NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Days after a bus accident claimed 11 of its missionaries in Tanzania, leaders of Youth With a Mission are rallying for support to aid logistical arrangements, including medical evacuations, repatriations and funeral arrangements.

The Christian missionaries, seven of whom were from other countries, including one from the United States, died in the Ngaramtoni area, near the city of Arusha in the eastern African country’s north. Authorities say a construction truck hit one of two mini-school buses carrying the missionaries. The participants in an “Executive Masters in Leadership” course were returning from a field trip in Maasai land when the truck lost its brakes, smashing into the bus.

On Wednesday (Feb. 28), members of Youth With a Mission in the region held prayers and send-off services for their departed colleagues.

“The mood is very sad,” Bernard Ojiwa, an official of the YWAM in Tanzania, told Religion News Service in a phone call from Arusha. “We started the journey for burials of the local members.”

“We are also planning how the bodies of the foreign members could be sent home. For now, the bodies remain in the morgue,” he added.

Arusha, red pin, in northern Tanzania. (Image courtesy Google Maps)

Arusha, red pin, in northern Tanzania. (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

Police sources in Arusha said the seven foreign nationals were from Kenya, Togo, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Nigeria and the U.S.

The accident, which involved four motor vehicles in all, killed 25 people, 11 of them members of YWAM, and injured 21, eight of them with the mission group. John Mukolwe, a Kenyan and the base leader of the Arusha station, was among the dead.

“Mukolwe was a friend for more than 30 years. His death makes me very sad,” said Karin Kea, the administrator for YWAM’s base in the Athi River area in Kenya.

Abel Sibo, a Burundian member of the mission, posted a video on Facebook of YWAM missionaries singing the hymn “This Is the Day the Lord Has Made,” saying the group was singing before the accident occurred.

According to officials, members of the mission from around the globe have gone to the region to offer moral, pastoral and counseling support.

YWAM (pronounced “why-wham”) was founded by Loren and Darlene Cunningham in 1960 with an emphasis on sending young volunteers of different denominations to serve on short-term evangelization missions. The group now has some 2,000 offices worldwide and involves missionaries from 200 countries.

YWAM established its presence in Arusha in 2000 and has since established three fully staffed offices in the region. The center’s education programs include classes in discipleship ministry, tailoring, computer skills and English language, among others.

“In these days, tears are being poured out across the world by individuals, families and YWAMers worldwide. I am personally reeling from the weight of this news, as I knew and loved many of these individuals personally,” said Darlene Cunningham in a letter dated Feb. 26. “Not only have husbands and wives, friends and co-workers been lost, but also YWAM ministry leaders.”

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan sent a message of condolence and urged increased vehicle inspection and traffic law enforcement to prevent further loss of lives.

“These accidents take the lives of our loved ones, national workforce and family members. I continue to call upon everyone to follow traffic laws in the use of vehicles,” Suluhu wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “I send my condolences to family and friends who lost their loved ones. May the Almighty God rest them in peace! Ameen!”  

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