I was born and raised in a Christian family. My mother prayed with me for salvation when I was seven. I never strayed far away, never rebelled, never went the prodigal route. Pretty much went to Sunday School, read my Bible, stayed on the straight and narrow.
There was a time I thought my testimony was boring. The Surgeon General should issue a warning: “Caution: listening to Del’s testimony may cause extreme drowsiness.” I would read of guys like Nicky Cruz who were saved from a life of gangs and violence in New York City. “Maybe I should do something to spice up my testimony,” I thought. Go steal a couple of hubcaps, shoplift a pack of gum – then I could tell everyone how my life was headed down a path of crime and lawlessness before I was arrested by Christ. But no. I just kept serving the Lord.
But one day it hit me. I had a great testimony! I had not been saved out of sin but God saved me from going into it. I had not been delivered out of crime and drugs. God spared me from going into them. No one would write a book about my story. I would not get invited onto the talk shows. But my salvation was a miracle nonetheless. I can testify of God’s strength that helps me live victoriously. Of his patience and forgiveness for the times I am slow to catch on. And when I stub my toe and take a fall, I can tell how He has been there to reach out and help me back to my feet. For all he has done for me, I will forever be thankful.
But there is another part of my story that has gotten me invited onto a few talk shows. It is a story of a miracle that happened in my life when I was a child of seventeen months. There is a small scar beneath my lip – hardly noticeable – it is the only visible reminder of an accident that should have claimed my life. If it were not for the power of prayer I would not be sharing this story with you.
We lived in the Bitterroot Valley just south of Missoula, Montana. My father had an apple orchard and the year 1950 was difficult. Dad would load bushels of apples into the pickup and drive from town to town but there were few buyers, and more than once, he was forced to dump them on the side of the road. With a wife and four young children in his care he took a job pumping gas in the nearby town of Hamilton.
Occasionally after work, the boss would pay him an extra dollar or two to deliver fuel to nearby farms for their machinery. If it was along the way, Dad would swing by our home and take us kids with him, then he would keep the truck overnight. As a small child, there was nothing I enjoyed more than riding in the gas truck with my Dad.
One morning as he was leaving for work, I decided to go along, so I climbed out of my crib and ran across the yard as he was backing down the driveway. The bumper of the truck knocked me to the ground and the dual tires ran up the full length of my body and across my head.
My five year old sister saw it from the porch and began screaming, “Daddy ran over baby! Daddy ran over baby!” Over the sounds of the engine, he thought she said he ran over the doggy. How could he face the children and tell them he had killed their little puppy? He got out and went around the truck where, to his horror, he found me lying face down in a pool of blood.
My mother said it was a terrible sight. Blood was coming from my ears, my nose, my mouth. One eye was protruding from its socket. Dirt and gravel were ground into my face. My parents carried me to the house and began to cry out to God to spare their baby’s life. As they prayed, I began to whimper and they were filled with hope just knowing I was alive.
My dad remembers the first thought that came to mind as he heard me cry. “He who has begun a good work in you…” Dad believed God had already begun a good work by sparing my life. Little did he know what was to follow!
At the hospital, our family physician, Dr. Peterson, cut my clothing off, and there on my back were the imprints of the tire treads. X-rays showed my skull was fractured in four places. Several ribs were torn loose from one side of my spine. There were internal injuries, indicated by blood passing from my urinary tract.
Dr. Peterson said it would be futile to attempt surgery. Chances of surviving an operation were negligible and if I did, I would be at high risk for pneumonia. With severe head trauma there was the probability of permanent mental impairment. I was placed in an oxygen tent and my parents were told nothing more could be done.
As much as I respect the hard work and dedication of medical professionals, I take comfort knowing that when they have done all they can do, there is still hope. As long as there is prayer, there is hope. My parents held on to that hope. They were certain something good would come of this tragedy.
I clung to life throughout the day and by the next day there were signs of encouragement. I was awake and alert – apparently there was no brain damage. But on the third day, I began to scream in pain and dig my fingers into my head. A strong sedative brought little relief and throughout the evening I continued to cry out in pain. It was then that my parents did what it speaks of in the Epistle of James. The pastor and elders were called to my bedside and anointed me with oil. James says the prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. God heard those prayers and in a moment, I fell asleep and slept peacefully through the night.
A week passed and to everyone’s amazement, I was very active. The ribs were mending unusually fast. My mother seldom left my side but once, when she stepped out to refresh herself, I reached over to the bedside table and grabbed a magazine. When she returned, I was sitting up, tearing pages from the magazine. How could this be possible with such injuries?! She quickly put me back down but each time she turned her back, I would sit up again. Dr. Peterson was so amazed that he reexamined the x-rays. No one could be this active with broken ribs. But the x-rays did not lie. God was doing an amazing miracle in answer to prayer! Within two weeks, I was home from the hospital. My parents were given orders to keep me in bed two more weeks but I kept wanting to get up and play. Finally, my father told my mother, “God has done a miracle, so why should we keep Del in bed. Let him get out and play!” Within a month, there was no sign anything had ever happened except for the small scar beneath my lip! But the story doesn’t end quite yet.
After graduating from college, I took a trip to Western Montana to retrace my roots and see the places I had heard so much about. Ironically, while in Hamilton, I came down with a cold so I stopped at a medical clinic to see if I could get some cough syrup. Who should be the attending physician but Dr. Peterson! “Was it really as bad as they have told me?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “It really was.” He went on to tell me he was not a religious man but what he witnessed in the days following the accident had only two possible explanations. “Either it was a one in a million chance encounter with good luck or it was divine intervention.” I told him I had never played the lottery because I don’t believe in one in a million chances, but I do believe in the power of prayer.
This morning while shaving, I saw the little scar beneath my lip. It reminded me of the miracle God did so many years ago but more importantly, it reminded me that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The miracles he performed two thousand years ago, he is still doing today! And for that, I will always be thankful.