Church Planter Stops to Help and Is Killed: The Urgency of Telling Your Story

By Jim Denison Published on July 25, 2020

A church planter named John Powell was driving on U.S. Highway 75 in Texas when a car on the freeway caught fire. Powell pulled over to help. He was struck by a semi and killed. He leaves a wife and four young children.

I have driven U.S. Highway 75 hundreds of times over the years and hope I would have stopped to help a driver in need. That could have been me.

Members of a law enforcement motorcycle club were riding in the Texas hill country northwest of San Antonio on Saturday when a suspected drunk driver crossed lanes and crashed into their group. Three of them were killed; nine other club members are in critical condition.

I have driven in this beautiful area many times over the years. That could have been me as well.

Saturday night, a pickup truck was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of the Dallas North Tollway and struck an SUV head on. The driver of the truck died, as did one occupant of the SUV.

I drive nearly every day on the Dallas North Tollway. That occupant could have been me.

J.I. Packer died last Friday. Ravi Zacharias died two months ago. Mortality is a reality we ignore at our peril.

Wounded but Helping the Wounded

Marcus Brotherton is the author of Blaze of Light: The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of War Recipient. The story he tells reads as if it were part of the book of Acts.

Beikirch’s parents broke up when he was a child, and he and his mother moved constantly until she remarried. He dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army.

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After becoming a Green Beret medic, he was sent to Dak Seang in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. On April 1, 1970, an estimated ten thousand soldiers attacked the camp, which was populated by twelve Green Berets and four hundred Vietnamese fighters. Beikirch was wounded and temporarily paralyzed below the waist. Refusing medical treatment, he insisted that he be carried onto the battlefield to treat the wounded. He was eventually evacuated to a hospital.

Back in the States, he recovered his mobility over time. However, he drifted from place to place, experimented with drugs, and was spat on and harassed because he was a Vietnam veteran.

Attending Seminary While Living in a Cave

At 3:00 a.m. one night in July 1972, Beikirch knelt on the floor and dedicated his life to God. In September 1973, he entered a seminary in New Hampshire. However, his PTSD was still so severe that he did not reside on campus, living instead in a nearby cave. In October, he was notified that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration.

Even in our secularized culture, stories of changed lives are compelling. So tell your story today with urgency. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

Beikirch married in 1975 and began to heal emotionally. Brotherton notes, “He rebuilt his life by giving back to others.” He served as the chaplain of the Medal of Honor Society and as a guidance counselor at a middle school. For years, he did not wear his medal, believing that he should not be singled out for recognition among other veterans.

Finally, Beikirch began to wear the medal, but not for himself. “My story is God’s story,” he says. “This medal is not about me. This medal is about him. Without God’s grace, I wouldn’t have been able to survive Vietnam. Without his forgiveness in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. Without his love, I wouldn’t have healed from my wounds. This medal is about him, and I wear it for his honor.”

My Favorite Witness in Scripture

Even in our secularized culture, stories of changed lives are compelling. My favorite witness in Scripture is the man healed by Jesus who said, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).

Tell your story today with urgency. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

I do not know when your earthly life or mine will end, but I do know this: we are one day closer to eternity than ever before.


Jim Denison, Ph.D., is the founder of Denison Forum with a reach of 1.8 million. He also serves as Resident Scholar for Ethics with Baylor Scott & White Health.

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