Miracle at Twin Lakes

I am currently with Annabel in Jackson Mississippi speaking at First Presbyterian Missions Conference.  It is a place with a lot of memories for us – not least the time when we almost lost our two oldest children 14 years ago.  Here is an article I wrote at the time – it is a testimony to the mercy and grace of God. 

Miracle At Twin Lakes

You will forgive me if in this article I am somewhat personal. The story I have to tell reads like something out of Readers Digest and yet it is all true and was probably the most valuable experience we had whilst in the States. I tell this story not just to give information and certainly not for the sake of filling a few column inches, but rather to give glory to God for his wonderful preservation and providence. I tell it chronologically from my perspective so that you will appreciate the differing emotions that we all went through. 

On Monday the 10th of April my family and I went to visit Twin Lakes, the holiday camp facility of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. We had a wonderful time riding in the golf carts, climbing the fire tower, swinging on the tree ropes (even Annabel my wife, who normally has a fear of heights enjoyed that!) and generally admiring the beauty of the woods and the lakes. After we returned to the home of our hosts, Warner and Becky Mitchell (Warner is the maintenance man at Twin Lakes), we began to get ready for our evening meal. Warner had to go and pay a visit to the construction site and our two oldest children, Andrew and Becky, begged to be allowed to go with him. All three of them set off on one of the golf carts.

About 45 minutes later the phone rang. It was the neighbours. Becky Mitchell told Annabel that there had been an accident and that she was needed over at the neighbour’s house. Annabel thought that something had happened to one of the neighbours but when she asked me to come as well, I knew it was our children. Upon arriving at the house we were greeted with one of those sights that you never forget. It was horrific. My daughter was stretched out on the porch with a blanket over her, Warner was sprawled out on the lawn and my son was in a ditch at the edge of the garden surrounded by several people. It was quickly made clear to us that although my daughter was in pain it was Andrew who was in the most serious condition. He is very emotive and expressive (like his mother), and whispered to her “Mum, I don’t want to die …. Mum I love you”. You can imagine the feelings that that statement and the whole situation conjured up. Stefan, the man whose house it was had had medical training and he quickly informed us that an ambulance had been called and that it was essential for Andrew to be kept still, calm and awake. Annabel went to deal with Becky and I knelt in the clay and tried to keep Andrew awake. ‘Dad . . . I just want to go to sleep… I’m tired . . . please let me sleep’. But that was impossible. If he closed his eyes he may never have opened them again his throat had been damaged, there was concern about his spinal cord and above all fears about his breathing and the effects of shock. Thankfully there was a supply of oxygen and breathing apparatus in the house and this was used to keep him breathing.

After the longest half-hour of my life the ambulance finally arrived and seeing the situation promptly called for another one. The children were strapped to boards, neck braces and head restraints. They were then lifted into the ambulance and taken together with Annabel to the University Medical Centre in Jackson, about 30 minutes away. I asked Warner, who was confused and rambling, if he knew me. “Yes,” he replied “you are David. Was it your children?” and he then started crying. At that point we had no real idea about what had happened other than that they had hit a steel cable strung across the road whilst they were on the golf cart.

Whilst they were on their way to hospital I returned to the house where my other daughter, Emma Jane (2 years old) was distraught and her emergency baby sitter, Bev, our church administrator who was with us, was also greatly distressed. Cliff and Suzette, good friends from Jackson, had arrived on the scene after being phoned by Annabel. They took Emma Jane for the night and I headed home to get some clothes for the children and pick up the insurance policy. Meanwhile Annabel reached her lowest point when, after first of all getting lost, the ambulance speeded up and the medical attendant asked her if he could put Andrew on a drip as he had gone into shock. Annabel felt so helpless because she was in the front of the ambulance. Becky was strapped to the board and could not move a muscle. She was greatly distressed at the evident seriousness of her brother’s condition.

When I arrived at the hospital I was greeted by Mike Ross the minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church and Ligon Duncan the minister of First Presbyterian. They took me to the ambulance driver to fill in some insurance forms and then into the emergency unit. The next couple of hours is a blur of x-ray rooms, cat scans, children crying, nurses running and doctors trying to explain what they were doing. My strongest memory is of a conversation I had with Andrew. “Dad, I was really scared. I saw this wire coming and I prayed ‘God, I don’t want to die, yet’. And then it was a miracle, Dad …. these hands appeared in front of me”. Once the tests had been done and it was ascertained that there was no damage to the spinal cord the children were unstrapped and we were able to find out what had happened. Andrew had asked Warner to let him drive the cart. They were driving down a hill when Warner asked Andrew to turn left. When they turned the corner they saw a steel wire strung across the road. It had apparently been left there by a construction company who were working on expanding the facilities at Twin Lakes. It was dusk and by the time they saw the wire it was too late to stop. To my mind the incredible thing was that instead of ducking, as would have been the instinctive reaction of any one of us, Warner clenched his fists, steeled his arms and put them in front of Andrew. The wire sliced through the steering wheel, then hit Warner’s arms, lifting him out of the cart. It then hit Andrew on the throat and lifted him out by the chin before going on to hit Becky on the throat and throw her out with such force that she did a double somersault and then landed on her head. The force of the wire is further demonstrated by the fact that the back of the cart, the metal bar which one holds on to, was also knocked back by six inches even after all this.

At that point Becky was lying on the ground, bleeding from a cut to her head and lacerations to her throat; Warner was concussed, and Andrew was in shock with lacerations and a cut on his throat. Warner got up (he remembers nothing of this), got the children into the cart (where Andrew started coughing up blood) and tried to drive them home. Without a steering wheel this was of course impossible. So they got out of the cart and started to walk to the nearest house, about half a mile distant. Upon arriving at the house Andrew could go no further and collapsed in the ditch; Becky made it to the porch and Warner managed to ring both doorbells before falling to his knees and eventually collapsing on the grass. It just so happens that in the house at the time they arrived was a young man who had recently finished his training as an emergency medical technician a requirement for being an ambulance worker. He also ‘happened’ to have an oxygen machine and a supply of oxygen from the hospital. He and his girlfriend and another woman (I think she was the occupant of the house) were a tremendous help in keeping everyone calm and in applying the correct medical procedures.

At 2:20 am the hospital decided that Becky could go home with her mother. The cut in her head had been stitched her x-rays and cat scan were fine and apart from being bruised, battered, her throat lacerated she was O.K. albeit exhausted. Throughout most of the evening it astonished me how calm she was apart from the times when she was screaming with pain. She insisted that someone get a camera when she was strapped to the board on the stretcher so that she could send a photo back to her school in Dundee. The lady who did had to tell her to stop smiling when her photo was being taken! I was very proud of her attitude and the fortitude she showed through the whole trauma.

Andrew stayed on until 7:30 am. The cuts on his throat were deeper and they were concerned about the x-rays which showed that there was a misalignment in two of the vertebrae in his neck. They were only out about 2% and it was eventually decided that this was probably a childlike variation which was probably nothing to do with the accident. He was eventually sent home with strict instructions to monitor his breathing, swallowing and headaches. I was also very proud of his attitude he kept saying thank you to the nurses as they gave him yet another injection or took his blood pressure; he told Becky Mitchell to say thank you to Warner for saving his life and he told me ‘Dad there’s a purpose in this’!

After several months there are no long term ill effects on the children. Warner still has short-term memory loss, a couple of deep cuts and some bruising. It was a traumatic experience for Annabel and I. We were informed that we came within a second of losing both Andrew and Becky. One nurse told me that we could have been dealing with two decapitations rather than two throat injuries and a head wound. It seemed at one and the same time both unreal and frighteningly real. And yet the one emotion and thought that we still have above all others is thankfulness. We are deeply grateful to Jessica, Mike, Ligon and Anne, Cliff and Suzette, Bev, Sheila, Becky and all the staff at the hospital. We are also deeply conscious of the support and prayers of our congregation back home in Dundee, our friends and family back in Scotland, our sister church in Jackson and many of the body of Christ throughout the world. It is true that wherever you go as a Christian you have real family! We are especially grateful to Warner whose quick unselfish thinking and tremendous upper body strength undoubtedly saved our children’s lives and to Stefan whose medical care and oxygen probably saved Andrew’s. But most of all we are thankful to the Lord who gave us our children back after they were almost taken from us.

Once Andrew got to sleep at 5am in the morning I went outside the hospital for a walk to clear my head. I could not help thinking about his words ‘I prayed and then these hands appeared- it was a miracle’. When something comes towards you, one instinctively ducks. What made Warner have the presence of mind to put up his arms not in front of his own face but in front of my son’s? How were they all given the strength to walk half a mile to the nearest house? Why was there an emergency medic in that house with oxygen at that time? I could not help crying and thanking the Lord who in his sovereignty provided all these things. I know that people often ask questions as to why things happen in a bad way. Why was the wire there? Why? Why? Why? And they shake their fists at God. That night I asked why at the goodness of God. Why were we shown such mercy? We do not blame anyone we live in a society of blame where many people want to sue at the first opportunity and look upon tragedy as a means for financial enrichment. But we do thank the Lord for preserving our children.

I came back into the hospital and sat watching Andrew sleeping like a baby. Meanwhile another family came in with a baby. It was taken away to intensive care and the family sat and waited anxiously. Back came news and it was not good. The baby’s life was in great danger. The family looked shocked, sat and stared into space and wept. I wept. I could not speak to them. My son was lying peacefully after almost being killed. I could have been in their shoes. I felt their pain but it was a pain that also mixed with my relief and joy. I prayed that the One who knows and feels the pain of everyone of us- the One who is not limited by human passions but feels more passionately than any of us ever could I prayed that He would help and comfort them.

Psalm 18 v.1-6, 16-19, 30-36,46-50

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
And I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
My cry came before him, into his ears.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes
who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
But the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because he delighted in me.
As for God his way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
He enables me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
My arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You give me your shield of victory,
And your right hand sustains me;
You stoop down to make me great.
You broaden the path beneath me,
So that my ankles do not turn.
The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God my Saviour!
He is the God who avenges me,
Who subdues nations under me,
Who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
From violent men you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord;
I will sing praises to your name.
He gives his king great victories;
He shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
To David and his descendants forever. Psalm 18 v.1-6, 16-19, 30-36,46-50

The following day when we had family worship (and how wonderful it was to sit together as a family reading God’s Word) we read an astonishing passage. I use McCheyne’s calendar for daily bible readings. The portion for the family that day was Psalm 18. Let me cite the relevant parts for you with the parts that we were amazed at in bold (see box).

Now I realise that there is great danger in taking Scripture out of context. But there is also great danger in being too cynical and forgetting that God uses his word to feed, comfort and encourage us. I believe in a sovereign God who knows everything. He is able to know every person for whom that word has and will be a blessing. So I have no question that the one who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground is the one who knew what would happen to my children and who in that marvellous creative mosaic of the human life that only he can weave, ordained that they should be preserved and that we should read that psalm the day after their deliverance. God works all things for the good of those who love him.

Yes our children could have been taken from us. It would still not negate the truth of God’s care and love. But we have had a different providence. We feel that we are in a privileged position. As Eric Alexander pointed out to me shortly after the accident (he was in Jackson at a conference) it is not many people who have their families restored to them. Our family was within one second of being decimated by death. The Lord did not allow that. He returned our children to us. It was such a providential organising of circumstances that I have no doubt that it was a miracle at Twin Lakes. We live our lives in gratitude for that. Life is fragile and brief. For all of us. May each one of us use every moment we have been given to live it to the glory of God.

 

4 thoughts on “Miracle at Twin Lakes

  1. David, apologies. I pressed send before I had put everything into the email. I was very moved by your testimony and it put me in mind of one which our minister has spoken of last sunday. Here is the link to it. This is what I thought you might be interested in. Of course, you may already be aware of it.

    I must say, I was a little cynical about Maggies testimony as I felt the revelation was available in the Bible in Revelation. But when I read yours I was very moved in a very deep personal way. Ive shared this with my wife too.

    Our Lord is sovereign and so merciful that to be touched by his grace in this way is truly miraculous.

    Keep the good work up in contending for the faith. And may God continue to bless you and your family.

    Gordon

  2. Thank you, David for sharing this wonderful story from your family life. What an amazing and awesome God we serve. I am so glad He preserved your children and your brave friend that day. May God continue to safeguard you all in the years to come. Such a moving account and so well-written. Bless you for sharing this with us.
    Alan

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