One Sunday evening in November of this past year, I was doing homework in Baird Library when I received a text message from a student in my youth group informing me that one of the girls in my small group had been in a terrible car accident, was medevaced from the site and was at the Lehigh Valley Hospital awaiting the news of her condition. That was not the sort of text I had imagined receiving that Sunday night, to say the least. I asked to be kept in the loop as much as possible with the situation. My student’s entire leg was broken, and she had bruises and cuts all over. Pictures of her car were sickening to see, and I was scared, given the damage done to her car, for news of her status. She would be out of school for a while and unable to walk for months. A hospital bed was put in a room on the first floor of her house, and she lived in the bed and in a recliner, needing assistance from a family member and a wheelchair or walker any time she wanted to move. Her entire world was turned upside down. She went from being involved in clubs and service opportunities at school, singing in our worship band and being a phenomenal student to being stuck at home completely dependent on others all day.
I went to visit her a week or so after the accident. When walking into her house, it was apparent that visitors and guests had become a norm and that the house was regularly circulating with loved ones and friends. Flowers, balloons and gifts filled the room that had become her room. When I first saw her, I was both happily surprised and not surprised at all to see a huge smile on her face. She is the kind of girl who is always smiling and always has something positive to say. Her presence communicates joy and love, and it is clear to anyone who talks to her that she truly cares about you and what you are saying. To say I felt relief, peace and tremendous joy at her sparkling smile is an understatement. She hadn’t missed a beat. She was the same loving, caring and genuine person she was before the accident, and she was not about to let a broken leg or the inability to walk keep her from loving on others. After I got past the initial excitement of seeing her lit-up face, we got to talking about all that had happened. The gratitude and appreciation for life and the glory and thanks constantly being given to God were impossible to miss as she spoke. The way she talked about finding comfort and security in God throughout the entire accident–from the initial crash to the emergency responders cutting her out of the car to the helicopter ride to the hospital to the surgery during which they put metal rods in her leg–I was so proud and moved to many, many tears. The song playing on the radio right before the accident was “Blessed Be Your Name,” with the line, “Even when the darkness closes in, blessed be Your name.” Those words brought her a sense of safety as the smoke and dirt filled the air from the crash and as the metal came collapsing in on her and her brother. She told us of how she immediately grabbed her brother’s hand and started praying. When the helicopter didn’t have a radio, she sang worship songs all the way to the hospital. God was her armor in this battle. He was her strength in her weakness. He was the provider in her need. His love surrounded her and cared for her as strangers unburied her leg from metal scraps and as they put IVs in her arm. She was so acutely aware of God’s constant presence with her. She has spoken at church, in our small group and to several schoolmates about the accident. She truly believes that God saved her life so that she might share His name and His glory. And I think she’s right.
There are so many stories similar to this in which I have been moved to tears and brought to my knees at the incredible faith of my small group girls. I wanted to be a youth leader because the youth leaders I had were there for me in ways for which I can never thank them enough. But I never expected to learn so much from my girls. On a regular basis I am made humble at the acts and words of their extraordinary faiths–they more often than not get it better than I do. I am incredibly blessed to get to hang out with these students, worship with them, pray with them, be vulnerable with them, give praise and thanksgiving to Christ with them, to love them and to be loved by them. It is bittersweet that my girls are juniors, soon-to-be seniors, but I am so excited to see how God will work in their lives and all they will do in His name.