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Quiz Kid

JBQ training helps girl cope with tragedy

By Christina Quick

Sapna Aurora glanced in the rearview mirror at her daughter, Michelle.

As usual, the 8-year-old was poring over her Junior Bible Quiz material. Though the quiz season hadn’t yet started, Michelle enjoyed the challenge of JBQ, a program that promotes Bible memorization through team competition. Michelle always took her JBQ book along on car trips, using the travel time to study.

It was July 21, 2006, a day Sapna had meant to spend having fun with Michelle. A public schoolteacher, the single mom tried to make the most of summer break by carving out extra time for her only child. Earlier in the month, the two had taken a vacation to Chicago. Today, Sapna had planned an outing to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Those plans changed, however, when a friend called from the Houston airport asking for a ride home.

Sapna rarely said no to someone in need. She knew what it meant to depend on the kindness of others. A native of India, she had come to the United States three years earlier to take a teaching job in Pasadena, Texas.

Though her parents and siblings were a continent away, she found a network of support in the congregation at Faith Assembly of God in Pasadena. The people there became like an extended family to her and Michelle, showing them the love of Christ. Now, when Sapna had an opportunity to reach out to someone else, she didn’t hesitate.

Earlier in the day, Sapna had agreed to help another friend — a lady from church who needed a babysitter for her 9-year-old granddaughter, Cheyenne Perry. The girl sat in the backseat beside Michelle as the three headed toward George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

A few miles from their destination, a white car traveling at an estimated 90 mph attempted to pass them in the other lane. Suddenly, the car swerved, sideswiping the driver’s side of Sapna’s Toyota Avalon and launching it into a series of violent rolls.

The driver of the white car continued speeding down the road, fleeing the scene.

“It happened so quickly, in a matter of seconds,” Sapna says. “My car started rolling. I could see it toppling. My daughter was screaming, ‘Mama, stop it!’ Then I lost consciousness.”

Michelle was thrown from her seatbelt and through a window. She landed on the highway, in the path of an oncoming car. The vehicle ran over Michelle’s limp body, crushing her abdomen.

As news of the accident spread, friends and members of Faith’s pastoral staff gathered at the hospital. Fortunately, Cheyenne had escaped with only a few scrapes. However, both Sapna and Michelle were in grave condition.

Sapna was comatose with skull fractures and brain trauma. If she survived, doctors said, she could be mentally impaired.

Michelle, who had a shattered spine and severe internal injuries, was even closer to death. Surgeons removed portions of her intestines, but gave her little chance of living through the night.

“There were so many people praying,” says Vicki Evans, Michelle’s children’s pastor and JBQ coach. “They were on the prayer chain through our church, and we were praying for a miracle.”

Three days after the accident, Sapna regained consciousness and asked to see her daughter.

“They took me to see Michelle in the children’s ward,” she says. “I saw her covered in a sheet with all those tubes, but I didn’t know at that moment how severe her injuries were.”

Michelle had always been an active child, athletic and full of energy. She liked turning cartwheels, skipping rope and doing somersaults. Sapna had promised to enroll her in gymnastics lessons in the fall. Now, Sapna was told, Michelle was paralyzed from the waist down. She would need multiple surgeries and years of physical therapy, none of which would help her regain the use of her lower half. Doctors said there was no hope she would ever again walk.

Sapna was devastated. She knew God could heal her daughter, but she questioned why He would allow such a tragedy to enter their lives.

Comfort came from an unexpected source: Michelle. The verses the little girl had been learning in Junior Bible Quiz came alive to her and filled her with peace.

“I would walk into Michelle’s room, and you could feel the presence of God,” Evans says. “She would smile and say, ‘I’m fine. God is taking care of me.’”

Michelle did have one small complaint. She told Evans she lost her JBQ book in the accident. Evans brought a new one to the hospital.

The truths in that book sustained Michelle over the next year and a half as she endured several rounds of surgery and intense physical therapy.

“Her attitude was always so happy because she knew God and had His Word in her heart,” Sapna says. “I never saw her cry or whine or complain. She would quote the Twenty-third Psalm and talk about how God had saved her and protected her.”

Michelle encouraged others with her faith and Bible knowledge, including her doctors, nurses and physical therapists.

“She was a great testimony to everyone she met,” Evans says. “Those quotation questions and that information they learn in JBQ is God’s Word, and it’s living and active. These kids concentrate so much on winning, and that’s great. But I always tell them there will be times when you’re going to need these Scriptures. There will be times when this Word will carry you through something you couldn’t get through on your own.”

In December 2007, less than 18 months after the accident, Michelle walked into her church’s sanctuary with the aid of a walker — something doctors said she would never do. The entire congregation broke into applause.

Sapna has fully recovered from her injuries. Michelle, now 11, continually astounds doctors with her remarkable improvement. She still uses a wheelchair but has regained some mobility in her right leg.

Michelle participated in Junior Bible Quiz last season and helped her team qualify for the regional tournament in Dallas.

This will be her final year in JBQ, but she knows she will carry God’s Word with her for a lifetime.

Michelle’s favorite JBQ verse is Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (NIV).

“That means whatever happens, God will never leave me,” Michelle says. “He will always be with me, and His Word will be with me.”

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Mo., and attends Central Assembly of God. She and her husband, Wade, coach a JBQ team.

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