Teen Bekah Kelly Lost her parents and two siblings in a house fire, then courageously attended a prayer service at her church the very next day, bolstered by advice her mother posted on Facebook an hour before her death.
The tragedy unfolded on March 21, when the Kelly family’s South Carolina home caught on fire. According to The State, “Parents Scott and Amanda Kelly, along with their two youngest children, nine-year-old Elizabeth and ten-month-old Judah, perished in the fire at the home.” Bekah Kelly, her brother Jared, and their grandmother, Scott Kelly’s mother, were able to escape the fire. The grandmother suffered burns from the fire and was airlifted to Augusta for treatment, but is on the road to recovery.
According to a Facebook post by the family’s church, the congregation met the day after the tragic house fire “to let our hearts collectively grieve and be ministered to by the Holy Spirit through song and Scripture.” The service took the place of their normal mid-week activities and was scheduled to help those “wrestling through emotions of the tragic loss of Scott, Mandy, Lizze and Judah.” Local media reported around 250 in attendance that night. The press was allowed in for a brief portion of the service and Bekah was seen hugging her church family and being surrounded by her peers in their show of support.
A beautiful night as we gathered as a church family to pray and share God's love with each other and the Kelly family.
The Kelly family were active members at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce. Scott served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher and Mandy taught Sunday school and led the women’s ministries. Reverend Eddie Coakley said the Kelly family “’played such a huge role’ in activities for the 1,100 member congregation,” and said this loss was “just… it’s heartbreaking.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Firefighters were called to the family home around 1:00 a.m. on March 21, “seven minutes after being dispatched following a 911 telephone call for help,” according to a county spokesman. The 2,300 square foot home was built in 1997 and purchased by the Kellys in 2013, according to county records.
The family’s story extends far beyond last week’s heartbreaking events. Amanda was Scott’s second wife, after his first wife, mother of Bekah, Jared, and Elizabeth, passed away. According to Amanda’s website, she married Scott when she was 30 years old “and became a bonus mom to three kids,” despite being diagnosed with infertility problems in her mid-twenties. The family recently adopted Judah after months of prayer and fundraising.
Amanda used her website, Worshipful Living, to encourage readers on topics such as homemaking, family, homeschooling, and adoption. Her mission was to use the blog to encourage others “in your DAILY life of worship to Christ. That you will live a life to honor and glorify God through your every day life—Marriage, parenting, ministry, daily time with the Lord—and even in some of the harder places.”
The last post Amanda shared was a link to a blog she had written in 2015. The post was shared on the blog’s Facebook page approximately one hour before the house fire was reported.
What is our response when disaster strikes? Do we respond or react?
The post is titled “Our Response When Disaster Strikes” and was written after her state endured several disasters that year. It begins:
Disasters happen all around us, each and every day. They are not all natural disasters, like the flooding in South Carolina that I have seen recently, but disasters do happen. Marriages are destroyed, children have real struggles. There are shooting[s] all over the place. What is our response when disaster strikes?
Amanda wrote that disasters happen “because we live in a fallen world” and added that “natural disasters are ways that the earth yearns for the return of Christ—because He is the only One who can come and set the world into the way it was meant to be.”
She points out the difference between reacting to a disaster and responding to a disaster. “Responding means that you are going to do something about what has happened … Reactions are not always helpful… [they] can be done in hate and anger.” Her challenge to those who know Christ is to “use these [disasters] … to be a vessel of the grace, mercy, truth and love of the gospel.” This beautiful challenge to use heartache to share the love of Christ was about to become more real to her teenage daughter than anyone could have dreamt.
Just one day later, Bekah Kelly was an excellent example of this grace during her church’s special service. This young teen has seen heartache few of us will taste in our time on this earth—the loss of a mother, father, step-mother, two siblings, and a fire destroying her home—but she is living proof that with God we can endure extreme hardships. Bekah’s example beautifully fleshes out her stepmother’s ministry to inspire Worshipful Living, even through the hardest of circumstances.
Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce is accepting donations to help Bekah and Jared. Funerals for Scott, Amanda, Elizabeth, and Judah took place Monday, March 27.