The Welch sisters graduate to their heavenly home

Reprinted with permission of The Tampa Bay Times


ST. PETERSBURG – Close to 1,500 people from all around the nation came out to First Baptist Church to bid a tearful farewell and give joyous praise at the home-going graduation ceremonial service for three sisters who transitioned to their heavenly estate Aug. 9.

Three white coffins stood at the foot of the altar. Family members put flowers on each casket as they said goodbye to their angels. A white flower for La’Mour, yellow for India and orange for Tehira.

Welch Funeral, featuredThese three young women, along with a friend, were headed back to St. Petersburg after a religious convention in Ft. Pierce when they were in a horrific car accident that claimed their lives and the life of the driver of the truck that hit them.

Although the three sisters are no longer with us, they left an indelible mark on all who knew them.

“Tehira and I, we met when we were in the first grade. I was about seven years old,” signed Sabila Beganovic, one of her closest friends. “We had been together for eight years in school. We were almost like twins, always together. We laughed together, we cried together, we joked together, we made plans together.”

She explained that the first time they were separated was when they went to different high schools, but they still kept in contact.

Messages to the Welch Family

“I will never forget her smile. She always supported me; she always loved me, she always cared for me and she inspired me…I am so happy to have known her and to have met her…I know someday in the future, I’m going to see her again,” said Beganovic through a sign language interpreter.

“She had God’s love in her; she expressed it to all her friends and family,” said Nicole Philip about India. “She taught a lot of us a couple of things. The first thing is to capture the moment, the essence of a moment.”

Phillip explained that India was always taking pictures or shooting video because she felt that every moment was important and she wanted to remember as much as she could to savor that moment in time.

“She encouraged everybody to live their purpose, and to be faithful to God above everything else. We can have gifts, we can have talents, but if we are not faithful to the one who gives it to us, we have nothing,” said Philip, choking back the tears.

“Me and La’Mour grew up like sisters,” said Nhakia Bryant, her first cousin and God sister. “We were together from Monday through Sunday.”

Bryant explained that La’Mour was someone you could tell anything to, and she wouldn’t tell a soul. She would go over to La’Mour’s house at two or three o’clock in the morning and they would eat bacon and have long spiritual talks.

“La’Mour was my sister. I don’t know God what I’m supposed to get from this, but I’m listening to you now,” cried Bryant.

In any conversation about the Welch sisters the word “spiritual” was a resounding quality that was echoed over and over again. It was obvious just looking around at the diverse audience of all races, ages and personalities that these three young ladies laid down a legacy of compassion, creativity and spirituality.

James Anthony Corbett struggled through tears and sometimes just paused to catch his breath as he reflected on his sisters.

“I’d like to take the time to thank God for the 29, 24 and 18 years that he loaned his angels to us. While I’d really like to have more time with them, I can understand why heaven could not wait,” he said.

Corbett said his sisters had been speaking to him and wanted him to deliver a message to their parents.

“My first message is for my dad. It is to let him know that his girls are alright; to let him know that they are better now than they ever could be on earth. God said he allowed this to happen, and he knows it will catch the attention of so many people, particularly young people. And he wants them to get ready because a change is coming.”

Corbett went on to deliver a message to her mother about taking care of La’Mour’s children and her health; God’s message of comfort to his stepmother and to his niece and nephews.

Bishop Jimmie L. Williams, Florida Eastern Jurisdictional Prelate of the Church of God in Christ, gave the eulogy and declared Saturday, August 14, 2015, as a day of heavenly graduation for the sisters.

Despite the bishop’s prophetic outcome for the three sisters on a spiritual plane, many people who came out to support the Welch family may have had the same question in the back of their minds as Gideon in the book of Judges had during a time of great trials and tribulations—why?

Williams responded by letting the family and well-wishers know that the events on the evening of Sun., Aug. 9 was transformative on earth as well as in heaven.

“And oh, if you could see them now as they walk in their heavenly robes across the stages,” said Williams. “And if you think the praises are loud here, oh if you could only hear it in heaven!”

And the praises in the church definitely reached heaven. The choir’s powerful harmony in songs such as “Total Praise” and “Thank You Lord For All You’ve Done For Me” had the walls vibrating while the people danced and swayed in the pews and in the aisles. When soloist Derrick Isham took to the stage, not a dry eye could be seen.

Just as the talented sisters used their gifts to carry out God’s will on Earth, they will carry out their heavenly assignments on the frontlines as heaven’s angel warriors.

“When Satan attacks us as he has, what we can do is declare war,” Williams preached as the choir joined him in a brief rendition of “This Means War!”

Mayor Rick Kriseman, former Mayor Rick Baker, council Chairman Charlie Gerdes, council member Wengay Newton and State Representative Daryl Rouson were in attendance, as well as a number of bishops from the COGIC.

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