Triumph over Tragedy

Monty Williams had just been told his playing days were over. A promising freshman basketball player at Notre Dame, he was devastated by the doctor’s diagnosis – a rare cardiovascular condition that could take his life if he continued to play. Disconsolate, he thought about suicide. He had met a young woman named Ingrid Lacy and they were falling in love. When he was at his lowest, she encouraged him to set his sights on new challenges. In the next two years, their relationship blossomed. Friends and family were praying for him. His symptoms vanished and he was able to return to the team and then head to the NBA.

Triumph over tragedy? Monty Williams now coaches with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Life seemed to be on the upswing. He and Ingrid, valued contributors to their church and community, enjoyed a full life. Parenting five children was both daunting but rewarding. On February 9th, Ingrid was driving, accompanied by three of their children when her vehicle was struck by a car traveling at 92 mph. The head-on collision took the lives of Ingrid and the woman driving the other car. The children survived their ordeal.

Triumph over tragedy? On ebruary 18th, more than 900 people gathered for the “celebration of life” service to honor and remember Ingrid Williams. The crowd included NBA and college coaches and players, civic leaders from Oklahoma, media members, and people who just wanted to be there to support the family.

Monty Williams gave the eulogy that day. You can find it easily because the service coverage went viral. The grieving husband acknowledged the family’s  pain but said, “We didn’t lose her. When you lose something, you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.”

His powerful words spoke of hope in the face of despair, and faith in the presence of heartache. He asked those assembled to pray for the family of the woman who also lost her life. He didn’t pretend there was no hole in his heart, but he refused to be defeated.

In our broken world, tragedy happens much too often. How do we make it when it happens to us? There are no easy answers, no simple pathway. Every day is a crisis in faith. But every day is an opportunity to take one step. Bill Gebhardt was the Williams’ pastor while Monty coached the New Orleans Pelicans. He said of Monty: “He truly understands that the price of love is grief, and he is deeply grieving. He is facing each day with faith and authenticity.”

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Empty words? Not to Monty Williams.

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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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