We received word just over a year ago about a terrible accident suffered by the son of a good friend.
The dad is Scott George, the Leads Pastor at Pine Castle United Methodist Church in Orlando, and it was his oldest son Austen that was severely injured when he struck his head on the side of a swimming pool. Austen was in the Florida Keys at the time, and had to be airlifted to Miami for what was to be a long and difficult road to recovery. He was in a coma for exactly 40 days, and during that time, he hovered near death’s door on several occasions.
Such a phone call that was received by Scott and his wife Tammi about the accident is every parent’s worst nightmare, one that was not to be over quickly, and certainly one that changes a family’s life forever.
Scott is much loved in the community of Orlando, and that became very apparent through the support and prayers that were going up to the Lord on their behalf. They were blessed by not only their strong and loving family, but by friends and leaders in the community. People like John Rivers, from 4Rivers Barbecue, who helped set up “Austen’s Army”, a charitable fund to help soften the financial blow that such an injury and long-term care produces. Other friends helped by providing contacts with treatment centers, while others provided options for extended-stay lodging for the family.
Then, there was the help from another source that Scott received that meant so much to him. Now, make no mistake about it…Scott George is a man that loves the Word of God, and its role in his life is indisputable. But the source that brought immense comfort to his soul, that quieted those most anxious and fearful moments in his mind, was a bit unexpected…they were the words that formed lyrics in many of the classic hymns of the church.
Sadly, so many have never stopped to think about the depth of theology that is inherent in the verses of these age-old hymns, but so many of them contain such richness of thought that they rightly earn the title of being “treasured”. That is exactly what they became for Scott – vessels of treasure. Comforting truths that brought faith and renewed hope, and Scott was able to sing and embrace these truths down deep in his very soul. They became like a warm, soft blanket during a cold, bleak night.
Scott outlined his experience with these hymns in the book that he wrote during Austen’s long hospital stay and recovery. The book is entitled “Blindsided”, and it is truly a compelling read. And, he shared the story with me recently on my daily radio show, talking about the impact brought by the classic by Horatio Spafford, “It Is Well With My Soul”. This hymn was written out of Spafford’s own set of tragedies, the loss of his children while on an ocean voyage. Spafford was able to weather the storm of such loss and heartache by his immense faith and trust in God – then turn that faith into one of the most inspiring, truth-filled songs in history. Consider the first verse:
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll…
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say…
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Knowing the back story to Spafford’s lyrics makes this song even more meaningful. (You can listen to this interview on the Shepherd website – www.theshepherdradio.com. Click on “Podcast”, and scroll to the Oct. 13th, 2020 episode -S2E153).
By God’s grace, Austen has survived, and continues to recover. And, while his wedding had to be delayed due to the accident, it has now been rescheduled for this coming December. And Scott and Tammi are now back home, and serving their church with a renewed sense of faith and zeal, grateful for how the Lord sustained them.
Troubles come to us all, at one point or another. And when they do, comfort is available as well, even from surprising places…maybe from a century-old lyric printed in a dusty hymnal.
Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers. In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader. As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.