Missionaries with Liberty County ties killed in Guatemala plane crash

Jim and Bonnie DeHart operated the DeHart Ministry Focus in Guatemala.

Liberty County is mourning the loss of three local missionaries who were killed in a fiery plane crash in Guatemala on Monday, Feb. 13.

The National Civil Police in Guatemala has identified James “Jim” DeHart as the pilot, and his wife, Bonnie Shaw DeHart, and sister-in-law, Ellen Shaw Coon, as the victims of the crash. The DeHarts, who operated DeHart Ministry Focus in the Petén region of Guatemala, and Coon were headed to Guatemala City for mission work when the plane crashed soon after takeoff.

The DeHarts were members of Cornerstone Church in Liberty. They had been living in Guatemala for the last 15 years, operating a church and helping impoverished Guatemalans living in rural parts of the country. Coon was visiting her sister when the tragedy occurred. The sisters are originally from Hull, Texas.

Michael Dorsett, associate pastor of Cornerstone Church in Liberty, says the DeHarts and Coon led a countless number of people to Christ throughout their lifetimes.

“Jim and Bonnie were some special people. They did a lot of work for Jesus and helped a lot of people in Guatemala those 15 years. They were planning other churches in the Petén region, which is a big area in the northern part of Guatemala. They were training pastors to go into the remote villages of that area and share the word of Christ,” Dorsett said.

Dorsett says he had witnessed the DeHarts’ mission work first-hand during several visits to the Guatemala.

“Bonnie was not only a beautiful person, but she was sweet, kind and encouraging. Jim’s heart was truly in Guatemala. He loved eating at Garcia’s Taco Shop in Liberty when they would come home to visit, and he couldn’t talk about Guatemala and the people of Guatemala without getting teary about it. They loved that place. It was their home,” Dorsett said.

Dorsett is still uncertain if the bodies of the victims will be returned to the United States or buried in Guatemala.

“When someone passes in another country, there is a lot of bureaucratic red tape to get through,” he said.

Dorsett hopes that DeHarts and Coon will be remembered more for the way they lived than the way they perished.

“These folks were generous with their time and their finances. They gave their lives for the Gospel. They loved Jesus and loved others. This is a tremendous loss. They were three people you could just call on for encouragement or advice, and you would know their advice was biblically sound. We are really going to miss them,” he said.

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