Ella's Light

by Lourie Formby (Ella's dad)
“Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
The Spark that Lit the Flame

Friday, January 25, 2013, was a beautiful winter day. The blue sky was clear with a slight cool breeze and temperatures in the mid-60’s for most of the day in central Mississippi where we call home. My wife, Julie, called me early in the day to remind me of our meeting with friends later that night at The Back Door Restaurant, one of our favorites, located about 25 miles away in Columbia, Mississippi. I arrived home around 4:45 PM and rushed in to shower and change clothes prior to leaving for our social event that evening. As we walked out, we talked about our plans for the next day, which included working in our flower beds, attending our 5-year-old Ella’s first Upward Basketball game at the church, and then taking her to the birthday party of her best friend, Gracie.

That particular evening, we decided to take our original 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Sedan, aka “Ole Bess”, a car I had purchased 20 years prior. It was ideal for the short drive we were making and with a full moon rising visibility would not be an issue. We arrived at the restaurant as scheduled and had a wonderful visit with close friends of ours. As we started to leave at approximately 7:50 PM, I stopped and showed my friend my car, and we talked for about 10 minutes. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and all piled into Ole Bess for the ride home.

As we made our way through the small town of Columbia, all three of us were in awe of the brightness of the full moon. Ella was the first to comment saying, “Look at the moon guys!” We all talked about how beautiful it was and the fact that it was so brilliant that evening. As we turned onto Hwy 44 heading east, we again discussed the plans for the following day while Ella continued to comment on the moon. I began telling her that the moon would dance through the trees and follow us all the way home. About 10 miles into the drive, I made a remark to Julie that it was very unusual to not see very much traffic on this highway. We had scarcely passed any vehicles since leaving the city limits of Columbia. Just about the time, I said that Ella reminded us that it was Friday night and that she would be sleeping with her Mommy (a new tradition we had started a few weeks before). She added, “Daddy, you’ll have to sleep in the guest room because you snore!” We all laughed and continued our small talk.

It was at this point I noticed a car approaching from behind at a very high rate of speed. I glanced down at my speedometer, and Ole Bess was holding steady at her top speed of 50 MPH. As the car moved within 100 yards or so, I looked at Julie then glanced down to my left and said, “Honey, this fool is going to attempt to pass me on a double yellow line!” I began to move my car off the road to allow the person room enough to pass if they chose to.

Those words had barely left my mouth when the approaching car impacted ours at such a high rate of speed that it threw Julie and I forward violently. Our car was lifted and began spinning out of control. I yelled, “Hang on!” All I could hear were Ella and Julie screaming in pure terror. I turned the steering wheel hard left to correct the clockwise spin, but the car was uncontrollable. Then I saw a huge oak tree directly in front of us as my car came out of the spin. I attempted to miss the tree, but the car slammed into it, ripping off the right side of the car as it absorbed some of the impact. We hit a second oak tree head-on which caused the car to violently flip, throwing Julie out the passenger side door. The antique car did have seat belts in the back but not in the front seat mainly due to the fact that they could not be installed easily.

As the car stopped, I was stunned. The car was lying on its right side trapping Ella and me inside. I yelled for Julie but she did not answer. Ella awakened and began screaming again and crying for her Mommy. I grabbed for her and unbuckled her seat belt in the darkness. I could smell gasoline and knew we needed to get out of the vehicle as quickly as we could before it ignited. I yelled for help because my left arm was broken and I could not open the driver’s door, which was now directly over my head.
Finally, a good Samaritan yanked the door open from above and assisted me in getting myself and my daughter out. Once out of the car, Ella seemed fine for the moment, so I ran towards my wife’s lifeless body about 20 yards from where the car came to rest. As I rolled her over, her entire front skull was visible and looked as if she had been scalped. Her eyes were half opened and fully dilated. She was not breathing, and I yelled for someone to please call 911. I remember whispering something to the effect of “She’s gone!”

I then ran back to Ella, and it was at that moment a lady said, “Mr. Formby, I am one of Ella’s kindergarten teachers!” When she called Ella’s name, Ella ran to her. It was then that I began to hear my Julie moaning in pain, so I ran back to her. She asked me to roll her on her side because she was having trouble breathing. I kept begging someone to please call 911, and they reassured me help was on the way. In what seemed like hours but I finally started hearing the sounds of sirens coming in the distance.

Within about 25 minutes after the collision, Julie was airlifted to the local hospital by helicopter, and Ella (still thought to be okay) and I were transported by ground ambulance. But on the 25-minute drive to the local hospital, Ella began seizing. She would never recover from her injuries and succumbed to chest and head injuries on Monday, February 4, 2013, at 10:29 AM.
Our Ministry Beginnings

The day after Ella passed away, I was contacted by a co-worker asking if it would be okay for his church to establish a memorial fund to assist us in paying our medical bills. I kindly said, “No, I don’t want to do that, but, if you wanted to start a children’s ministry, I would support it 100%.” Towards the end of that same week, my cousin sent me an email stating that Ella’s name meant “torch” or “bright light” in the Hebrew and Greek languages respectfully. This gave me an idea. I contacted the two individuals heading up the Ella Marie Formby Memorial Foundation: Children’s Ministry and asked them to change the name to Ella’s Light: Children’s Ministry.
A few days before we had Ella’s funeral, I began researching ideas for a website, logo, and the possibility of creating a 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organization. In the last week of February 2013, we met with the church accountant to discuss and make plans for the donations they had received for the ministry. We thus began to pursue 501(c)3 status which was obtained March 15, 2013. God was affirming that He was blessing us and this ministry. Within 45 days of conception, we had incorporated the ministry, filed for nonprofit status, and begun building a foundation that would have the potential of reaching thousands of children in need of the love of Jesus Christ.
 
Our Vision

Children, starting from birth are exposed to both positive and negative teachings and behaviors that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Our ministry believes that if we can plant the seed with our children, the love for Jesus Christ can grow in each child’s heart.
Ella’s Light Children’s Ministry, Inc. was created to keep Ella Marie Formby’s memory alive by ensuring that as many children as possible hear God’s word, come to know Him, develop a love and personal relationship with Him, and learn to serve Him through Christian programs and events provided by this ministry. Jesus told us, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

All donations to Ella’s Light will provide resources to rural churches that would not have adequate means to provide Christian programs and events to reach these children. These resources will provide age-appropriate bible studies and materials as well as activities for children at their biblical learning level. We understand that each child is uniquely different and God has gifted them to learn differently, therefore we pray our support to the rural church body will provide numerous opportunities for them to learn using their God-given intelligence.
 
The Take Away

I have often stated that this has to be the worst pain and heartache we have ever endured, but we both understand that God had a purpose. Although we may not ever see the full reasons for Him to allow our only child to leave us, one day we will know.

This month will be the second anniversary of that night that changed countless people. Since then, we have grown a children’s ministry that is located in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and in foreign countries such as Syria, Africa, and Peru. God is working to save lost souls for his kingdom. With His help and direction, we will fulfill His mission by sharing our light in an ever-darkening world. If you would like to help support our ministry, please feel free to visit our website at www.ellaslight.org and get involved.

I have often thought about the needs of the poor and downtrodden children in our communities. When we volunteer to help those in need, we are building rewards in heaven that will last for eternity, would you not agree? WE WANT CHILDREN LIVING SCRIPTURE NOT JUST LEARNING SCRIPTURE!
Julie and Lourie Formby
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