PIEDMONT, Okla. (BP)–There are a lot of “ifs” in this world.
Many of them have weighed heavily on Randy McCown the last few months.
If the waders had not sprung a leak.
If the steps hadn’t been wet.
If he had not been barefooted.
If he had not been in such a hurry.
If doctors had ordered an early MRI.
If any of these things had occurred differently, McCown might not be spending his days in a wheelchair paralyzed from the chest down.
On the other hand, if his accident had not happened, perhaps his niece would not be a Christian today.
Maybe one of the nurses who took care of him in the hospital, who had given up on God, would not be active in church today, and taking friends to church with her.
Perhaps those who attended Sunday evening services at the hospital — led by McCown — would not have been touched.
And, maybe, most important of all, McCown would not have realized fully that what he’s preached for 22 years really is true.
A graduate of East Central State University in Oklahoma with a degree in business education, McCown has spent most of his ministry as a bivocational pastor.
Although he was raised in church, he didn’t become a Christian until after he married, when his wife showed him that being a Christian means not just going to church but having a personal relationship with the Lord.
Three months later, he sensed God’s call to the ministry.
“I felt my ministry would be in small, rural churches, so I had a contingency plan of being bivocational, which I was for 13 years,” McCown said. His first job was as youth pastor at Lightening Ridge Baptist Church, Ada, Okla., while in college. He later was bivocational pastor there for nine years while teaching school. McCown also served as fulltime pastor at several Oklahoma Baptist churches.
When he went to First Baptist Church, Wetumka, he discovered his best friend from high school, whom he had not seen since graduation, was attending with his wife. She was a Christian, but he was not. McCown had the privilege of leading his high school friend to Christ.
Then came the bittersweet moment when McCown was to baptize his old friend.
It was his 44th birthday — May 7, 2000. Things were done a little differently on this day because McCown’s waders had sprung a leak, so he entered the baptistry barefooted. As he was coming out of the baptistry, the steps were wet, and he was in a hurry. His feet came out from under him, and he landed on his back and neck.
“It took me about 15 minutes to get back on my feet, and although I was in pain, I preached that morning,” McCown recounted.
The next day, McCown went to the doctor, who took X-rays, determined nothing was broken and put him in physical therapy and on steroids.
In June, First Baptist Church, Piedmont, Okla., extended a call to McCown to become associate pastor.
“At the time I didn’t understand it, but I felt God was leading me out of the senior pastorate to the position of associate pastor,” McCown said.
The pastor and his wife, Glory, and son, Gabriel, 20, moved to Piedmont in July. McCown said he felt healthy, was walking and playing golf.
Then on Aug. 25, he said he woke up with pain so intense he thought he was going to die.
“As we were waiting for the ambulance, I told my wife I didn’t want to make her a widow at such a young age,” McCown recalled.
He said he laid down on the couch, and before the ambulance got there, the pain went away. The next day, he went through his normal routine.
“My wife and I walked a mile that morning, and I jogged two miles that evening,” he said. “But about midnight, I woke up with that pain in my neck again.”
This time McCown’s wife and son decided to take him to the hospital. He walked to the car, but by the time they arrived at the hospital, he couldn’t walk.
From the results of an MRI, doctors discovered that a blood clot had formed from McCown’s fall in the baptistry. The pain, they said, was caused from the clot moving up the spinal cord. When it closed off the spinal cord, it paralyzed him. The blood clot was removed to keep it from causing further damage, but doctors told McCown he would never walk again. He was a paraplegic. McCown spent 66 days in the hospital. He went into respiratory arrest and was code blue twice because his lungs shut down. He had a mini-stroke while there. Emergency surgery was performed to put in a Greenfield Filter, which sets just below his heart to catch blood clots from his legs to keep them from going to his heart or lungs.
McCown said lying in the hospital those evenings after his wife left, loneliness set in, and it was just him and God.
“That was a time of discovering that what you’ve known and believed in your heart to be true really is real,” McCown said. “God is faithful.”
McCown said he had many opportunities to share the love and goodness of Christ while lying flat on his back.
“The accident was worth it to be able to witness to my niece I’ve been praying for for years,” McCown said. “As she was sitting in my room, I led her to Christ. She has been baptized and is going to church. I’m not sure that would have ever happened if it wasn’t for my condition.”
And God gave him opportunities to witness to nurses and orderlies, McCown noted.
“One young lady, who took care of me a couple of nights, said she had given up on God,” McCown said. “We visited, and I didn’t see her for three weeks. When she came back, she told me she was going to church again with a girlfriend and they were taking another friend with them.”
As McCown began to feel better, he started Sunday night services in the hospital dining hall.
“God was able to touch people through that,” he said.
McCown said his wife, whom he met on a blind date, understands what he is going through. At age 17, she was involved in a head-on collision on the way to a high school football game, spent eight weeks unconscious and was not expected to live.
“She had to learn to walk and talk, and even her ABC’s again,” he said. McCown said the churches at Wetumka and Piedmont have both been most supportive.
“I was gone from Wetumka when the paralysis set in, and I had only been in Piedmont two months. God’s people and God’s strength have brought me this far,” McCown said. “I don’t know how people who don’t have church families to lean on make it through things like this.”
Although doctors told McCown he will never walk again, he said God has given him assurance that one day he will no longer need his wheelchair.
“My therapist said he will have me up and walking within a year,” McCown noted.
“This isn’t about me, but about God and his faithfulness,” McCown said. “It’s about discovering what you’ve preached for 22 years really is true. “I’m going to walk again, not because of who I am, but because of who God is.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ROLLING IN FAITH.