SHREVEPORT, La. — People from around the world who went online to read about and pray for a 12-year-old victim of a church-bus crash during the last three weeks of her life will also be able to watch her funeral, compliments of a neighboring Baptist church.
"The interest worldwide has been so extraordinary that we thought it would be nice to make the service available to those who couldn't be here," said Greg Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La.
Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport is handling a live webcast of Thursday's 1 p.m. funeral service at First Baptist Church for Maggie Lee Henson, who died Aug. 2 from injuries she received July 12 when a bus carrying members of Shreveport First Baptist Church's youth group to a weeklong camp flipped several times on Interstate 20/59 near the Alabama/Mississippi state line.
Alan Hendrix, Broadmoor's minister of communications, said there are cultural differences between his church, which affiliates with the Southern Baptist Convention, and First Baptist, which identifies with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but there is little the two congregations won't do for one another in times of need.
Hendrix said a high percentage of staff leadership at First Baptist Church was directly affected by the accident, which claimed two lives and injured 21 others, and they need to be part of the service remembering Maggie Lee's life. Her father, John Henson, is associate pastor of emerging ministries at First Baptist. Jason Matlack, minister of youth, is recovering from serious injuries he received in the wreck.
"The staff at First Baptist needs to be cared for and loved on," Hendrix said. "Anything we at Broadmoor can do help ease their work load so they can focus on this event is something we believe we should do."
Hendrix also has personal connections. His son attends First Baptist Church's K-8 grade school and is close friends with Maggie Lee's younger brother, Jack, so he knows the Henson family through, school, sports and other activities. Hendrix's father, Gene, also serves on the staff of First Baptist Church, as minister of Christian formation and administration. The two congregations are located about a mile and a half apart.
First Baptist once broadcast its worship live on television but went off the air some time ago due to market changes and available time slots. The church kept its video cameras and switching equipment in order, however, to record and reproduce services when needed.
Hendrix said First Baptist will use its normal video operators to record the funeral service. Broadmoor's team will then convert the signal to a streaming feed and send it on the church bandwidth to a company that will take the single feed and put in on their servers around the country.
Hendrix said anyone with an Internet connection a browser like Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari or Mozilla's Firefox will be able to view it, but the faster the connection the better. More importantly, he said, viewers won't need a special media player like Windows Media Player or QuickTime, and it will cross platform for both Mac and PC users. He did suggest that viewers make sure they have the most up-to-date versions of their specific operating system and browser software before trying to log on.
Hendrix said a link will be placed on the First Baptist Church website (www.fbcshreveport.org) that people will click to view the service. He said the webcast will begin at about 12:45 p.m., CDT, on Thursday, Aug. 6, and end about 10 minutes after the service ends. An archived copy will be provided for people who have buffering problems or cannot watch live and will remain available through the end of August.
"We think God has a plan to touch many lives during this service," Hendrix said. "We will do everything we can to make sure everything is set up and working correctly and then trust God for the rest."
Margaret Lee (Maggie Lee) Henson was born Oct. 29, 1996, in San Antonio, Texas. She attended First Baptist Church School in Shreveport, where she was a cheerleader and getting ready to enter the seventh grade.
She enjoyed singing in the school's Show Choir and anchoring Patriot TV. She dreamed of starring on Broadway and took weekly voice lessons and acting lessons each summer in pursuit of that goal.
Loved ones described her as funny, talented and deeply committed to her Christian faith. In keeping with her spirit, her parents donated her organs. Many were badly damaged due to the accident, but two were passed on to other children waiting for a donor.
She is survived by her parents, John and Jinny Henson; her brother Jack Henson; her maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather; aunts, uncles and cousins.
Following Thursday's service, her body will be taken to Tyler, Texas, for private burial.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.