Serious Van Wreck

Our whole family almost died last Friday night on a trip home from Chicago. We are amazed to be alive.

The five of us were together, traveling home from a great-aunt’s funeral. We were having a nice family time in the van, laughing at old stories.

The weather had just changed, and had become a mix of rain and snow, but it didn’t seem especially dangerous. But it was more slick than we thought, and while passing a semi we hit ice and began fishtailing.

“Oh no,” I heard. We were losing control.

I peered up from the second bench where I had been lying down, and saw the front of our van hit the side of the semi we had been passing. The impact of hitting that semi sent our van violently into the grassy median, and I saw that we were now headed towards the gleaming lights of oncoming traffic. All of a sudden things felt really out of control (we were rolling, but I didn’t realize it at the time) and I heard the loud noise of the van roof crunching in on top of us. I yelled, “Jesus, protect us!” and tried to prepare myself, thinking I was about to feel a ton of pain, and we all might die.

However, after a few seconds, we were stopped by the side of the road, and I didn’t feel the pain I had been anticipating.

“I’m okay!” I said, surprised.
“I’m okay,” my dad responded.
“I’m okay,” Sarah echoed.
“I’m in pain,” my mom said. Just hearing her voice was a relief, but she was holding her stomach and her shirt was getting bloody. She was not able to answer questions very well or identify the location of the pain.

Stephen was already on the phone with 911.

I looked around to get my bearings. We had been going west, but now we were on the far side of the east-bound lanes of the interstate.

Here’s what had happened: We had rolled over the cable separation barrier and landed right side up in oncoming traffic. When Stephen (the driver) refocused his eyes on the road after that roll, he saw the oncoming traffic about to hit us and he thought we were all going to die. However, the momentum kept us moving and we skidded across both lanes of traffic. Once Stephen saw we were on the shoulder, he stepped on the brake. He was shocked that we survived.

Back to my mom. She seemed a little faint and couldn’t answer questions very well, but she indicated the pain was subsiding. She was taken to the ER and later I learned that the blood was actually just from a cut on her hand. There was an initial fear of internal bleeding, but the CT scan showed her internal organs were okay. She does have a fractured shoulder, though, and bruised internal organs. The hospital kept her overnight but she is now at home recovering.

In the above picture you can see our red cooler in the median. Apparently it flew out while we rolled, along with other things. Almost all the van windows shattered and even our big harp was part way out the window. We do not have an explanation for how my mom, Sarah, and I (who were not wearing seat belts) did not also fly out the window, except for the Lord’s protecting hand. My mom was right next to the cooler, and she was even leaning against the window when we rolled.

Mom and Dad were very happy to be reunited, and we were all relieved Mom wasn’t worse. It is an unbearable thought to consider all the things that could have (and realistically speaking, should have) happened.

The hospital chaplain told us, “I’ve been working here for five years, and you are the first trauma accident where all the people have lived to tell about it.”

I questioned her, confused. I mean, we all know many survive car accidents. She explained that she only gets called for the serious accidents. And in situations like ours, we were the first family in five years that all survived.

As you can imagine, we were all pretty emotionally shaken. I remember sitting with Stephen in the waiting room, waiting to hear how Mom was.
“Did you think we were going to die?” I asked him.
“Yeah. I thought we were going to die,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.
The next few days were filled with emotion for all of us. Two days later, my dad was preaching the sermon at church and took the first 15 minutes of his sermon to tell of our accident. It was hard for him to get through it.

Through all the grateful tears, we also have an increased compassion for those that do experience great loss in these kinds of accidents.

Here’s where the accident took place. We were coming from the other way. You can see the cable barrier and broken posts. That’s where we rolled.

Praise God the van structure held up well enough during the roll that the roof didn’t crunch in further.

Sarah’s neck was very sore, and the next day at the junk yard and Detective Stephen discovered a clue as to why her neck hurt so much.

She must have hit her head on the ceiling of the van as we rolled. This is a chunk of Sarah’s hair caught in the van ceiling! Thankfully, the soreness in her neck is already subsiding.

Now our harp…. it didn’t do so well!

As we took off the harp cover, this is what we found. We’re grateful it was insured, but even if it wasn’t, it hardly feels like it matters. We’re alive.

On Sunday afternoon I sat down at our kitchen table with my Bible. It fell open to Psalm 116. I looked down at the verses and read these words: “For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:8-9). The whole chapter was amazingly appropriate. (Amazing how no matter the disaster, there’s a Psalm that will fit. 🙂 )

Stephen showing my mom pictures of the van the next day in the hospital

Right after the accident when I realized my family was alive, I felt such thankfulness to God that it was hard to express. It was this feeling of, “What could I ever do for You, Lord, to thank you for this?!”

Yet, that Friday night rescue wasn’t the biggest deliverance that the Lord had accomplished for me. The much bigger gift was when He died on the cross to rescue me and my family not just from earthly death, but from eternal death in Hell.

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” – Isaac Watts

The Lord has provided for us in countless ways: A young couple who saw the accident happening (from the oncoming traffic side) stopped immediately and were a comfort to us – they also had their families praying for us. A friend, Craig Rollinger, who lived nearby came immediately to give Stephen a ride from the hospital to retrieve the harp from the towing yard. Our church family showered us with love and met all our needs.

We have yet one more reason to owe our lives to Jesus. And we are reminded that He is able to easily rescue from any danger until He says it’s time to come Home.

42 thoughts on “Serious Van Wreck

  1. Yes, it is indeed hard to find the words of gratefulness to our Father for sparing your lives!! This narrative is such a good reminder that our lives and our times are in His capable, strong and loving hands!

  2. Grace, I’m so thankful the Lord kept you and your family! I had an accident July last year and it affected me deeply; but even through the shock of it, I came down to the end of the year, and as were reviewing the year and looking at God´s providence in our life, I came to realize that this was one of the biggest blessings this past year. May the Lord comfort you all. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

  3. Oh my. God has given you another beautiful story with which to share His goodness. Grateful He protected you all. But of course! He still has work for you all to do!!

  4. So glad you all are relatively ok! That looks absolutely terryifying. I’ll be praying for your mom and the rest of you as well.

  5. Oh, Grace, how scary!!! I am so rejoicing right now for your deliverance and the absolute miracle of the whole situation!!!!! Your family always has the most amazing testimonies, and God clearly wanted to add another very powerful one to the books!! Praise Him Praise Him!!! I will be continually praying that you will all reach full health once more soon and that this story will aid and bring comfort to the hundreds of people you influence daily!

  6. I saw your accident last Friday eve. Three of us were traveling east going about 45 mph when I saw your van lights sail over the median cables about 3 cars ahead of me. It is a miracle no one plowed into you! Your van was stopped, facing west on the shoulder but I could see people bobbing in the van and could see the side was bashed in. There were huge clods of sod in tbe road and your cooler was laying off to the side of the left lane. I have wondered how everyone fared. Glad for God’s protection.

  7. We are grateful that you are all okay! Thanking God for your protection and praying for your continued recovery and needs to be met.

  8. Brenda, that is amazing! How did you find this story?! You don’t know our family otherwise, do you? Thank you for sharing! I’ve wondered what it must have been like for those in the oncoming traffic lane! -Grace

  9. Wow, so glad you all are safe! The Lord certainly was protecting you all. I’ll be praying that everyone continues healing smoothly.

    -Bekah

  10. Grace, I am from Iowa and a homeschool mom. Your story of the van wreck was linked on the NICHE fb page and as soon as I saw it I wondered if it was about the wreck we had witnessed. Indeed it was, even down to the fact there was a cooler laying by the road. I so wished we could have stopped to help but I flipped on my four ways and started slowing traffic down behind me and since I was in the left lane the was no way of pulling over to the shoulder you were on. We came home from IN yesterday and saw the spot where the accident occurred. Last Friday evening were going to drive to IN but after witnessing the accident I was too shook up to drive and the weather was not improving so we spent the night in Wolcott at the hotel safe, but shaken. It was quite wild to see your lights flying up, up, up and then see the van bashed up on the shoulder in a blink of an eye.
    Where are you from? Here in Iowa?

  11. Brenda, Thank you so much for sharing what you saw; that’s fascinating. The other young couple who stopped to help us said they had seen headlights spinning — I think that was when we rolled. Is that kind of what you saw? We are from Cedar Rapids. That’s so neat that you are a home school mom from Iowa. Will you be at the NICHE conference? If so, we’ll see you there! We’re so glad you wrote to us. It happened so fast that we’ve been talking all week, trying to piece it together. I can see how you were shook up after seeing that and I’m glad you stayed safe in a hotel!

  12. Oh thank you Jesus. We don’t know you all personally but feel we do from reading your books and attending your conference. Thanking Jesus you are all ok.

  13. God’s hand of protection was on your family even before you left for the funeral! If you had been in a smaller vehicle, your chance of survival would’ve been even less! Praise God for His hand in the details like that big van! And insurance on your harp?! That’s a cherry on the top! May we never take anything for granted! Prov. 30:5 – Every word of God is pure; He is a SHIELD unto them that put their trust in Him.

  14. Praise the Lord! That is an awesome testimony of God’s amazing protection! I am glad to hear you are all doing well.

  15. Oh Grace… that is so scary, but what an amazing testimony of God’s goodness and grace!! I’m just praising the Lord so much for taking care of you all!! Much love! <3

  16. Hi Grace- I am so glad that each of you is alright. Wow. I’ve been thinking about this ever since you posted it.

  17. Hi Grace. My daughter and the other friend that was travelling together had told me we were actually in the right lane and drove right next to your van on the shoulder. It all happened so fast. We went up to the Wolcott, IA and checked into the hotel and while we were checking we saw the emergency vehicles headed your way. They were quick in getting on interstate to you, although I guess it might have seemed like forever to you!

  18. Dear Mally family,
    So very sorry to hear you all went through this traumatic event! Wow – how amazing that you all survived! When I heard about the accident and how you all survived with minimal injuries I just knew that someone in the van must have cried out the name of Jesus! And now reading your account it’s confirmed! PTL! He faithfully saves us from the hand of the enemy when we cry out to Him! What a great example of Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and and are safe! We have heard so many testimonies of how when believers cry out the name of Jesus in the face of an emergency they are “saved”.
    Thanking the Lord for your family and ministry, and praising Him with you for His power and protection! We will continue to pray for complete healing for all!
    With love,
    Bea Ann for the Bridges

  19. Praise the Lord you made it through. How life altering! Prayers Mom heals fast from her pain.

    Cherilyn Amborski

  20. It is awesome you’re all relatively unhurt and a miracle. Do you plan on wearing seatbelts in the future?

  21. Praise God for his grace and mercy toward you all. We’re so grateful!! This shows how God does hear the cries of his children and how in control he is💪🏽

  22. So thankful that you are all alive and with us. Thankful to Jesus for his rescue of you all during the accident. Praise the Lord. Thankful for the love and care of Jesus.

  23. Praise the Lord for His protection! What a story! May the Lord use it to bring you all closer to Him, even in the mundane activities of life, like traveling.

    How are you doing for transportation? We only just received the news in your email, so maybe we’re “late to the party,” but if you haven’t secured a van yet (we’d hate to see you have to pay for a new one and see your insurance shoot up), we have an extra van if you need it. It’s a 13-passenger Ford 350 Econoline and has about 150,000 miles on it. We have a bus now for our 14 kids and mostly just use the van for moving furniture or taking trips with too many people for a car, but too few for the bus.

    Anyway, let us know if you need it. We’re SO glad you made it through safely, but to think you could’ve also been in glory… Philippians 1:21-23

  24. Thinking about this, and your description, I think that you had adequate traction until you began to pass the the semi truck trailer. The wheels of the truck were throwing more ice sludge on the roadway that caused you to lose traction and begin to fishtail. Jesus is Jacob’s ladder; his angels ascend and descend on the Son of Man, John 1:51, that is they are sent on errands by Him, serving those who belong to Him. They were serving you. Thank you, Lord. By the way, I was in an accident of my own making in the early 70s. As soon as my vehicle was stopped, I jumped out to look at the damage to the two vehicles (I was towing one pickup with another pickup, and the rear vehicle began fishtailing, and I couldn’t get it stopped until they were side by side. ) I decided then that the only way to be sure I was wearing a seat belt when I needed it was to wear it always.

  25. Dear Alexander family, I know my dad was been emailing you but I also just wanted to add how amazed and touched we have been by your family! What a stunning example of the lavish grace and generosity of God.

    Larry, I think you’re exactly right about the sludge from the semi. And yes, that is a wise perspective on seat belts for sure! 🙂 Thanks for your comment and concern. Wow, your accident sounds terrifying also. Thank you Lord for your protection and for the angels He sends for our aid!

  26. Mally family,

    We are equally thrilled that the Lord opened up this opportunity! Due to all sorts of providential constraints, we are unable to do the kind of ministries you are able to do at your seasons of life; thus, we view this gift as a means by which we can minister with you and through vicariously. We also view this gift as our “reasonable service” in the kingdom (Acts 2:44-45; Romans 12:1; 1 Timothy 6:18-19).

    We pray the Lord gives you thousands upon thousands of miles of rich ministry, blessed fellowship, and powerful proclamation of the gospel with this van (1 Corinthians 15:58)!! May the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace. Soli Deo Gloria!

  27. Thank God you’re ok. I deeply hope that next time you’ll all choose to wear your seat belts, especially when you know the weather is bad and the roads are dangerous.

  28. Dear Grace,
    I love reading your stories.
    I recently read your sister’s book about purity. I was wondering how I could get in contact with her? I have been trying unsuccessfully to find her email. Thanks!

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