By Kim Plummer Krull
“A lot of hearts are broken” at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Salina, Kan., and in other LCMS communities after the tragic car accident Jan. 28 that killed the wife and two young children of the congregation’s newly installed pastor, the Rev. Jeffrey Geske.
Geske had served the Salina congregation less than two months, but already “many people had fallen in love with the family and are devastated,” said Dennis Hill, Christ the King’s lay minister, speaking of the deaths of Laura Geske, 37, and children Joshua, 8, and Joy, 3.
Pastor Geske was traveling with his family on I-70 near Topeka when another vehicle crossed the grass median and hit the Geske minivan head-on, according to news reports. Laura and the two children were pronounced dead at the scene. Pastor Geske and another son, Jacob, 3, were treated at a hospital and have since been released.
Geske and Jacob were in Leavenworth with Laura’s family when Hill spoke with the pastor on Jan. 29. Geske is being served by the Rev. Keith Kohlmeier, president of the LCMS Kansas District, among others, Hill said.
Geske is getting “lots of calls and emails from all over,” Hill said, including from former parishes and communities where the couple has touched lives. Funeral arrangements were still pending on Jan. 30, but Hill said the service likely would be at a large church to accommodate the many people who want to attend.
Campanella Family Funeral Home in Wamego, Kan., is handling arrangements. For more information about pending services, visit http://www.campanellafuneral.com/.
Before moving to Kansas, Geske served as pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for five years and Laura taught at Eastridge Elementary School, both in Amarillo, Texas.
Dawn Danner, secretary at Prince of Peace, remembers Laura Geske as a dedicated teacher and, as the mother of twins Joy and Jacob, a proud member of Mothers of Multiples. “Laura was very quiet until you got to know her, and then she was very talkative and very humorous. She always had the right thing to say,” Danner said.
Members of Prince of Peace and sister congregation Trinity Lutheran Church were among those who took part in a candlelight vigil Jan. 29 at Eastridge School in memory of Laura and the two children.
The Geskes met as students at Concordia University, Seward, Neb., Danner said. Laura taught at Topeka Lutheran School from 2000 to 2006 while her husband served his first congregation, Trinity Lutheran School, McFarland, Kan.
Topeka Lutheran School Principal Jennifer Turner issued a statement after the tragedy, which including the following:
“As a Lutheran school, one of our core values is to proclaim the Good News of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Laura extolled that Gospel message in all aspects of her classroom teaching. It is that hope that gives comfort to her former students and colleagues here at Topeka Lutheran School. Her fine service and ministry to her students and their families will always be remembered.”
The day after the accident, Hill subbed for Pastor Geske and tackled the tough assignment of preaching at worship for the grieving Christ the King congregation. His sermon focused on Romans 38-39, he said, about how nothing can separate Christians from the love of God. The title: “Free to Let Go.”
“Our church has a number of young couples with children around the same ages [as the Geske children]. They are so touched by this, as we all are,” said Hill, who called 3-year-old Joy “a perfect little lady who a member was holding in her lap just last week.”
“And we think of Joshua, who always seemed to like being in the church kitchen and wanting to help out,” Hill said. “I said yesterday, if there are kitchens in heaven, Joshua is probably right there.”
To watch a video featuring members of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Salina, click here.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Jan. 30, 2012