ROME, GA – "If I continue upon the teachings that he's taught me, then I will see my pastor again; I will see my pastor again," Yolunda Hambrick told 11 Alive News on Monday.
She and fellow church members comforted each other as they mourned the loss of the man who has been their spiritual shepherd for more than two decades.
When they said good-bye to Reverend Nim Russell on Sunday evening, they couldn't imagine he would never again walk through the doors of their more than 100-year-old church.
Sunday night the congregation of Rome's Thankful Baptist Church celebrated the 23rd anniversary of 55-year-old Russell being their pastor.
Less than an hour after the ceremony ended, he was gone.
On the way back to his Adairsville home, the pastor's car was hit head on by a pickup on Highway 140 near Big Oak Tree Road.
Russell was killed and his wife, Julia, was seriously injured and hospitalized.
Now his congregation is left to minister to her, her 3 children, 11 grandchildren…and each other.
"We are determined to minister to his family on a personal basis and minister to each other as well through the way that he taught us, by the word and the power of God," said Associate Pastor Carlton Gibson.
The Georgia State Patrol has charged the pickup driver, 47-year-old Michele Blum of Adairsville, with driving under the influence, first degree vehicular homicide, driving on the wrong side of the road and driving without headlights.
Rev. Russell's congregation says they know how he'd want them to feel about her.
"He's taught me to love in spite of, regardless of how I may be feeling about anyone," said Hambrick.
"Just like God has forgiven us for our mistakes and our sins, we forgive her," Rev. Gibson said.
The church has yet to make any funeral arrangements for their pastor.
Members say his wife, Julia, remains at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga recovering from non-life threatening injuries.
The Georgia State Patrol said pickup driver Blum remains in Rome's Floyd Medical Center.