Most days, New Life Church is a hub of activity between all of the church groups and community organizations that use the gym or classroom space. However, this past Monday morning, the auditorium was filled to capacity, as friends, relatives, neighbors and community members joined the New Life family in grieving the loss of Karly Little, a 9-year-old New Lenox resident killed in a tragic automobile accident on October 13.
“Parents never expect to bury their children,” shared New Life Senior Pastor Ron Vanderwell during the service. “It should be the other way around. But part of acknowledging this devastating loss is that we also come together to celebrate the joy of life that Karly had and now has in eternal life with Jesus,” he added.
And celebrate Karly’s life mourners did Monday morning. Readers shared memories from Karly’s friends, classmates, cousins and neighbors, often bringing laughter amidst the tears. But that was the kind of kid Karly was by all accounts, Vanderwell said, a little girl who brought joy to everyone who knew her, especially her parents and sister, Katie.
A balloon launch over a soccer field adjacent to Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Frankfort concluded the committal service for a child whose passion for the sport made her a much-loved teammate, and not just because of her soccer skills. A lunch for family and friends followed back at New Life which featured many of Karly’s favorite foods, providing one more way to remember Karly and the sense of happiness she shared with others.
“It was amazing to see the way that so many people pitched in to make this day possible,” observed Pastor Todd Wessels, Pastor of Connections at New Life. “All the different parts of the service, all the people helping to set up and clean up the meal and provide the food…it was just incredible.”
“This community has really circled around Karen, Ken and Katie (Little) during a time of unbelievable need,” added Associate Pastor Rog Visker. “We posted a sign-up through our church email for people who wanted to provide a meal for them and in four hours the schedule was filled into January.”
However, what New Life Church sees as an incredible blessing in this tragedy is the way the community and the church have seamlessly blended to provide support for the Little family.
“It’s not just us,” said Children’s Ministry Director Lisa Schnyders. “We’ve just really come around and encouraged people to get involved, but it’s everybody doing it together...their neighborhood, the community and New Life Church. We’re more like a messenger, passing along information and equipping people to help.”
One offshoot of that help was an idea brought to New Life by a friend of the Little family, Jennifer Griffith. Now through November 11, New Life Church will be collecting for “Karly’s Kartons” as part of the Operation Christmas Child ministry of Samaritan's Purse, an international non-profit organization. Karly loved to pack the little shoebox Christmas gifts for children around the world, so this year, “Karly’s Kartons” will be wrapped in blue (Karly’s favorite color) and contain, along with the gift items, a photo and letter telling about Karly and her love of life and helping others. “Karly’s Kartons” will be sent to children in the Sudan.
New Life Church is currently accepting new, small items such as: hair ties, socks, school supplies, small toys, hygiene items, etc. Monetary donations to help with shipping costs and/or to purchase more items to fill the boxes are also welcome. Donations can be dropped off at the New Life Church Welcome Center during weekend services or between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday in the church office.
In addition, a separate memorial fund has already been established by friends and family members. Contributions can be made to The Little Family Memorial Fund, c/o Old Plank Trail Community Bank, 280 Veterans Parkway, New Lenox, IL 60451.
For more information, please call 815.462.0202 or visit www.newlifenewlenox.org. New Life Church is located at 500 Gougar Road, just south of Haven in New Lenox.