It Doesn’t Get Worse Than This . . .

The Body of Christ in Charlotte is reeling this week over the tragedy at Christ Covenant Church.

In a perfect storm of teenage exuberance, foul weather, and well-intentioned adults, this happened:

Day at church camp turns tragic for teen struck by ATV
Evan Wolfe, 15, died after being struck by an ATV at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews.
By Steve Lyttle and Meghan Cooke
Staff Writers
Posted: Thursday, Jun. 23, 2011

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It was the end of a long, hot day spent volunteering in one of Charlotte’s low-income neighborhoods, and Evan Wolfe and his friends wanted to have some fun.

So as a powerful thunderstorm approached Matthews’ Christ Covenant Church late Tuesday, 15-year-old Evan and some buddies laid on a driveway and watched the lightning above.

Moments later, with rain now falling in sheets, 43-year-old church volunteer Patrick Keaton pulled into the driveway in an all-terrain vehicle. Everyone but Evan apparently saw the vehicle’s approaching lights and jumped up.

The ATV struck Evan, who died a short time later on the way to Carolinas Medical Center.

“It was just teenagers, horsing around as teenagers do,” said Michael Ross, senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church. “But it turned tragic.”

Evan was among about 300 teens participating in Christ Covenant’s annual Seek The City, a weeklong community service camp in which youths sleep each night at the church and spend their days helping with projects in the Charlotte area.

Evan had spent Tuesday at Jackson Park Ministries in west Charlotte, helping with a Vacation Bible School and other volunteer work.

Matthews police are investigating his death and said Wednesday they have not decided whether any charges would be filed.

Ross said both families – Evan’s and Keaton’s – are “taking this very hard.”

Evan, of Weddington, had finished his sophomore year at Metrolina Christian Academy in Indian Trail but was transferring this fall to Covenant Day School, on the church campus. Ross said the young man had made an impact in the community.

“He was a natural leader,” Ross said.

The incident happened a little after 10 p.m. A few minutes later, the teens were to gather in the high school for an evening prayer service and then go to sleep.

Ross said Keaton, a member of Christ Covenant Church like Evan, had gotten in the ATV to ride from the high school building to the church.

“He had no idea the students were on the ground,” Ross said.

Instead of lights-out, Tuesday night turned into one of sorrow for students and counselors, stretching well into early Wednesday.

Ross rushed to the church from his home and consoled those who had witnessed the incident. He said teens and adult counselors were stunned, trying to make sense of what had happened while a violent thunderstorm raged around them.

A short time later, around 11:30 p.m., he received a call that Evan had died. He brought all the students and counselors to the gymnasium to let them know.

“There was a lot of sobbing, a lot of tears,” Ross said.

The church suspended community service activities Wednesday but expects to resume the camp today. Ross said Evan’s parents, who were too grief-stricken to speak with the media, asked that the camp go on.

Alex Lewis, a classmate of Evan’s at Metrolina Christian Academy, said Evan performed in school plays and participated in several sports, including basketball, football and soccer. He also ran track.

“He wasn’t always the star player, but he was always out there giving it his all,” Lewis said.

After learning of Evan’s death, his friends posted memories of Evan and prayers on Facebook.

“You were a true friend, someone anybody could go and talk to and trust,” wrote one classmate. “We’ll all miss you, but you’re in a better place now.”

A teacher at Metrolina Christian Academy wrote: “Words cannot express the sorrow I’m feeling. … Evan was the kind of student you loved having in the classroom. He was smart, funny, caring, loving and most importantly, loved the Lord with all his heart.”

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It’s the kind of thing that shakes your faith in church, and in God.

As I wrestle with my faith, I’m going to be doubling up in prayers for the people of Christ Covenant and the two families involved. Will you join me?