A new marriage, new careers, a new life together—it was a time of new beginnings. Now we were about to begin our first camping vacation together. It promised to be a special time for John and me. We had just graduated from college and needed some time to relax before starting our teaching jobs in the fall. Our tent-trailer was packed, and we were ready to begin our two-week adventure.
We rose early that August morning and drove from our home in Virginia to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The following day we made it to St. Augustine, Florida. It was already dark when we found a campsite.
As John set up the tent and camp stove, I looked by lantern light through my assortment of foods, deciding what to fix for dinner. While we worked, we talked excitedly about the days ahead. After we ate our meal, it was 10 P.M. We were both exhausted. From previous camping experiences, however, I knew I should clean up before going to sleep. The lantern on the picnic table gave off a warm, cozy glow to help me with my chores.
I had been working for only a short time when I glanced down at the lamp. I was startled by what I saw. Somehow, fire had “jumped” out of the lantern and was burning a small area of the plastic tablecloth covering the picnic table. I quickly smothered the flames. Perhaps I should have been more concerned by the incident, but I wasn’t.
Minutes later, before John went inside the tent to unroll our sleeping bags, he picked up the lantern to make the gas flame burn brighter. The next few moments were a nightmare. John was suddenly covered with flames. Because of a faulty cap (we later learned), pressure had forced the fire out of the lantern, covering John’s face, arms, and legs. In disbelief, I stood watching him become engulfed in fire. Numb with shock, I froze.
Thank God, John does not become easily panic-stricken. He threw himself on the ground
and rolled around until the fire was out. Then he stood up and kicked sand into the lantern and grass to put out any remaining flames. The fire extinguished, we stood alone in the darkness. John painfully voiced our thoughts, “I must get to a hospital.”
Normally, I would have had no idea where to find a hospital in a strange town. But because God knew our need ahead of time, I had noticed a sign as we entered St. Augustine--one that pointed to a hospital. As we drove, I could detect the unmistakable odor of burnt skin and singed hair, though it was too dark to see how John looked. When we arrived at the hospital a few minutes later the light of the emergency room illuminated a shocking sight. John’s face was a bright, blistered red.
We waited anxiously for the doctor to arrive and the diagnosis: second and third degree burns on the face, arms and legs. According to the doctor, more blisters would develop on the face, and scars would remain. My mind raced ahead to our September teaching jobs, scheduled to start in just three weeks. With burns and scars, how would John face all of those students, if he could teach at all?
We spent the night in the hospital. The nurse applied ice packs to John’s face, hoping to relieve the pain and begin the healing. I sat beside his bed, praying for God to spare my husband of any ugly scars or disfigurement. Prayer had always been a part of my life, even as a child. Yet as I prayed this time, I became aware of how seldom I had actually sought God’s will. Here I was again asking Him to do something for me. In that moment of crisis, I understood that God’s will, not my desires, not even John’s healing, was what mattered most.
It was then that I gave John over to the Lord for whatever His will would be. I surrendered myself anew to Him, too. My prayer for John changed to, “Lord, heal him, please; but, nevertheless, Thy will be done.” I began to totally trust Him, no matter what He chose to do with my life or with John’s.
John was praying, too. Recently, prayer had become a more integral part of his life, too, and, as he prayed that night, God revealed to him just how much He loved and cared for him.
Finally, morning came. To the doctor’s surprise, the predicted blisters had not materialized. In fact, John looked so much better that he was released before noon and with ointment for his face we were on our way. John looked so much better that we decided to continue our vacation. We continued to pray and to praise the Lord for all He had done. He had worked in both of our lives in ways we had least expected. He had brought me to a new surrender to His will and had drawn John closer to Him.
By the time we reached home a few days later, John was completely healed. In
fact, our family and friends were amazed to hear what had happened. Visibly, there was not one scar to suggest that John had been severely burned. God had worked a beautiful miracle for us by healing John. More importantly, he had taught us that we could really trust Him to be Lord of our lives. It was a new beginning with a new lesson—one I hoped we’d never forget.