The Rev. Jeffrey Geske and his son Jacob, along with friends and family, rejoiced in the memory of Geske's wife and two children who were killed in a car wreck on Jan. 25.
Before moving to Kansas last December, Geske was head of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for five years. Both he and his family shared a close bond with the congregation, a bond many church members said made the Geske family part of their hearts.
"I was Pastor Geske's administrative assistant the whole time he was here," Dawn Danner stated. "But he was more like a little brother. His kids were more like my kids. So, when he left it was like losing a member of my family."
And when the congregation caught word of the accident that claimed the lives of Laura, 37, Joshua, 8, and Joy, 3, many said it was nearly unbearable.
"It was surreal," Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Member Mitch Carry stated. "We really couldn't appreciate that it was real when we were notified and to have such a tragic loss of somebody that was so active in this church left a big hole."
Despite the sadness and tears, the congregation gathered Saturday morning to reflect on the pastors wife and children, all of whom made a lasting impression on the church family.
"We don't have to worry about where they are," Kim Carry said. "We know where they are. What a celebration! The fact that they're in heaven with Jesus, they're celebrating every day."
After prayer, songs and a sermon reflecting the vitality of light in times of darkness, friends and co-workers shared memories. Laura was remembered as the beloved teacher, Joshua as the strong-willed pastor's son and Joy as the dolled-up little sister.
Balloons with the names of Laura, Joshua and Joy were released by the congregation after the service as a symbol of who they were and where they are now. And though many would continue to be in tears after going through such an ordeal, Geske and his son were all smiles.
"He's able to look past the death aspect and see his wife and his two children in heaven," The Rev. John Elser said. "God just wired him in a way that he can look past that and look at the promises of God."
Geske said he was "extremely thankful" for all the support given to him and his family. He said both his faith and that of his son's will continue to grow, and that he looks forward to seeing his family again one day.