Saturday, May 26, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas church holds vigil to pray for woman accidentally shot in the head

ST. PETERSBURG — The crowd gathered to pray Wednesday evening inside the old firehouse that houses Grace Connection Church.

On a stage before them, two singers led them in praising Jesus and asking for a miracle for their pastor's daughter.

John Penu sang along as he stood strumming a guitar, praying with the rest of the group for God to relieve the suffering of Hannah Kelley, his fellow devoted Christian, his friend.

Penu, 19, was at Grace Connection three days earlier when Hannah was shot in the head.

The incident traumatized him at first, he said, but the subsequent outpouring for his friend and her family has made it easier.

"As each day goes by and more people pray, I'm feeling peace," Penu said. "For me, this whole experience, it has brought me to realize how powerful the body of Christ is."

Hannah Kelley, 20, daughter of church pastor Tim Kelley, remained comatose Wednesday at Bayfront Medical Center.

More than 150 people came together for the service Wednesday evening, the largest prayer gathering some church members said they had seen there.

Hannah's fiance, Dustin Bueller, was with Penu in a church closet Sunday as Moises Zambrana, 48, showed them his Ruger 9mm. Bueller, who turns 21 this month, had expressed interest in buying a weapon for his birthday, according to Pinellas sheriff's officials.

Zambrana had removed the gun's magazine, but forgot there was a round still in the chamber. The gun went off and tore through a wall into the next room, where it hit Hannah in the head.

Authorities have not charged anyone in connection with the incident, which they said was an accident.

Dubbed "A Symphony of Prayer," the Wednesday night service was a tribute to the injured girl, whom many attendees had known since she was a child.

Church pastor Wayne Goldworthy updated the group on Hannah's condition as he encouraged them to pray for recovery.

Until 8 p.m. Tuesday, Hannah was receiving medicine to reduce swelling in her brain, Goldworthy said. Doctors discontinued the medications when her kidneys began to have trouble functioning, he said.

"The doctors said, 'We've done all we can and now the rest is up to her,' " Goldworthy said. "But there are people here who know that it's not all up to her."

Goldworthy and others posted a message on a Facebook page dedicated to Hannah asking people to pray for the swelling to go down. By Wednesday afternoon, it had decreased significantly, Goldworthy said.

Since the accident, the church and Hannah's family have received messages of sympathy from people all over the world, Goldworthy said.

"This is a testimony to the grace of God," he said to applause. "We are going to carry Hannah down this road to recovery on the arms and legs of our prayers."

With hands raised, the group sang in praise of Jesus Christ. Some wiped away tears as members walked one by one to the front of the room to take hold of a microphone and lead a prayer.

They prayed for Hannah's recovery. They prayed for God to comfort her family and those who witnessed the accident. And they prayed for forgiveness for Zambrana.

"The Kelleys understand that this is going to be a long road to recovery," said David Gibbs, an attorney and spokesman for the family. "There are things at God's beck and call that, quite honestly, we are never going to understand. Accidents do happen, but we've seen God do things that medically are highly improbable."

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