Day 37 ~ The Purpose driven Life ~ Sharing Your Life Message
Sharing my Story of God’s Miracle in my Life.
When I read Rick Warren’s Chapter Day 37 of “The Purpose Driven Life” it came to mind that I had never committed God’s miraculous work in my life to paper. Maybe it is time to tell one of the stories?
The fear that I have in telling the story is that I do not want the story to point at me but at the amazing grace that God worked in my life. God does His miracles and I am but a spectator. This is God just being faithful and Graceful.
About a week ago, I had this conversation with him. So, me, “God I love you so much and I think you are great. Why did you not call me to be a pastor for you?”
God answered me, “Do you remember ….. ?” What I was being reminded of in the kindest possible way was not something a pastor should have done. There are many things in my past that prove that at the time my unsuitability for the cloth would have been a problem. Reflecting on that does not leave me in condemnation but just brings me on my knees. Despite my failures, while being his child, He still worked His miracles around me and moulded me into what He needed and wanted. There are many tasks in my life that God called me to do. Some were clear directives, guided by the strictest instructions, others simply pointing me in a direction and then continually nudging me so I did not stray from the course.
Maybe the next story I tell after todays would be the day God made it clear that I was on my way to becoming fish food (like Jonah) if I did not get on and do what he wanted me to do. He sent a bible punching, finger pointing, God saturated momma at me who in no uncertain language told me, when God calls you to do something, you quit complaining and get on with it! She even wheeled the bible verses in support of her conviction that she had the right culprit. At that moment, I knew exactly why and how Jonah had felt when he had to own up to his shipmates and offer them all a solution for their dilemma.
.. A Stroy of how God saved Yolanda.
Today’s Story of a God Miracle that I can stand Witness to.
It was 1994, Yolanda and were married after a whirlwind romance. When we met, Yolanda was studying civil engineering at Stellenbosch University. I had a financial analysis company, situated in Stellenbosch, suing the banks on behalf of my clients for incorrectly calculating interest charges on their overdraft bank accounts. Most of my clients were farmers who had had years of overdraft accounts, the banks had been charging them excess amounts in interest. Yolanda, as part-time work during her studies, was punching data in my data centre. In South Africa, we have a national holiday which celebrates the covenant which was made with God by my forefathers on 16 December 1838. (See detail reference below) So, there was a national holiday coming up, and I needed crew as I wanted to spend the time on the water sailing.
Thinking that it was a good idea to recruit from the data centre, my eyes found Yolanda and I asked if she would be interested to crew for me on the 16th of December. This was about 3 days before the holiday. Anyway, therein lies it’s own story. So our first date was sailing in a storm, with the most magnificent rollers, and the Coast Guard coming out to save us when that was the last thing we wanted. We had our first date on 16 December 1993, got engaged on 1 January 1994, got married in church on 22nd of January 1994. Five weeks from first date to altar has to be a miracle in itself.
In September 1994, we were driving up from our home in the Strand, Cape Town, to Windhoek in South West Africa (Namibia). 1,500 km’s of road mostly through desert terrain. Yolanda had taken the wheel to give me a short rest. When about 130 miles from Windhoek we were involved in an accident at 70 mph. The car rolled over seven times, and Yolanda despite having her seatbelt on, was thrown out of the rear driver side window, the second time the car went over from nose to tail. I still often relive that shattering experience.
When the car nosedived off the road into the Kalahari sand I dived over and held Yolanda down onto her seat. My left arm was hooked into my seatbelt and my right hand had reached over and taken hold of the seatbelt at her right hip. I was pressing down on her with my arm.
The nose of the car hit the sand and the back came over and flipped us over a second time. When the back of the car came crunching down the momentum snapped the back of the seat Yolanda was sitting on, and she was thrown out the rear driver side window of the car. I saw her body being flung to the ground in front of the rolling car. I was still hanging onto my seatbelt with my left hand and my right hand was firmly attached to her seatbelt.
At that stage, there was nothing I could do but ride out the rolling car. The car rolled over three times nose to tail and then flipped up in the air onto its side and rolled another four times side-to-side. I was conscious and fully aware the whole time, and the seven individual lacerations in my left arm where the seatbelt had cut me were testimony to this.
When the car came to a standstill, luckily on its wheels, there was dust everywhere, my left arm was bleeding from the cuts and my left ankle and the ball of my foot had burst open from the impact. There was not a single piece of glass, or plastic in that car that was not broken. The doors were still all shut but the boot and bonnet had been flung open from the impact. Our belongings were strewn across the desert from the road, where we had left it, to the point where the mangled wreckage, of what had been a beautiful green Toyota 3 L was now nothing more than a wrangled mess.
My injuries were not life-threatening and everything worked. I pushed open the mangled door and still hear the metal as the door screeched open. My only concern was to find Yolanda as I was not sure that the car had not rolled over her. Although my foot had burst open it was not bleeding profusely. And I could walk on my toes.
I found Yolanda lying in the dust on her back. She had a very obvious skull fracture and many cuts and bruises over her legs and arms. From what I could ascertain her external bleeding was superficial and not life-threatening. My biggest concern was her head injury. She must’ve fallen on her head when thrown out of the car, it meant that her neck would also have suffered severely.
The truck driver who had caused the accident left us there and had driven away.
The road was quiet and there was no one and nothing in sight for miles. All I could hear was Yolanda’s groaning. Some 5 or 10 minutes later, which felt like an eternity, a farmer with his open backed pickup arrived on the scene. He drove over to us.
Obviously, the carnage on the desert explained to him what had happened. His immediate reaction was “How can I help?”.
In the back of his pickup were dried sheepskins, normally in South Africa when we butcher sheep we would dry the skins with salt on the wet side. The salt prevents the skin from degenerating and helps in the drying process. The result is that you end up with a very hard skin, with the sheep’s wool on the one side and salt on the other side. So I asked him if I could turn over the sheepskin and lay Yolanda on them. So said, so done. When I had laid Yolanda out on the back of the pickup on the sheepskin, salt side up, I quickly located my briefcase which had our passports and wallets. It had wedged itself under the driver’s side seat.
On the drive to Windhoek, Yolanda was delirious and I stayed with her and held her down so she would not injure herself further. Two of the longest hours in my life transpired before we arrived in Windhoek at the hospital.
Windhoek hospital is simply what Windhoek hospital is, an outpost hospital in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday afternoon. Because they had limited staff, my concern was that they should focus on getting Yolanda attended to before using any of their limited resources on me. My wounds were not life-threatening, I basically needed them cleaned and stitched. That could be done later.
Yolanda was taken to the x-ray department so that they could determine the extent of her head and neck injuries.
Although Yolanda had a fractured skull, the bone was still correctly positioned. The doctors told me that there was nothing that they could do apart from clean and suture all her wounds. From what they could ascertain there was bleeding on the brain, but they had no facilities to deal with it.
Yolanda, at this time, was in a coma in ICU. After I had been attended to, the hospital staff ignored me and did not want to talk to me further. It was clear that I was the only one that believed she would survive the night.
Luckily, my mobile phone had been in my briefcase. In those days we mainly used mobile phones for making calls and text messaging. The mobile phone technology at the time was barely capable of doing that efficiently. I went through the whole of my address book on the phone and called everybody by text to prayer after having informed them of the accident. I know from witnesses later, within my family and extended family, the request for prayer went viral.
I had made a call to Suzette, the family whom we were on our way to in Windhoek to let her know about the accident. She was on the nursing staff at the Hospital and immediatley came to support us.
The doctors and nurses at the hospital had intimated that Yolanda’s chances of surviving was less than 20%. I knew from experience that I had a God who could, if it was His will. Prayer was all that could save Yolanda.
Three days later Yolanda came out of her coma. We left the hospital 14 days later with Yolanda in a wheelchair paralysed from the waist down. After loading her in the car. I left the wheelchair at the hospital.
Amazingly, Peter and Ann, family of the people whom we were staying with in Windhoek (Suzan) had come across the scene of the accident some 10 minutes after I had left with Yolanda on the frantic drive to Windhoek. They collected all our belongings and packed everything back into the suitcases.
Peter and Ann, when they arrived in Windhoek, phoned her friend Suzette, the family where we were staying with and discovered it was our belongings they had found and collected from the wreckage. Everybody who saw the mangled wreckage of the Toyota could not believe that anybody could have survived the accident. When the car was collected by the insurance company they could not close the door, on the passenger side and could not open any of the other doors of the car. Nobody who saw the wreckage believed that I could have opened the passenger side door unaided.
After having stayed at Suzette’s house in Windhoek for another 14 days I took Yolanda home to our house at 26 Joubert Street in the Strand. Today as I write this it is 13 December which is the anniversary date of when we made our first appointment for a date.
At first after the accident, due to the brain damage, Yolanda had lost approximately 4 to 5 years of memory. When she woke up from the coma she had no idea who I was. I had to tell her that I was her husband. At least she didn’t run away from that. Must say her father who had come up to Windhoek supported me in the fact.
Back at our home in the Strand I was faced with the dilemma of having to deal with a wife who was paralysed from the waist down. She was having epileptic fits which caused the most unholy contractions in her legs.
My first reaction was to go to my knees and pray. I had been in this familiar position so many times since the accident. So, Father God what now? “She will be healed!”
Okay, then we do not need a wheelchair. I would carry her wherever she needed to be until she was back on her feet. Now one of my problems is, that I am a very private person, and maybe I did not communicate very well with my family at the time, but I had a wife that had to be taken care of.
My and her family were up in arms, they were concerned. How could I deny Yolanda a wheelchair? My thinking was that I would not be taking God seriously on his promise if I bought Yolanda a wheelchair, or allowed a wheelchair into my house. Anyway, I needed the exercise.
Our problems did not end there, Yolanda’s paralysis seemed to be getting worse and her epileptic fits were getting so bad that the doctors were afraid that the bones in her legs might snap. My family, including Yolanda’s parents kept finding the best neurologists, head and bone specialists and making appointments for us to go and see them. It felt as if the whole world had only one interest and that was to tell me that Yolanda was going to be paralysed and I have to face up to it.
Three different neurologists told me, Yolanda would never ever walk again, and it was time for them to permanently sever the nerves and ligaments that contributed to the epileptic fits.
My answer was simple, I would keep my family praying and myself as well. God had instilled in me the absolute knowledge that we would get her through this and she would walk again. Looking back I know that His quiet peace reinforced me every day and carried me through it.
At first, Yolanda would wake me up at night every 20 to 30 minutes so that I could turn her over. If she needed toilet I would have to carry her and bring her back again. During the day I went to work and selected people from my datacentre to look after her. Of course, it was easiest for them if she slept during the day. That meant that when I got home at night I would have a lovely chirpy wife who could keep me company all night.
When Yolanda and I went shopping I would put her in the shopping trolley, or later when I got clever, I would borrow a wheelchair from the centre. At that time Jurie, Dennis, Christiaan and Petro, my kids, came for a visit. All Yolanda can remember from that time is they had trolley races with her. (shopping trollies are not very comfortable wheelchairs)
The accident happened at around the 8 September 1994. By December 1994 when the kids were visiting Yolanda was just starting to display some movement in her legs. So I was teaching her to crawl to the toilet and back. Sometimes, she would only get halfway back and then call me to come and fetch her.
By January 1995, God’s Christmas present to us was Yolanda on crutches. We were still dealing with some minor epileptic attacks, but they were much less severe. By the middle of 1995 Yolanda was back on her feet. At least now she could remember we had gotten married, but there were still some gaps in memory about everything we got up to after the marriage.
The story is all about God. When I look back at that time there are many decisions I made, and opportunities that Yolanda and I shared which were not conscious directives from me. I was just living in His promise, it is that adage of looking back at the footprints in the sand. I did not fully realise at the time, there were many many days during the period, that the single footprints were Him carrying us.
I will never forget this, the neurologist who was adamant that it was time to sever the nerves and ligaments had scheduled a follow-up appointment for June 1995. I remember as clear as day walking into his office. He stood up and stretched out his hand to greet me, his eyes went over my shoulder to Yolanda walking through the door behind me. The moment he realised what he was looking at he fell down onto his chair in astonished amazement. He blurted, “This is impossible!”. I never got my handshake.
Thank you Lord. You are amazing.
The Miracle of Blood River – my GreatX6 grandfather, Sarel Cilliers, made the Covenant with God on behalf of the commando of Boers.
16 December 1838 : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blood_River
Zulus who were interviewed after the Battle of Blood River confirm that they were more than 30,000 strong at this theatre of war. I will do a full writeup on this after the 40 days.
Many miracles lead up to make this victory. Look at the injuries versus the casualties? How can this be anything else than God’s favour and Grace.