Mike Stearns

Special to the Grove Sun

They came in together single file, dressed in the black and white pride of the Bears. The Wyandotte football team wasn’t expressing school pride on this Sunday, though. They were there in unity to comfort each other and a town that has experienced loss and tragedy each day of the new school year so far.

Together they stood in prayer remembering their lost schoolmates. Arm in arm with tears flowing, they brought red roses and a teddy bear to honor their high school friend, Sarah Dietz, who was killed in a car accident late Friday afternoon near the Highways 10 and 137 intersection east of Miami.

Coach Matt Robertson officiated for the gathered silent crowd that filled the lobby leading to the elementary, middle and high schools.

Prayers would be offered not only for Dietz, but her sister Misty who was in fair condition at Freeman Hospital in Joplin following the accident and the family of nine-year-old Alyssa Avila, who died Thursday in playground accident.

Robertson began the prayer time, saying, “It has been a rough week. It seems even at a time like this things are not in focus and there is not a lot of peace and not a lot of joy.”

But he quickly noted how the whole town had come together to comfort and support the students in the midst of these tragic losses.

“Guys look around you,” Robertson said, indicating with a sweeping hand motion the community that came to walk and pray with the students. “Our town is full of people who care and people who come together in a time like this.”

The teacher and coach, who is also a youth pastor in Quapaw, quoted Romans 5:3-5:

“….we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Robertson assured the grief stricken community, saying, “We really cannot understand why these things happen. The whole community has been involved and affected by this. That process of going through tribulation going all the way to hope is a step-by-step process.

“In our town right now, we need salvation. We need hope. We need peace. Those things do not come based on our ability to have a good day. It is in the storms of life, in the toughest of times, that character is developed, that people see what power there is in what we profess to believe.”

Superintendent Troy Gray explained that the service was organized and put on by students with the help of some parents. He termed the time as “just beautiful.”

Gray said, “We really appreciate the prayers for the families that have gone through these losses. I really believe that this service will begin the time to start healing.”

Gray noted that Sarah Dietz was very outgoing and had lots of friends at Wyandotte High School.

“She was very well liked,” said Gray of the bright girl claimed by a senseless accident. “She was really excited about starting her junior year.”

Deitz will be missed by both students and teachers.

“I am a new teacher here this year so I only knew her three days,” said an unidentified teacher with tears welling in his eyes. It was as if he wished that he would be able to know her for so much longer.

Robertson asked the faithful people, “What are you praying for?”

He then answered, saying, “You are praying for individuals. You are praying for persons to think about for family members. You are praying for teachers and for students who don’t understand any of this.”

He explained further, “It is at times like this that it is extraordinarily important that we come together. Now is the time that we will pull together. Now is the time for service. Now is the time to seek repair.”

Robertson explained to the crowd, saying, “Some of us react in different ways. Some of us wear our feelings on our shoulder and react with emotion and you can see it on our faces. Some of us, like myself, prefer to do it privately.”

Of a recent tragedy in his church at Quapaw, Robertson said, “I was strong for everyone else but when I found myself by myself I would cry my eyes out. That is okay. We react in different ways.”

He then concluded, “You are all here for a common reason. You all know that there is hope in the experience of God above.”

Quoting Isaiah, Robertson explained that tribulations and troubles come our way but we are promised to not to have to face them alone.

“We are not promised that we will not have to go through problems in life, but we are promised that we will have a savior that will walk with us through them,” the young coach and pastor said.

“Your presence here today is in an indication that you are reaching for those things that matter, those things that are eternal,” he said.

The town’s people took just over a half hour and covered each classroom in prayer along all three school hallways.

Just as in the beginning, they then drew together in the lobby for a final prayer bringing hope and healing to the hurting community.

In the center of all those bowed heads, stood the teammates dressed in Bear colors, leaning on each other, relying on their strength together.

But the bear and roses had been left somewhere on the school grounds, somewhere special to Sarah, in memory and honor of this special young lady.

Like the community, the team will remember forever the healing that began with these prayers because they faced it together.