God delivered help to a 20-year-old driver in a most mysterious way.

A Columbus congregation’s story now includes the night when a car careened into their church for an unknown reason, delivering a lost soul who needed help.

In the early hours of Aug. 25, a car traveling at a high rate of speed drove into the entryway and then inside the Reformed Presbyterian Church at 550 N. National Road, causing $100,000 to $200,000 in damage.

The 20-year-old driver, Timothy Hughes, was transported by LifeLine helicopter to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis because of the accident’s severity. He survived the collision.

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As light dawned that day, the congregation had a car sitting in the church’s vestibule and office, a broken out brick wall, shattered glass from pulverized entryway doors and office equipment strewn about like scattered toys. Church leaders said they worried about structural damage and the ability to repair the damage.

But rather than condemn, the congregation and its ministers reached out to Hughes, offering him a lifeline of fellowship and forgiveness even as the church began what could be months of repairs and renovations.

“It’s just a building,” said Pastor Andy McCracken, looking over the plywood-covered walls which separate the sanctuary from the entrance and the covered open area where the church doors and brick wall used to be.

Rather than the possibility of dealing with a lost life, however, “we have an opportunity to minister to a life,” McCracken said.

“Sure it’s an inconvenience,” he said, looking around the area that had once held the church secretary’s office and usually was buzzing with activity. “The opportunity to help and encourage someone is more important.”

Soon after the accident, McCracken and other church members reached out to Hughes’ family, asking if there was anything the church could do to help the young man and to make sure he was all right.

The congregation learned that Hughes’ crash entrance through the church doors wasn’t the young man’s first visit. He had been at Reformed Presbyterian two nights before to attend an event.

After the accident, McCracken reached out to Hughes and his parents to learn his story. He discovered that the young man had a hard go of it growing up — with some really rough things that had become part of his life.

Making a conn

ectionOne of the church members who visited Hughes was Jill Goble, who met him when she and McCracken visited to check on his recovery. She came away from the conversation thinking Hughes was about the same age as her son, Noah.Noah Goble, 19, a sophomore at IUPUC in the pre-nursing program, had heard about the crash and actually walked through the church when the car was still in the building to look at the damage.Goble remembered thinking that if the car had taken just a little bit of a different angle, it could have hit the church’s parsonage where a family was sleeping. But it didn’t.

During Labor Day weekend, the Goble family attended a church party that Hughes also attended. The two young men began talking, forming the beginning of a friendship.

From that interaction, they found out they shared the same birthday — one year apart — and both shared a love of Chinese food.

Hughes told Goble that he had recently moved to the Columbus area and didn’t have a whole lot of connections to the community.

“That’s something everyone can identify with,” Noah said. “I thought, if nothing else, I can be a friend to him.”

Even though Hughes was the driver of the car that caused so much damage to the church, Goble said the friendship never felt uncomfortable — as he shared his pastor’s viewpoint that the damage was just to a building.

“I could look at the building, but it was more important to learn about him,” Goble said. “That was more important to me.”

Hughes was invited to participate in church programs, which were just starting back up for the fall. Some of the activities centered around fun, with others about serious Bible study.

“It was a blessing to have him in Bible study,” Noah said of his friend. “He’s very intelligent, and he always had something to say.”

Reconnecting with family

But a short time later, Hughes decided to move to Texas, where his extended family lives, Goble said.“He told me he just needed to go there to figure some stuff out,” Noah said. “Truth be told, I was bummed.”Goble has since attempted to keep in touch and hopes his friend might someday return so they can pick up some Chinese food and pick up their friendship where it left off.

“The same Holy Spirit that walked with Christ walks with us,” said Goble, who also is continuing to pray for his friend as he figures things out in Texas. “I hope God will use this time to encourage him and encourage me as well. I think of us as brothers in Christ.”

The church is continuing to work with its insurance company and obtaining contractor estimates for repairing the church, and church members are hopeful the building restoration work can begin soon.

And “prayers for Tim” continue to be a part of the weekly worship service.

Pull Quote

“It’s just a building,” speaking of $100,000-plus in damage to church. “The opportunity to help and encourage someone is more important.”

Pastor Andy McCracken, Reformed Presbyterian Church

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.