Reaching out to others has two aspects. On one side we have God’s Word encouraging us to reach out and help others, to treat our neighbors as ourselves, to shine God’s love and light into the lives of others whenever possible. But what about the other side? When reaching out to others means asking for help—allowing them to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves? Or perhaps shouldn’t be doing for ourselves? This kind of reaching out isn’t always easy for me. Nor is it easy for my husband. We’re two mighty independent souls. While that’s okay in some ways, the fact is that God may use us as players in someone else’s drama—and if we try to swoop in and do it all ourselves, we may be denying someone their God-given destiny. We may be keeping another from learning the lesson God wants them to learn.
In the big scheme of things, it’s a give-and-take world. Sometimes we’re strong and other times we’re weak. Sometimes God wants us to give, and other times He wants us to learn how to receive.
This months CWO theme is Reaching Out to Others. There was a season in my life, and in the life of my husband, Kevin, when reaching out to others took on a meaning that changed our lives. It was a time when God stepped in and completely took care of us—sending countless people into our paths who reached out to us. People who willingly shared their gifts with us to keep us sustained. Gifts of knowledge, time, money, expertise, graciousness, mercy, love, and prayer.
God often has a way of orchestrating events that move us from our comfort zones. It was during this difficult time we learned how to humbly reach out to others—in many cases allowing people to live out their destiny—to follow God’s call placed on their heart.
“Allison, call me on my cell phone when you get in. It’s important,” was the message I retrieved from my hotel voice mail at 7:30 p.m. on October 3, 1998. While my stepson’s voice was calm, I knew in my heart something terrible had happened—he never called me when I was out of town. My mind raced as I returned his call, imagining all sorts of life and death scenarios, knowing for certain whatever had happened involved my husband of only three years.
“Dad’s been in an accident. Aaron sort of got him,” came Kermit’s reply to my “what’s wrong” question. (Yes, my stepson’s name is Kermit, after his grandfather—it’s a strong German name.)
“Aaron?” It took a minute for my mind to compute that he was referring to our fifteen hundred pound Hereford herd bull. “Define ‘sort of got him,” I cried. “Is he dead?” Cutting right to the chase is my nature; I had to know the truth.
“No,” came his tentative reply. “But they’re taking him in to surgery right now. He’s beat up pretty bad. He might lose his leg. He wasn’t gored as far as they can see, but it’s too soon to tell. Can you come home?”
Thus began my trek from Ohio to Minnesota via car as I couldn’t get a flight until the next morning and time was too precious to wait. So, too, began the amazing story of people reaching out to help us—as one after another, God placed his children into our lives to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves.
“Dear God,” I cried out, “please keep Kevin safe, please be with the doctors and give them wisdom to make the right choices” I prayed as I frantically drove home. “Please spare my husband. I can’t lose him now, not when we’ve only just begun our life together.”
I learned more about what happened as I drove.
Kevin had been working on our farm that day, building a corral with Kermit and Matt, our hired hand. They had put in a rather long day when Kermit was finishing up on the skid-loader, Matt was moving hay bales on the tractor and Kevin was in the farmyard working around the cows. Growing up on a farm, Kevin had always exhibited a healthy respect for our bull, teaching me never to turn my back on him. That day, and it’s hard to say why it happened, Aaron suddenly and without warning came after Kevin, and with the powerful butt of his head, sent my husband flying into the air. In no time he had Kevin back on the ground, rolling him, stepping on him and pounding him into the dirt.
Hearing nothing over the sounds of the tractor and the skid-loader, it was by the grace of God that Matt looked up just as Kevin was flying through the air, and he frantically began waving to Kermit who was closer to the situation.
“I looked up and saw Aaron on top of Dad, bashing him into the concrete base of the corn silo,” Kermit said, fighting back tears as he explained to me what happened. “He kept butting him with his head. Dad was rolled up in a ball and I thought for sure he was dead.” Thinking quickly, Kermit remained on the skid-loader and as fast as he could, he drove straight into the side of the raging bull, knocking him off his feet and away from his now silent father. That life-saving act was the first of a series of life-saving acts surrounding this drama.
“By the time the bull had me down the second time I knew I was a dead man,” said Kevin weeks later. “I can clearly remember being thankful that I knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was prepared to go to Heaven.”
“By the time I got to Dad, he was pretty beat up, but I thanked God when I could see that he was still alive,” Kermit said. “But he was covered in blood and his left leg was at an impossible angle. I knew it was broken. I couldn’t tell if Aaron’s massive horns had punctured him. My immediate concern was to keep the bull away from him and try to keep Dad as quiet as possible until the ambulance could arrive.”
“Most bull attacks are fatal, and I figured this would be such a case,” admitted Mike David, paramedic and Kevin’s long-time acquaintance. “When we got the call, my heart jumped to my throat, knowing Kevin as I did.”
But the Lord did not call Kevin home. Instead He sent us both on a journey of hope and healing that changed our lives.
Our local hospital was ill-equipped to handle this type of trauma, and Kevin was rushed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester with a pulverized tibia, fractured fibula, facial lacerations, and head-to-toe bruises. The surgical team was soon faced with a severe “compartment syndrome” in his leg as they prepared to operate–a syndrome that causes intense swelling, often resulting in the need to amputate limbs as a result of dead muscle, tissue and nerves. Had the team not caught this in time, quickly slicing his leg open on each side from knee to ankle, he would have lost his limb.
“I had never seen an injury quite like it,” said Dr. Brian Hamline, the attending orthopedic surgeon on call that night. “In any other hospital, especially in a small town, his leg most likely would have been amputated, but at Mayo we had a team of highly skilled surgeons, all focused on doing whatever it took to save that leg.” And save it they did.
From the moment Kermit rescued his father from the raging bull, to the skilled paramedic team on call that afternoon, to the team of orthopedic surgeons with amazing skills, to the prayer warriors who kept me safe on the road as I drove that night—everywhere we looked people were reaching out, and it didn’t stop there.
I arrived at Mayo before noon the next day. The man I saw in the hospital bed didn’t look like my husband. He looked like a grotesquely inflated balloon caricature—so swollen was his body—purple with bruises and connected to tubes, wires and equipment.
Thus began the year long siege of my sweet husband, a man whose last stay in a hospital had been when he entered the world in 1954. Kevin learned what it meant to reach out from a different perspective, as did I.
After three weeks and five surgeries, including multiple bone and skin grafts, Kevin left St. Mary’s – Mayo Medical Center wearing an external fixator – a bizarre looking contraption that consisted of three metal halos (that looked somewhat like black iron horse shoes) and twelve pins going through his bones from his ankle to his knee. He would wear this equipment for twelve long months, unable to bear any weight whatsoever on that leg for nine of those months. A walker, then crutches, assisted him for one full year.
Kevin learned what it meant to put his life first into the hands of God, and then into the hands of countless individuals as they reached out to help him—to help us. Through it all I witnessed the perseverance of an optimist whose eyes were on the Lord. Seldom did Kevin cry out when I know the pain was intolerable. He was a most gracious patient and I reveled in the ability to care for him as my nurturing nature took over, trying to make my husband’s recuperation and rehabilitation as comfortable as humanly possible.
I frequently cried out to God asking for His will to be done, asking for guidance when my nerves were frayed, and thanking Him for the ability to stay at home full-time to care for Kevin.
This was a time of great change in our lives. Kevin temporarily turned over the reigns of his hugely successful real estate business to a co-worker, and in between caring for Kevin, I began to write again, something I had put on the back burner when we married in 1995. We rescheduled our winter vacation for the next year, giving Kevin a goal to work toward as he vowed to “leave these darn crutches behind.”
We ushered in the new millennium on the beach at South Padre Island, Texas. It was on that beach in Texas fourteen months after the accident that we praised the Lord for saving Kevin’s life and his leg, and for sending so many people into our lives who willingly reached out to help us heal. Crutches gone, we held hands as he walked slowly with the aid of only a cane, sharing our dreams and visions for our future.
Kevin decided to start his own real estate company and venture out on his own, away from the constraints of corporate America. I would dust off my memoir, appropriately called God Allows U-Turns, and after another revision would begin once again to look for a publisher—an exercise that had proven fruitless years before.
“It seems everyone has a story to tell,” I shared with Kevin as we walked on the beach. The year we spent in and out of the hospital, doctors’ offices and in physical therapy brought us countless stories from folks whose lives had been spared by God’s amazing grace. We were often in awe at how willing people were to reach out and share their deeply personal stories of hope and healing.
“Perhaps this book is bigger than just my story,” I told Kevin. “Maybe I should make God Allows U-Turns a compilation series. If I asked, do you think people would send me their stories of how God works in life?”
The rest, as they say, is history.
From out of the ashes of pain came Kevin’s vision to venture out of the corporate box and into the world of entrepreneurialism. His leg still bears the scars of multiple surgeries and skin grafts, but he walks unaided without a limp—most of the time. He’s come to understand that Reaching Out to Others is a two way street. That we must learn to graciously accept help as well as be willing to extend it.
And as for me? Well, my passion to share the hope and healing of turning toward Christ has become a growing outreach ministry through God Allows U-Turns. Thousands of stories come to me via my Web site each month during open submissions. Today, there are 22 books under the recognized God Allows U-Turns brand, including my first two novels.
It took a life-threatening accident to make us reassess our lives. To help us turn our hearts and minds toward the God who held us up when we were too weak to walk. And just think, it really was a bull that helped us hit the bull’s-eye in knowing and following God’s will for our lives. Imagine that.
©2007, Allison Bottke