By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Christians in Tennessee appealed for prayers after a small plane crash killed Christian “Tarzan” actor Joe Lara and his wife, Gwen Shamblin Lara, the founder of a Christian diet program, the Remnant Fellowship Church, plus five other church leaders.
Joe Lara, 58, starred as Tarzan in the 1989 television movie Tarzan in Manhattan and played the role in the series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures. Gwen Lara, 66, was the founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, and author of “The Weigh Down Diet,” a program based on “helping people turn away from the love of food and toward a love of God.”
Besides the well-known couple, other passengers who perished in the crash were named Remnant Fellowship leaders David and Jennifer Martin, Jonathan and Jessica Walters, and Brandon Hannah.
“The seven Remnant Fellowship leaders lost May 29, 2021, were some of the finest and most loving people that you would ever come across. During this horrible tragedy, our church would greatly appreciate prayers,” the church said in a statement monitored by Worthy News.
The private jet, a Cessna C501, was bound for Palm Beach, Florida, when it crashed into a Tennessee lake, the Percy Priest Lake, about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from where the flight took off in Smyrna, Tennessee, authorities said.
The medical certification on Joe Lara’s license had expired in 2017, according to federal records. Live tape of the unknown pilot’s communication with the control tower suggested a mechanical failure, according to investigators.
Rutherford County Fire Rescue Captain Joshua Sanders explained in a statement Sunday that recovery efforts were focused on examining a half-mile-wide debris field in the lake.
“We want everyone who was affected, especially the children of the passengers, to know that they are very loved. And our church will be taking special care of the children’s needs in these coming years,” the Remnant Fellowship Church pledged.
The congregation recalled its founder Gwen Lara, who also led faith-based Weigh Down Ministries, as “one of the world’s most kind, gentle, and selfless mother and wife, and a loyal, caring, supportive best friend to all.”
The Remnant Fellowship, founded in 1999, reportedly has more than 1,500 members in 150 congregations around the world. Gwen Lara stirred controversy after establishing the church based on what she called “faith-based” weight loss.
The Remnant Fellowship website lists food ahead of drugs, depression, self-focus, money, anger, selfishness, envy, and jealousy as the idols that need to be “laid down.”
Critics accused the church of being a cult. Yet thousands of churches around the U.S. and the world started using her book and videos as guides. And Remnant Fellowship Church said that she “lived every day laying down her own life to ensure that others could find a relationship with God.”
That’s why “her memory will definitely remain for a long time as she has a place in millions of people’s hearts around the world through her work with Weigh Down Ministries and Remnant Fellowship Church. Her wonderful and supportive husband, Joe Lara, will also be greatly missed,” the church stressed.
The Remnant Fellowship Church and its related Weigh Down Ministries will continue under the leadership of Michael Shamblin and Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah, Gwen’s two children, the church added. “And the church leadership intend to continue the dream that Gwen Shamblin Lara had of helping people find a relationship with God.”
On Sunday, Gwen Lara’s daughter, Elizabeth Hannah, reportedly sent out a text to Remnant families asking for prayers. Hannah texted that the 39-year-old plane “had to go down for a controlled, quick landing.”
But by that time, it was too late. There were no survivors.
The church thanked “First Responders and all who have helped our church and these families during this difficult time.”
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