This is a guest post by my friend Jim Fritz.
It never ceases to amaze me how God weaves the stories of our lives for His glory! My name is Jim Fritz and I have been a quadriplegic since October 29, 1980. I am paralyzed from the shoulders down. I can’t move anything or feel anything below my shoulders. I am the administrator and principal of a small Christian school in Beckley, West Virginia. I have been serving in this capacity for six years, and prior to that served as a professor and Dean of Men at Appalachian Bible College in Beckley, West Virginia for 19 years.
A Sermon Illustration
A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon online by Pastor Shawn Thornton, Senior Pastor of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, CA. Shawn has been a long time friend of mine. We met in Bible College in 1985 and have been good friends ever since. We were in each other’s weddings, we have ministered together, and we continue to keep in contact even though we live thousands of miles apart. As I was listening to Shawn’s sermon, he caught my attention when he started to use me as a sermon illustration. The illustration had to do with faith in Christ and how we can be confident that Jesus will keep us safe in Him.
He started to recall a time when he had come to visit me at my home in Medina, Ohio. I had just purchased a van that I could drive as a result of a meeting that I had with Joni Eareckson. It was outfitted with a joystick instead of a steering wheel and everything, including speed, braking and steering was controlled through it. It was kind of scary if you weren’t used to it. It was also very very sensitive to the slightest movement.
One Scary Ride
During the course of time as Shawn was visiting, we decided to go out to eat. I volunteered to drive. Shawn didn’t think much of it because he trusted that I would not do anything to put any of us in danger. That was the point of the illustration. He trusted me and willingly put his life in my hands. As I listened to the illustration, I chuckled because I felt his description of my character was a little exaggerated, obviously trying to make the point that I was one in whom he was able to put his full confidence.
Later that afternoon, I texted Shawn and told him that I enjoyed being used as an illustration in his sermon. In reality, as I was driving that van, I was scared to death. Not exactly one in who’s driving skills you would place a great deal of confidence. But, I thanked him for making me out to look so good and even exaggerated his descriptions of me a little more.
Shawn texted me back and told me he had a really neat story to tell me. Later that week we talked and this is the story he shared with me. Definitely a God thing!
Definitely a God Thing
Shawn was sitting at the chiropractor’s office there in Southern California. While he was waiting for his appointment, one of the people that attended his church came in and started to make small talk. She indicated that her son was going to be home from the Air Force Academy later that week. Shawn said, “Oh yeah, I have a good friend named Jim that attended the Air Force Academy. He was in a car accident while he was a cadet there and is now a quadriplegic.” Her eyes got real big and she asked when that had happened. He told her that as best as he could remember, he thought it happened in the early 1980’s.
She was astonished because she said that her husband, Ken, had attended the Air Force Academy and was in an accident in the early 80s, and that a cadet riding in another car was injured so seriously that he was paralyzed for the rest of his life. She called her husband and she and Shawn started to compare notes and began to realize it could be the same accident. Truthfully, I knew very little about my accident (the focus after it for me was solely on my recovery). I didn’t even realize that there were other cadets involved, except those who were in the same vehicle I was in. It was then her husband, Ken, who put the dots together and realized that I was the one that was so seriously injured in the same accident he had been in.
34 Years of Prayer and Investment
Here’s the neat thing about this story. It turns out that Ken was never able to find out what happened to me after the accident. Shawn helped us exchange email addresses and telephone numbers and we have been able to catch up a little bit. Ken said that he and his family have been praying for me for 34 years (even as recently as last week at the dinner table), wondering what the Lord was able to do in my life. Ken had no idea where I was or what I was doing. He even prayed that I would accept Christ as my Savior. He also said that he and his family have been supporting Joni and Friends for 34 years in my name. Hearing this, I was thrilled and extremely humbled at the same time.
It has been my privilege to be in the ministry for over 30 years now, and much of it due to how good God has been to me after my accident. Joni has been instrumental in many ways, but so have many others, working behind the scenes, praying and interceding on behalf of others (even someone they did not know). Only God could weave the lives of Shawn Thornton, Jim Fritz, Joni Eareckson Tada and Ken Hasegawa in such a way. It really is a God thing!
Just thought this incredible story might be an encouragement to you!
In His Service, Jim Fritz