This is for Dave, Pauline and Annette— but if you love a youth whom you want to be safe always, this is for you, too.
Dave, Pauline and Annette live in Illinois. Dave and I co-pastored a church there until 2001.
Early Dec. 6, 1998 (a Sunday, as tomorrow), Annette drove home on the interstate from downstate, after visiting her boyfriend.
She must have fallen asleep at the wheel, but no one saw. The accident was so horrid, she has no memories.
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Annette’s car, which lacked air-bags, struck a huge steel pole, and everything changed.
Annette suffered multiple fractures and lost six units of blood. Paramedics took her to the local university hospital after cutting the car apart from around her. They were amazed she survived.
Months of recovery and therapy followed. Everything changed.
My own incidental role, at first? Getting a note from Dave in the offering plate, as ushers brought it up, near the end of our service.
“Annette was in a bad accident. We don’t know if she’s alive. We’re going down to Urbana.”
I didn’t pray artfully, then. “God, please,” I thought. “I can’t conduct Annette’s funeral.”
I’ve forgotten many of my own sermons over the years, but because of Annette’s accident that day, I can’t forget what I had told God’s saints in Christ minutes earlier.
Since it was St. Nicholas’ day, I had passed along a few of the myths people have made up about the man who was a pastor in what we call Turkey, before dying in 346.
Some Eastern Christians call him “Nicholas the Wonderworker.” People worldwide have turned St. Nicholas into that legendary friend of children, Santa Claus.
Beyond gifts and cheer, I said, “Isn’t the impossible just what we want for our children, and for ourselves, for that matter? Above all else, don’t we want our young ones not to die, but to rise from the dead and escape the hands of evil people and live in a world where no one will hurt them? We love our kids. It rips us up to think of anyone or anything hurting our kids.”
There’s only one to trust in then— the God Annette still trusts, whom Nicholas trusted, too— the true Miracle Man, the risen One, the coming King, Jesus.
Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. For more information, see www.rsavior.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.