Brooke called me crying on Monday.
I knew that something was wrong as she tried to talk through the tears. I braced myself for what was certainly going to be bad news. As she spoke, she told me that the young son of some dear friends of ours in Northport, AL had been tragically killed in an automobile accident that morning on the way to school.
John Wesley Baxter passed from this life on Monday morning, August 28th at the age of 11. In his immediate family, he leaves behind a loving father and mother (Johnny and Tara) and an adoring sister (Anna Kate).
I will not pretend to have any comforting words to say about this tragedy, but it seems fitting to write some kind of tribute to this young man, his family, and his legacy.
We have known the Baxter family since 2007, and they have become some of our dearest friends. Many things could be said about this family, but perhaps the most important thing is that the Baxter family truly loves the Lord. They live out that love within their family, at school, and where they work. They study God’s Word together at home, as a family, and they take their faith very seriously. They do not simply “go to church;” they are a functional, active, sincere PART of the Church.
Johnny Baxter is a man’s man. He can build stuff, fix stuff, and generally do pretty much anything. In the 7 years that we lived in Northport, if we ever had a problem with anything in our house, he was the one we called. He is calm, even-keeled, humble, and kind. I have never seen him lose his temper. He is helpful, servant-minded, and a true friend. He also is genuinely a spiritual person, and has a bone-deep love for God. I respect him. I admire him. I love him as a brother. He is one of the best husbands, fathers, friends, deacons, and Christians I have ever known. He is in unspeakable pain, and our hearts break for him.
Please pray for Johnny.
Tara Baxter is one of the godliest women and mothers I’ve ever known, and a genuinely “cool” person. To help you understand how cool she is, think of a female “Fonzie” and you’re getting close. Like her husband, she can also fix pretty much anything. Tara is a nurse, and has been a tremendous source of comfort for thousands of people over the years. She laughs from her gut, talks from her heart, and loves with everything she’s got. She is a model wife, mother, friend, and Christian. I have not known many people in my life with as much sincere love in their heart as Tara has. Tara is one of those people that you would do anything for, because you know that she would do the same for you. I love her like a sister, and I simply cannot imagine the pain and grief that she is feeling right now.
Please pray for Tara.
Since we’ve known this sweet family, we have wanted a daughter just like Anna Kate Baxter. Before we had any children of our own, Anna Kate became precious to us, and we couldn’t imagine anyone more kind, loving, generous, or as truly beautiful as this young lady is. If the Baxter family had been willing, we would have officially adopted her into our family:) Anna Kate has a heart for the Lord, for the Lord’s Church, for her friends, and especially for her family. She encourages everyone she knows, and she is a light in a dark place. Anna Kate and I have shared many wonderful memories together, and she will always be very special to our family. She loved her brother deeply, and they shared a very special bond. She is going to miss him in ways that most of us can’t understand.
Please pray for Anna Kate.
John Wesley Baxter was one of the sweetest, most gentle, most respectful, and most joyful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. When we moved to Northport in 2007, he was only 2 years old, so we got to spend the next 7 years watching him grow up. He was a true “boy.” He ran, laughed, played, and smiled CONSTANTLY. He probably enjoyed Vacation Bible School more than any other kid I’ve ever seen. He talked with one of the most adorable southern accents I have ever heard in my entire life, and he was just one of those boys that you wanted to wrap up and take home with you. He had the best manners of any young person that I have ever met, and when his little southern voice said “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am,” it would melt your heart.
John Wesley became a child of God last month. Johnny baptized him into Christ, and his family immediately got a LOT bigger. Regardless of how “good” John Wesley might have been, he knew that he was lost without the saving blood of Jesus Christ, and he made the greatest decision of his life. I simply cannot imagine the comfort that this gives to John Wesley’s family, and I am reminded of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change the course of eternity for those who accept and obey it.
If the Bible is true (and we believe that it is) John Wesley is in Paradise right now. He is comforted, pain-free, and at peace. He was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side, and at the final return of Jesus Christ, he will receive his new body and spend eternity in heaven.
He will run again.
He will smile constantly.
He will play forever.
As a lover of music, I am reminded of the words of two very different songwriters (Bono and King David) who were separated by thousands of years, but who basically said the same thing about the strange combination of hope and sorrow that we feel when a faithful child of God dies:
“And when I go there, I go there with you. It’s all I can do.” – from “Where the Streets Have No Name,” by U2
“I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” – from 2 Samuel 12:23, spoken by David
John Wesley Baxter will be greatly missed. He will be loved and remembered by his friends and family forever. But for those who belong to the family of God, we will see him again. In the meantime, we grieve with this precious family and we ask that you lift them up in constant prayer to our Lord.