Shuttle Tragedy Brought National Attention to Astronaut's Faith in Jesus

Church members recall astronauts' faith in Jesus Christ.

Although the nation grieved at the deaths of the seven astronauts killed in the space shuttle Columbia explosion on February 1, at least two of the crewmembers had expressed little reservation about dying.

Columbia Cmdr. Rick Husband, 45, and Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, 43, both were members of the interdenominational charismatic Grace Community Church in Clear Lake, Texas.

Before Husband and Anderson left for the launch in Florida, the congregation had a special prayer for them. "These men understood the risks," says Garrett Booth, executive pastor at the church.

Husband, a member of the church for eight years, was in the choir and sang solos. In his hometown of Amarillo, Texas, in 1999, Husband said space travel wasn't the most thrilling aspect of living. "As exciting as a ride on the space shuttle may seem, I have to say that it's not as important as my relationship with Jesus," said Husband at a First Presbyterian Church service. "If it came to a point where I had to choose one or the other, I'd give up the shuttle ride in a minute."

At the Sunday service after the tragedy, Grace Community played videotaped remarks that Husband had made before leaving on the two-week flight: "If I ended up at the end of my life having been an astronaut but having sacrificed my family along the way or living my life in a way that didn't glorify God, then I would look back on it with great regret, and having become an astronaut would not really have mattered all that much."

Anderson, the shuttle's payload specialist and one of only a handful of black astronauts, had been at Grace Community for four years. Freeman Simmons, pastor of Anderson's home church, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Spokane, Washington, recalled that Anderson told him not to worry if he didn't return; he would just be going higher.

Christians gathered in churches the day after the tragedy for memorial services. One at Space Coast Assembly of God in Titusville, Fla., located 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center where Columbia was launched, attracted 1600 people.

"It certainly hits this area very hard," says Pastor Mark A. Little Sr. "There was a lot of grieving and brokenness." Around two dozen space center employees and retirees attend the church. Several men from the church went to Texas to assist with the recovery of remains and vehicle parts.

"We tried to reach out to the hurting and grieving, ministering the comfort of Jesus Christ," Little says. "At the same time, we talked about the need to stay prepared to meet God."

"Reprinted by permission of the Pentecostal Evangel

June Home