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The Payne sisters, Sarah, Ella and Aranza. | Photo provided

Churches honor memory of sisters killed in Texas car wreck

Just hours before she was to begin a missions apprenticeship program, an 18-year-old church member and her 16-year-old sister were killed in a car wreck in rural West Texas.

Now the students who would have been her classmates, along with believers around the world, are honoring the sisters for their servant hearts. They’re also raising funds for a third sister, who survived the wreck, and her family.

Ella and Aranza Payne

Ella and Aranza Payne

(Wendy) Ella Payne was driving on Texas Highway 84 near Anton around 11 p.m. Aug. 7 when an SUV driving in the wrong lane struck her head-on. Another car then rear-ended Payne’s, according to news reports. Payne and her sister, Aranza, died in the collision. Their younger sister, Sarah, was taken to a hospital with multiple injuries. Five additional people were injured.

The Payne family worships with the Amherst Church of Christ, about 50 miles northwest of Lubbock. The morning after the wreck was to be Ella Payne’s first day in Adventures in Missions (AIM), a program of Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock. 

The AIM program and the Sunset Church of Christ youth group hosted a prayer vigil the night after the tragedy. Six of the new class of AIMers are from the Sunset youth group, said Cory Burns, the program’s director.

“It is a beautiful thing to see so many people gathered to provide comfort for the hurting,” Burns told The Christian Chronicle in a message from the vigil. “In this tragic event, I am impressed at how the body of Christ is being a light within itself in this dark time.”


Sarah Payne suffered multiple injuries to her wrist, back and ankles. She’s in good spirits as she recovers, participating in wheelchair races and encouraging those who come to visit her, said her mother, Christy Payne.

“Sarah (continues) to comfort everyone else, making us all laugh and making everyone feel special,” her mother said in a social media post. “When the girls were young I started telling them at bed, ‘Out of all the little girls in the world, how did I get the very best ones?’ 

“I have truly been blessed that God let me have them for these last 18 years.”

A GoFundMe account to help with the family’s medical and funeral expenses has collected more than  $32,000 of its $50,000 goal.

UPDATE: The GoFundMe account has expired. Those wishing to donate can send their donations to:

Payne Family

c/o Amherst Church of Christ

1533 CR 248

Amherst, TX 79312

Filed under: Adventures in Missions Aranza Payne Churches of Christ Ella Payne National News Sarah Payne sisters killed in accident Top Stories

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