It is strange to write about a life-changing experience that I cannot remember. However, I am told that around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, I was riding my Harley home from the church to lead a Bible study at our house when a car turned and hit me broadside on my left. Then began a series of extraordinary providences of our Lord.
Ordinarily a person with the injuries I sustained would have bled to death within minutes on the scene, but somehow I didn’t. Many months later I learned that a young woman was present at the scene, praying for me. God heard her prayers!
Shortly after I arrived at the St. Charles Medical Center’s emergency room, my wife Sharon and some dear friends arrived. The doctors had bad news: I had many injuries, the most serious being a torn aorta, a shattered pelvis, and a football-sized pelvic wound. They didn’t know whether I would live. (I learned later that they had never seen anyone survive such severe injuries.)
But somehow, by God’s amazing grace, those amazing surgeons put me back together! I believe that the somehow was the pastors and the other brothers and sisters in Christ from our church and many other churches who began pouring into the hospital to join Sharon and the others who were praying for me.
But then I got an out-of-control infection. The doctors, with long faces, told Sharon that I was dying. But the word went out, and soon the place was crowded with people interceding for my life—and the Lord brought healing! The doctors and staff were amazed at all the people who came to pray and at the results of those prayers.
The young man who ran into me came to Sharon at the ICU in tears. She spoke to him of God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ, and he professed his faith. Hallelujah! Please join us in praying for his perseverance and growth in Christ.
As I slowly regained awareness during October, I knew something was seriously wrong, but what it was I couldn’t say. Everything seemed to be in a sort of dark-hued dream state. I remember having an awareness that I am God’s servant and that he is with me, and that comforted me and gave me peace. I remember at one point thinking that I was dying, so I decided to preach until God took me home. Many weeks later a nurse told me that one night during that time I preached all night long!
When I regained consciousness, a nurse explained to me who I was, where I was, and why I was there. During the following days, she turned those statements into questions, which I answered according to what she had told me. I remember that one wall of my room was covered with cards from OP churches and other churches and individuals all over the country. I rejoiced in the visits of Sharon and our eight-year-old son Joe, and of many church members and other pastors and dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I learned that our dear friend Jessica Hanna was journaling my story on Caring Bridge (www.caringbridge.org/visit/dandillard/journal) and that many people were praying for me. Day by day, God was answering those prayers.
The Lord laid it on my heart to pray for and encourage the staff, and to talk to them about Jesus. Many were believers in Christ, and most of the others were open and willing to listen. I also handed out a lot of copies of the gospel of John.
I remember my first steps with the help of one of my physical therapists. She said that in my condition those few steps were like climbing Mt. Everest! The first time I walked with a walker out of my room and across the hall, practically the whole staff came and watched and cheered!
Another milestone was on November 30, when one of my surgeons removed the external fixator that held my pelvis bone together—and it held! Then, on December 12, staff members gave me a farewell party; it was time to leave my “home” at St. Charles. I will never forget the wonderful doctors, nurses, physical therapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs), and other staff at St. Charles. They were God’s agents of healing to me, and I thank the Lord for them!
That day began a monthlong stay at the Bend Transitional Center. The nurses, therapists, and other staff there were also wonderful, and they helped me very much. Finally it was time to come home on January 9. With the help of my PT and my OT, I learned how to climb the stairs to our bedroom and shower and how to do other things around the house.
It is so good to be home at last with Sharon and Joe! My dear wife is the hero of this story. While I was in a coma, she stayed by my side and prayed night and day, not knowing whether I would survive—or what I would be like, if I did. Her unfailing love and faithfulness is a powerful witness of our Lord Jesus to me.
On the Lord’s Day, January 12, our family went to Grace Church. We were late, and we tried to sneak in quietly. But someone saw us, and everyone turned around and clapped and cheered! What a wonderful “welcome home” to church! The next Lord’s Day, I resumed my preaching ministry from my wheelchair. I used Romans 8:28–29 as my text, praising God for his gracious, sovereign working of all things for our good, to make us more like Christ.
During my absence, our elder, Dick Dodson, having the whole burden of leadership thrust on him in a crisis situation, faithfully and effectively led the congregation. The people responded by doing whatever needed to be done, plus very generously ministering to my family. I thank God for Dick and our dear brothers and sisters and for all their help to us!
We were also greatly helped by the Presbytery of the Northwest, which appointed the Rev. Martin Emmrich to be our ministerial advisor and John Hitt as an additional elder. A number of pastors and elders supplied our pulpit, along with elder Dick and Chad Baxter. The visiting pastors also ministered to me and my family in the hospital. What an incredible blessing from heaven their visits were! The Presbytery also provided generous financial help, which we greatly appreciate!
It has also been a great comfort to know that Orthodox Presbyterian congregations across America have been praying for us, and to receive many communications of encouragement from them.
In addition, a number of local pastors ministered greatly to Sharon and me, including the pastor of the church that oversees the Christian school where she teaches. Many from the churches and from the school staff came to pray with Sharon during my surgeries. The steady stream of dear brothers and sisters who came to visit was living water to Sharon and me!
We know that my accident was part of God’s plan, and that he causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose, which is to conform us to Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28–30). It is extremely helpful to know this and to trust that that is what God is doing. Although it is not what I would have chosen, through the pain and suffering, along with joy and healing, God is wonderfully blessing us and many others.
Only the triune God of love and grace can do such wonders! We try to use all these experiences to point others to him. Our story gets the attention of some people who listen. May they come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing have eternal life in his name (cf. John 20:31).
The author is the pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Bend, Ore. New Horizons, November 2014.