were standing here today they would say two words: ‘Get ready,'” referring to the need of all to be ready to meet Jesus when He returns.

Pastor Retzer testified that he “saw Jesus” in each of the men, noting Frost’s gregarious nature and Arnall’s dedication to detail in his work. Cress’ personality and manner of dealing with people was also remembered by the church leader.

“There could be hundreds of people around, but somehow Dave would seek you out personally,” he said. “He had a way of letting you know you were appreciated like no one I have ever known.”

The memorial event was marked by several personal touches as well as displays of solidarity from church leaders. A procession of leaders began the afternoon, which included Cress’ seven-year-old daughter, Meredith, playing “Amazing Grace” on the piano as part of the service.

One of the most emotional moments of the service came when Pastor Jeremy Arnall of Crossville, Tennessee, the identical twin brother of Jamie Arnall, removed his eyeglasses, which he wore, in part, to differentiate himself from his brother.

Pastor Arnall recalled once that when he and Jamie were much younger, their parents, each driving a car to an event, decided to take one twin in each vehicle. Suddenly, both began crying over the separation, which ended when the two were placed together in their mother’s car and held each other’s hand.

After the accident, he added, he went to the mortuary to say a private farewell to his brother. Reaching under the sheet to touch Jamie’s hand, he said, he squeezed, but this time his brother could not return the gesture.

“I tried to hold his hand yesterday, but he didn’t squeeze back,” Pastor Arnall said. “But I have this hope – Jesus is coming again. Word has it He’s going to invite the dead in Christ to join Him. … As I understand it, we’re going to a place that has streets of gold with a river of gold. When we get there we will sit at a very long banquet table. I plan to sit with Jamie that day.”

A memorial service for John Laswell was held in Collegedale, Tennessee on Dec. 5. Pastor Clay Farwell, a retired Seventh-day Adventist administrator who had signed on to assist Pastor Cress on Dec. 1, will be remembered in a Dec. 11 memorial service to be held in Rock Island, Tennessee.

Related Sites
Calhoun Times report on the Memorial Service The Calhoun Times, a daily newspaper in Calhoun, Georgia, United States, reported on the memorial service. The paper also generously shared its photos from the event with Adventist News Network.

Image by Image by ANN. Jackie Seger/Calhoun Times
Image by Image by ANN Jackie Seger/Calhoun Times

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