Feature

A Beautiful Disaster

God lifted a staggering load

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October 5, 2005, started like any other day—nothing special or out of the ordinary; but it was a day I’ll never forget. What began as a tranquil morning at home ended in utter chaos in the emergency room of the Loma Linda (Calif.) University Medical Center.

A year earlier, my wife, Deborah, and I started Tides Church in our living room with two other couples. We quickly began to see growth and soon moved the church from our home to various schools. We eventually landed in the cafeteria of a brand-new high school and found we needed a stage to elevate the worship band; we went online to order some staging units to arrive in time for our Sunday move-in. When the delivery arrived, the truck driver could not unload the staging by himself and insisted that I help. As I was unloading, the driver suddenly shouted two words that will forever echo in my memory: “Look out!” Instantly, 2,000 pounds of staging came crashing down on me.

The Crushing Blow

I’ll never forget the sound of my neck breaking. After the “snap” I immediately lost all feeling in my body and fell to the floor like a rag doll. The truck driver asked me if I was OK, and with the only breath left in my lungs I said, “No, I broke my neck and I can’t breathe.” As I lay paralyzed, unable to inhale or exhale, my only thought was, This is it. This is how I’m going to die. And that’s when the first miracle occurred. I felt the breath of God fill my lungs and was then able to take very small breaths to stay alive.

My mother, who was visiting from out of town, made the emotional 911 call, followed immediately by a frantic call to Deborah, who showed up moments later holding our two-week-old son in her arms. She jumped into the back of the truck in a panic and asked me to try and move my fingers. There was no way. I can’t describe the surreal feeling at that moment, trying to comprehend the notion of being paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of my life. Deborah and I prayed and cried together in those moments that seemed like hours before the ambulance arrived. I thought about my two small boys and what their lives would be like with a dad who would never be able to throw a ball or wrestle on the floor of our living room. I looked into the eyes of my bride—a woman I would never be able to hold or feel in my arms again. It was a prison sentence I did not want to imagine serving.

The Even-More-Crushing Prognosis

At that point all I could wish for was a way to reverse time and be given one more chance to jump out of the way of that falling load, but instead I was whisked away to a local hospital, where I was then airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center. There I received the news I feared most: I would never move again.

I remember lying in the emergency room waiting for the doctors to decide what to do next. We prayed for the person next to us while we waited. I was then put in traction, fitted for a halo and taken in for emergency surgery to fuse my fourth and fifth vertebrae. I remember Deborah walking all the way into the operating room with me. Before she left, she whispered in my ear, “No matter what happens, I will love you the rest of your life.”

But God!

The surgery to stabilize my neck was successful; the fusion was complete. After three critical days in the ICU, I was taken to the recovery room. By now, many people had been visiting and praying for my healing and a full recovery. Some sneaked in oil and dumped it all over me. I just knew God was going to move on my behalf because of their faith.

And He did! Several days after the surgery, I could move my finger. I was ecstatic! All of the rehab doctors were called in, and everyone was filled with hope. E-mails went out, and prayer chains were notified, “It’s a miracle!” And it was!

In the following days, more fingers and some toes regained feeling, and my doctor gave the order to send me to rehab. This was the most joyful day of all. Just before I left by transfer ambulance to the rehab facility, I had a moment with my surgeon. Until then he had offered only vague, evasive answers to my tough questions. But this time, when I posed the million-dollar question, “Will I walk again?” he looked straight into my eyes and firmly answered, “YES.” I immediately lost it, as did my mom, who was the only other person there with me at the time. Forty days later, after hundreds of grueling hours of rehab, I walked out of Loma Linda Hospital in the strength of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

“My Sevens”

This story wouldn’t be complete without mention of the unique way God chose to assure me of His presence and care during this ordeal. I call it “My Sevens.” When the staging first fell on me, I was at a total loss for God’s presence and peace. It wasn’t until the ambulance ride to the first hospital that I asked God, “Where are You?” It didn’t take long for Him to answer, and He has been answering ever since.

When I was a young boy, I loved the number seven. I learned that it was God’s number, the number of completion and the number of perfection. I have used it all my life—on sports jerseys, in e-mail addresses and various accounts and passwords. Any time a number is to be chosen, it’s seven for me.

When we arrived at the first hospital, they wheeled me directly into bed seven. I saw the sign on the ceiling and wept openly for the first time. From there it was into the helicopter headed for Loma Linda, a Seventh Day Adventist hospital. When we finally decided on a surgery date, our first option was October 7 at 7 a.m. The surgery was scheduled for five hours but it took seven. I was put in recovery room seven on the seventh floor. And we found out from in the police report that it was seven boxes of staging that had fallen on my neck!

More Power to You

We serve a powerful God who wants us to experience the very best of Him. Sometimes His best comes in weathering some of life’s greatest storms. I’ve heard it said that a smooth sea never produced a skillful sailor. I also believe with fresh conviction that blessing flows from brokenness. God is faithful and “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). When struggling through the trials of life, we must seize the truth that God can and will perform a miracle if it is within His purpose to do so.

In October 2005, I was 33 years old and spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness of my hospital bed. I did not wear a crown of thorns, but I did have a metal halo bolted to my skull. And although I will never understand what it’s like to carry the weight of the world’s sin on my heart, I do know what it is to suffer. What I experienced three years ago has absolutely changed my life.

I have been healed because of His great mercy and power and strive to be an instrument of healing and wholeness to others. I pray that you will tap into the power that will enable you to stand up and walk out of whatever may be keeping you paralyzed. I sure did!

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