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Miracles can come in a blue Malibu, too

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–This is a story — if not a parable — about Russell Goodrich and his $5 miracle. It involves drug addiction, faith, divorce, redemption, baptismal murals, the power of prayer, needy children, Bill Collins Ford in Louisville, Ky., and a baby blue 1979 Chevy Malibu.
Goodrich, 40, is a tall, gregarious, instantly likable man who speaks in an accent born of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He attended high school in Richmond, dropped out and worked for a beer distributor. His addiction to drugs — his wild limousine sprees into New York and Philadelphia funded by a rich friend who took money from a family business — had cost Goodrich his marriage and his only child, a 12-year-old daughter. A Virginia truck accident nearly cost him his life.
“It was a Monday night,” he said, “and I hit my favorite bar, as I always did, drinking Bud Light and Wild Turkey.
“After about six or seven of each I got into my truck. The next thing I remember lights were flashing and sirens were going off … . A medic was leaning over telling me I had been in an accident.”
Goodrich had been looking for ways out of his lifestyle. He’d confessed to his sister that he was frightened, that God was trying to put him down. A hospital nurse asked Goodrich as he was being treated whom he wanted to call.
“I had no one to call,” Goodrich said.
The next day Goodrich went to see his truck. Its passenger side had been ripped off; he’d missed death by inches. He went to the site of the wreck, saw that his careening truck had somehow turned uphill just before crashing into a concrete drainage pipe.
“I dropped to my knees, “Goodrich said. “God had my attention.”
In January 1997, he began classes at Boyce Bible School, a division of Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for students called late in life to the ministry. Last May, wanting to extend his personal ministry to Louisville’s inner city, Goodrich began volunteer work at the Jefferson Street Baptist Community at Liberty.
He rode his bike from the Lexington Road campus until a rainy day stopped him. If his personal ministry was going to continue, he needed a car. That same day a friend showed him a newspaper advertisement: “Used Cars to be Sold for $5.00” at Bill Collins Ford, 4220 Bardstown Road.
Goodrich took a bus to Bill Collins Ford and walked among the 2,000 cars and trucks, trying to guess which would be sold for $5. The new prices would be posted at 10 a.m. the next day; potential buyers had to be sitting in the car.
Goodrich made a list of five likely candidates, including a baby-blue 1979 Chevy Malibu. He returned to school, wrote down the car names on pieces of paper and put them into a baseball cap. He asked God to help him choose. The name he pulled from the cap: the blue Malibu.
On sale day Goodrich woke at 4 a.m. and walked to Bill Collins Ford. He sat in the blue Malibu four hours waiting to see if that car, which had a price of $2,995 on the windshield, would be sold for $5. The dealership had picked those sale cars days earlier. Meanwhile, Goodrich had told his story to any customers who came by.
“A whole group of people had gathered while I sat there,” Goodrich said. “They all were cheering when my car went for $5. It was a miracle.”
There would be more. Goodrich is a talented artist but had done nothing with his abilities. In his $5 car he would make regular trips to the Jefferson Street Baptist Community at Liberty, where Diane Moten, minister to the homeless, called him a “breath of fresh air.” He would volunteer at Pitt Academy, a school for disabled students, where director Doris Swenson said he is “very patient” with students, “an excellent teacher.” He would paint a marvelous baptismal mural at Cooper Road Baptist Church, where pastor Ed Amundson called him “the most outstanding young man I have ever known.”
After graduation Goodrich will return to Virginia. He has reconciled with his ex-wife and dotes on their daughter. He wants to work with the poor of Northampton County, where he once distributed beer. He’s going back home in a baby-blue 1979 Chevy Malibu.

Reprinted with permission from The Courier-Journal, March 17, 1998.

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  • Bob Hill