Until an adult is confronted with the supernatural, it is easy to be a skeptic or at least a doubter. For many of us, it is less risky to question, analyze, and dismiss than to simply believe.
Before sharing the details, I’d like to preface this supernatural event by admitting that, even now, over four decades later, I don’t fully understand why God chose to bless a skeptic like me in this manner. I still feel very undeserving, and very loved, all these years later, especially because I was full of doubt on that day.
Like most of us, when I was a child, faith came more naturally than suspicion. I can’t recall at what age the transition from child-like faith to doubt occurred. You will read in this account how my struggle with doubt collided with an undeniable experience.
As I recall, it was Easter Sunday in 1975 when I headed to the hills with two other dirt bike enthusiasts to ride my new 185 cc Suzuki motorcycle for the first time. Clint and I had agreed to meet after church to load our dirt bikes on his pickup truck and ride that afternoon near Emmett, Idaho. I had never been to these trails, let alone ride a dirt bike. Up to this point, my only experience with trails and jumps would have been as a boy on my Huffy Stingray bicycle with a banana seat and a short sissy bar. Thankfully, my second purchase after the motorcycle was a black full-face helmet, which would be very important as you are about to read. This outdoor adventure would be a completely new experience for me after recently turning 18. My dad had advised me not to buy a motorcycle, but he also said that after turning 18 I could make my own decision, although he disagreed with the idea after several conversations.
I remember it was a beautiful day and all I could think of was riding some hills and getting some air between my bike tires and the earth. For those that love to ride, there’s nothing better than lifting off a mound of dirt like you’re headed toward the sun. Once we got the motorcycles unloaded from the bed of the pickup, we were off on all the trails of opportunity that awaited us.
We were on the ride for what seemed to be an hour or so when I came to the top of a ridge on this steep and high hill. I found myself staring down a steep trail with a sizable hump or jump near the bottom. From my vantage point, it seemed over 100 yards to the base of this trail. In the back of my mind, I remembered one of the rules of downhill cycling – never, under any circumstances, use only the front brake. So with this rule in mind, I swallowed my hesitation and took off down the path at the point of no return with both feet firmly on the foot pegs, proceeding with caution in almost a semi-standing position, and leaning back with knees slightly bent. With zero experience, I had my foot at the ready to brake if the momentum built too fast, unaware that my life was about to change forever.
Immediate panic struck me when, only a few yards later, my right foot slipped off the bike peg, causing me to lose balance and sit on the seat. Immediately I began to pick up speed. Everything happened quickly. Now I was focused on keeping the motorcycle upright and holding on. Using the left handbrake wasn’t an option because I didn’t want to lock the front tire. By now I was already blazing halfway down the hill and just decided to hang on.
Before I knew it, I had accelerated toward the jump, hitting the bottom of the small ravine and up the other side. One of my friends saw me and my motorcycle go airborne at that moment and he said that, halfway through the flight, it was one of the most beautiful jumps he’d ever witnessed. But the opposite was true on the descent. My front tire was headed straight toward the ground like the nose of a rocket plunging toward earth. No sooner did the front of my bike crash into the dirt, my body violently collided with the bike. I vividly recall seeing the motorcycle handlebar at the forefront of my vision.
Crashing face first, the full-face helmet protecting my mouth and chin was no match for the metal crossbar between the two handlebars. The chin protector of the full-face helmet was cracked in two and the collision was so severe that my two front teeth were immediately sheared off at the gumline. The impact contorted my spine and I lay motionless and unconscious while my friends came to my aid. With blood flowing from my mouth and unable to stand on my own, I was carried to the vehicle and rushed to the nearest hospital in Emmett. To this day, I have no recollection of how I was moved from the crash site to the pickup. It wasn’t until the emergency drive to the Emmett hospital, that I remember being semi-conscious. While on the way, my friend later told his mother that I repeatedly spoke only one word, “Jesus.”
Due to the obvious concussion, the ER doctor wanted me to spend the night in the hospital, but I had to decline knowing that I didn’t have health insurance at the time. All I knew was my lower back was in a lot of pain and what remained of my exposed teeth was extremely sensitive.
Although I didn’t know Clint that well, he was a true friend that day. He not only loaded me back up and took me to ER, but also drove me to my parents’ home and unloaded my motorcycle. I lay on the sofa, waiting for Dad and Mom to return home. I’ll never forget Dad and Mom arriving home from church that evening. They knew that I’d gone for my first ride that afternoon. Mother took one look at me with my missing front teeth and I could tell by the anguish on her face that I must have been in bad shape. Dad was immediately angered and reminded me of his advice not to buy a motorcycle. Not only were my spine and teeth hurting, but so was my ego in upsetting Dad.
As I recall, it was several days before I could leave the house. I could only sleep a few hours per night, due to the pain in my back, and sitting for an extended time was very difficult. Eating was tricky too, because even breathing through my mouth would send me through the ceiling as the roots of my front teeth were exposed. So until I could go to the dentist, I had to take nutrition through a drinking straw.
The lower back pain was something I could not ignore as much as I would have liked to. After days and weeks of discomfort, I decided to schedule an appointment with a doctor of osteopathy in Caldwell, Idaho. I explained the accident and he immediately ordered X-rays. Once that was completed, he read the film and told me there wasn’t anything he could do except refer me to a back surgeon. Apparently, my spine had been damaged to such an extent that, in his opinion, surgery would be my only option for recovery.
During the days that followed the accident, the discomfort from the sheared teeth improved, especially when the dentist finished two root canals and implanted some temporary replacements. But the back pain persisted and seemed the most uncomfortable when sitting or lying down. My parents were so concerned that they purchased an improved bed for me. Even though I was advised to seek further medical options, it didn’t seem financially feasible at the time, because of the lack of insurance. Days of aching back pain turned into weeks and life went on.
I returned to work at a music store in Nampa, Idaho, called Music West. Because my job consisted of standing for most of the shift, I could tolerate the pain much better than having to sit for an extended time.
It was during the Spring of 1975 that I was sharing my motorcycle accident along with my faith with Dorothy, a colleague at the store. In fact, I had invited her to attend a church service that didn’t work out at the last minute. Dorothy had to cancel but we re-booked for the following week. Although I told her that I probably couldn’t sit through an entire service, we decided it would be fun to go together. Little did I know at the time that there was a divine appointment waiting for us the following Sunday.
I recall picking Dorothy up at her parents’ house in Nampa and driving to Boise, Idaho, to attend a church service at Central Assembly where Roland Buck was the pastor. It was about 40 minutes to our destination, so we had plenty of time to talk. During that drive to Boise, I shared again that my back was very uncomfortable and that I wasn’t sure I would be able to tolerate sitting for the entire service. She said she was fine if we had to leave early.
When we arrived, the church was nearly full, and we found ourselves sitting a few rows from the back of the sanctuary. I spotted a wheelchair-bound friend (a disabled Vietnam veteran) and introduced him to my friend before the service started. Merle was wounded in Vietnam and was unable to walk due to the injury. It was quite a surprise to see him there. Little did we know that there was a special speaker we had never heard of – a woman from China who had experienced various supernatural encounters.
They introduced Nora Lam (Sung Neng Yee) whose story was told in a book and eventually a movie called China Cry. It was intriguing to hear about this far-away place and her life, even though I found it difficult to understand everything that she said owing to her accent. Five or ten minutes into her talk, she stopped abruptly and hesitated for several seconds. Then some very unusual things started to take place. She said in broken English that there was a woman in the audience with a deaf ear and God had healed her. Almost immediately, a woman rose to her feet and started shouting with joy, praising God, and jumping enthusiastically. My immediate thought, especially as a teenager, was shock, mingled with a little embarrassment that I had invited a friend to a church service with this display of emotion. Nora asked the woman to come up front. All the while, I was doubting the authenticity of this and concerned about my friend’s reaction. I was not only a doubting Thomas, but an embarrassed, teenage doubting Thomas. How ironic – I was questioning the very presence of God who would soon change my life.
Nora asked the ecstatic woman a few questions, confirming one ear was deaf and now opened, and went on to give her talk as if this type of instantaneous healing was quite normal. Moments later, Nora once again stopped and said, “There is a young man in the audience with back problems and God is going to heal you.” I immediately turned and looked at my friend, Dorothy, and said, “Do you think it’s possible that my friend Merle might be able to walk?” She gave me a big-eyed smile, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I don’t know.”
After Nora resumed her talk, she stopped again a few minutes later and said, “Would the young man who was in a motorcycle accident stand up? God has just healed you.”
At that moment, my thought was, “That’s me, but I’m too embarrassed to stand” in front of hundreds who were in attendance. But an instant later, I knew I had to respond since God was so specific in revealing the reason for my back injury to a woman from China whom I didn’t know and hadn’t heard of before that day. The moment I stood up, all pain that I had experienced for weeks immediately vanished, and all I could do was just stand there for a moment.
Nora called me to the front, approached me with a microphone in hand, and asked if I was in a motorcycle accident. I confirmed this was true and that my pain had immediately vanished. I was instantly healed and publicly gave praise to God. When I looked out over the audience, I could see my friend Dorothy was visibly moved with tears flowing down her cheeks. I had never seen her overcome with such emotion.
There was a third person who was healed after me, but I was so stunned by the moment that I don’t recall their story. With two other strangers standing alongside Nora Lam, all I could do was praise God for His Holy Spirit who gave discernment to this Chinese woman. She came all the way from her country to the United States to honor God and bless several people, including an 18-year-old young man.
God not only healed me but chose to do so regardless of my doubt and skepticism. I believe He even planned for me to attend on that particular day and not the week earlier. His Spirit revealed to a total stranger from China that I needed supernatural healing. As I returned to my seat, pain-free, I noticed tears of joy streaming down my friend’s face, who by now was convinced, as I was, that this was a Holy encounter.
Years later, I don’t fully understand why God mercifully healed me, especially with my skeptical attitude and teenage embarrassment. Nevertheless, because I was willing to invite a friend to church and willing to stand when a stranger from China asked, God responded to my small, mustard-seed faith.
All I know is that He loves me, He loves you, and He is no respecter of persons, meaning, He shows no partiality or favoritism, according to Romans 2:11 in the Bible.
To this day, I’m convinced that this supernatural Divine appointment was as much for Dorothy and the other members of the audience as it was for me.
I’m also convinced that the greatest question we can answer in our lifetime is this. Who do you say Jesus is?
In John 14:6, Jesus says of himself, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I believe this statement to be true. That Jesus is the Son of God and He is my Lord.
In closing, I will quote the words of renowned British author C.S. Lewis and his case for faith in Jesus.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
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