FORT MYERS, Fla. - An 11 year-old student from Southwest Florida Christian Academy who was struck by lightning remains in critical condition. Jesse Watlington was struck Wednesday afternoon while walking to football practice with his teammates. According to McGregor Baptist Church Head Pastor Richard Powell, Jesse's condition hasn't gotten better, but it also hasn't gotten worse. which he hopes is a good sign.
Thursday night, he and the church and school community gathered to do exactly what Jesse's family is asking everyone to do, and that is to pray. The soothing melody of piano inside the church brought a few moments of peace following two days of great distress. "I want us to pray for Jesse, a beautiful little boy, young man, with a whole life ahead of him to live. We're praying that that's what he gets to experience," Powell prayed with the group.
When Watlington was struck, coaches said there was no sign of danger in the sky, and lightning meters showed no warning. Paramedics brought back a pulse, and the middle school student was taken to a local hospital, before being flown to Tampa General, where he is in ICU. Powell said his parents are holding up as well as they can. "Very dependent and grateful for the outpouring of love and support for Jesse," Powell said. "This is a lake of fire that no parent ever wants to swim in. So, we're going to ask God to send them some grace and mercy that we can't do just by sitting by the bedside."
Thursday night, the community gathered as one - no agenda, no plan. They simply prayed for strength and healing for jesse, his family, and each other. "Lord, I just ask that you, the great physician, lay your hand on his body and heal him," a leader prayed.
"It's pretty easy to have a strong faith. These are times when our faith is tested and we need to rally and lean on each other," Powell said.
Pastor Powell said they've gotten calls of support from as far away as Brazil. Some are asking what they can do to help. Down the road, they may collect money for bills and other expenses. But for now, all Jesse's family asks is that everyone just continues to pray for a miracle.