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After tragic loss of 4-year-old, parents gain new passion for God

ORDWAY, Colo. (BP)–Brett and Stephanie Rusher could’ve known an unprecedented kind of despair and hopelessness.

The Rusher’s 4-year-old son, Dyson, died last fall following a tragic accident at a feed store near their home in Ordway, Colo. For five agonizing days, the Rushers kept watch over their son at the Children’s Hospital in Denver. They journeyed further emotionally during that week than many people do in a lifetime.

They were already believers. They were even involved in ministry. Brett was serving as a pastor of the Haswell Baptist Mission in southeastern Colorado. But for five days, their faith was tested. They laughed, cried and prayed. They were pushed to the emotional brink as they begged, pleaded and cried out in anger at God.

But when the time came to remove the life support from their son’s broken body, they experienced firsthand the awesome power of God to meet any need, no matter how great. After five grueling days, they emerged from the hospital without their son, but with a newfound faith in God. And many new ministry opportunities.

“I hate when people say, ‘Oh, your faith is so strong,'” Stephanie said. “It’s not our faith. It’s all God. When people ask how you are, you can’t answer without giving credit to God.”

Witnessing opportunities have spread out from the Rushers like ripples on water. Though the loss of their son was tragic, the evidence of God’s work surrounding Dyson’s death has been unarguable.

Through her job in nearby La Junta, Stephanie has told about 60 people about Christ. And Brett has shared his testimony throughout the community, even a bull sale at the La Junta Livestock Commission.

“My focus now is on eternity, instead of the ranch work,” he said. “I’m still here for a reason, to finish what God has left me here for.”

Since Dyson’s death, Brett has been studying a lot in the Old Testament, “reading about all the warnings people had and they didn’t heed them,” and that has fueled the fire for ministry in his life.

“When I first got into pure-bred cattle, it consumed me,” Brett said. “But now, it’s keeping me from ministry.”

For both Brett and Stephanie, the testimony of God’s life-changing power begins well before Dyson’s death. Brett readily admits to a lifestyle of drinking, partying, DUIs and bull-riding. But the death of his grandmother, and faith she displayed at the end of her life, got his attention. He credits God with taking away his drinking problem and changing his life.

“Had Dyson’s death happened earlier in my life, I would’ve been in a bar rather than at the hospital with my family,” he said. “God gave us enough strength and knowledge that when we were faced with Dyson’s death, we knew where to turn.”

Stephanie, too, credits God for a solid spiritual foundation in life.

“When Brett was out drinking, I would obsess over where he was and what he was doing,” she said. “Satan would convince me that Brett was evil and that I should abandon the relationship. But I learned that, instead, I should be in the Bible, praying for him. I learned a godly focus.”

That godly focus did much to prepare the Rushers for Dyson’s death.

“I was working in La Junta, but really wanted something closer to home,” said Stephanie, admitting an unhappiness about returning to the workforce. That’s when God brought a co-worker into her life, Joyce Bond, who would become a friend and mentor to Stephanie.

“Joyce’s son is a quadriplegic. She battled cancer. And she knows the Bible so well,” Stephanie said of the healthy perspective brought to her life by Joyce.

Joyce was even involved in God’s plan on the day Dyson was injured. Though Stephanie was out of town on business, Joyce was traveling with her for the same meeting. She was a comfort and companion to Stephanie as she received the tragic phone call and traveled to the hospital in Denver.

The Rushers have seen a number of ways they are different people now than before Dyson’s death.

“I was having a hard time understanding my role as the spiritual leader in the home,” Brett said. “But that was so important at the hospital.”

Stephanie gained a new understanding of one situation. The Rushers once lived in Haswell, but moved to the ranch near Ordway with Brett’s grandfather. “I resented the old house and having to take care of him,” she admitted. But now, she appreciates the arrangement. “It’s helped fill a void. It’s given me someone else to take care of.”

The couple does face struggles with Dyson’s death, but they admit it’s usually when they haven’t spent time in the Bible.

“I sometimes think, ‘You could’ve done it different,’ and I get angry at God,” said Stephanie. “But then I realize that if Dyson were here, if the kids were perfect, if we were rich and successful…. That’s all so worldly. It’s not eternal. I find so much comfort in the fact that Dyson is in heaven. He’s better off than any kid here on earth.”

Their 7-year-old daughter, Callie, also admits to struggles, but added, “God helped me not be mad at him.”

Shortly before Dyson’s death, it was Callie who helped lead her brother to Christ. Since his death, the Rushers said that heaven and the power of prayer have become more real to her, too.

Brett and Stephanie are now pursuing a path into ministry, feeling a new call on their lives from God.

“For now, we’re going to stay in agri-business, but we’re leaving it in his hands,” Brett said of their future ministry.

“God hasn’t revealed what direction he’s going to take us,” he said. “But we’ve talked about several options. I would like to keep preaching at Haswell.”

The Rushers continue to be energized by God’s provisions in Dyson’s death.

“When we pulled the life support, I thought, ‘God, I can’t do this,'” Stephanie said. “Then immediately, there was a peace. I literally felt myself being picked up and carried. Every time I start to feel hopeless and desperate, God’s peace comes over me.”

“God continues to show us his love,” Brett said. “He’s given us people who care so much and he gave us enough strength to accept his decision. He gives us strength by showing us the effect all of this has had on peoples’ lives.”

    About the Author

  • Allen Spencer