HIGH POINT, N.C. — Students on a mission trip to Jamaica are returning home Monday after a tragedy during their trip.
25-year-old Lee Rickman, a staff member at Wesleyan Christian Academy, died after he was hit by a tree branch in Jamaica.
School officials say the team was at a local waterfall on their day off from ministry when a gust of wind knocked off a heavy branch and struck Rickman and school pastor Paul Coates. Coates has since been released from the hospital.
Below is the full letter sent from Head of School, Dr. Rob Brown, to parents and staff:
Dear Wesleyan Family,
I know many of you have been in sincere and steady prayer for the Rickman’s, Pastor Paul, Mary Kay Bell and the rest of our Jamaican mission’s team. There are a few questions and some information that is outstanding from our initial communication, so allow me to share a brief update as of late this afternoon.
The team was at a local waterfall on their day off from ministry when a gust of wind knocked off a heavy branch. As many of you already know, the fallen branch promptly took Lee Rickman from this temporal life to his eternal home and citizenship in Heaven. We learned later that Pastor Paul was also hit with this branch, but brushed off his injuries in order to care for the emotional and spiritual needs for the 12 students and to deal with the local authorities. After several hours, Mary Kay insisted he get his noticeable injuries checked out. The hospital kept him overnight for observation and a likely concussion. His wife and son-in-law left early on a flight this morning to be with him, and to provide additional support where needed. As of this writing, Pastor Paul is still in the hospital waiting to be released from the neurologist. He may need to stay a little longer in order to better heal.
The team is scheduled to return late Monday evening. At their request, only immediate family are encouraged to greet them at the airport when they arrive home. I have spoken with Pastor Paul and Mary Kay several times, and they have both shared that the kids are doing as well as can be expected and leaning on each other and the Lord during this difficult time.
With this being said, our strongest need and desire is to come along side and support Tim, Patti and the Rickman family. Their genuine, humble and deep faith and trust in the Lord, and His sovereign will, in this darkest hour is clearly evident to everyone around them. They have been receiving many visitors, friends and family in their home these past 24 hours. Tim said earlier this morning, “I want my Wesleyan family around me so I can encourage and comfort them.” What an incredible testimony from an incredibly Godly family in such a sorrowful time as this. If you know Tim, he passionately lives what he has preached for 20 years at Wesleyan. At 6:00 AM, he and Patti were busy reading and being comforted with texts and emails from so many of you.
Please continue to pray for the Rickman’s, Pastor Paul’s recovery, Mary Kay’s strength and wisdom in leading through this recovery, and for our students as they process this, and prepare to come home tomorrow. We will provide an update in another day or two.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Dr. Rob Brown
Head of School