BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - Members of a Rome church are mourning the death of their pastor.
Sunday night was a service of celebration for Rev. Nim Russell’s 23 years at Rome’s Thankful Missionary Baptist Church.
With his wife, Julia Russell, at his side, the pastor and congregation celebrated with song and prayer all week.
Moments after the couple left Sunday night’s celebration, Nim Russell was killed and his wife was seriously injured in a car wreck.
The Georgia State Patrol says a drunk driver crossed the center line on Highway 140 in Adairsville. The church's associate pastor, Rev. Carlton Gibson, told Channel 2’s Diana Davis that the entire congregation is in shock.
“To get those calls last night and realize that we're not going to see our pastor come through these doors is a great blow,” He said.
Julia Russell has already had two operations at Chattanooga’s Erlanger Hospital. Gibson said as of Monday afternoon, Julia Russell had not been told that her husband had died.
“She does not have any life-threatening injuries, so we are glad and giving God praise about that,” said Gibson.
The state patrol says Michele Blum, 47, of Adairsville, was driving a pickup that hit the Russells' car. They said she crossed the center line and hit the car head
Blum is charged with first-degree vehicular homicide and drunk driving. She remains in the hospital recovering from her injuries.
Members of the congregation of Thankful Missionary Baptist Church
say they are not bitter. Church members told Davis their pastor taught them the lesson of forgiveness.
“We are lifting her up in prayer. We are praying for her and we have forgiven her because that's what Pastor Russell teaches us. Just like God has forgiven us for our mistakes and our sins, we forgive her,” Gibson said.
Ironically, the pastor’s actual anniversary at the church was not until May. The church celebrated Sunday night due to scheduling.
Gibson told Davis they are happy Russell's last moments on earth were happy.
“Somehow, God moved it up to March. We thought it was for other reasons but only God knows,” Gibson said.
Funeral services for the pastor have not been announced.
Church members say despite their grief, they will celebrate their pastor’s life and legacy.
“I know where he is and I know if I can continue on the preaching he has taught us, I will see my pastor again,” said pastoral assistant Yolunda Hambrick.