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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Defined By Fire

Kc Kopaska is an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary and director of Native American Ministries (nativeamerican-ministries.org). He and his wife, Diane, have ministered to Native Americans for more than 20 years. NAM partners with reservation churches to connect them with resources and compassionate volunteers. The following excerpt from Afterburn, co-written by Kopaska and Carole Liston, describes the 1976 fiery accident that became the defining event in Kopaska’s life.

Whoosh! The massive explosion of energy ignited with a thunderclap of sound and flame. The sound of flammable liquids igniting was familiar to me, but always before it had been a noise that came from a direction away from me, usually because I did something risky, like squirt lighter fluid or gasoline on hot coals before tossing a match into the vapor it created. The sound was always one-dimensional. It came from a single direction.

This time it was different.

Now, it was “surround sound” and I was consumed by it. It came from every direction. The gasoline and its vapors excited the flames. I was immersed in a hellish, catastrophic eruption, as fierce as vengeance. For a moment my entire world was defined by fire; bright orange flames engulfed the inside of the Jeep. Out of instinct I yelled, “JUMP!” and hurled myself out of the inferno as the Jeep hit the ground on the other side of the fence.

It was too late.

My gasoline-soaked clothing took over where the Jeep explosion left off. Though I hit the ground rolling, hoping to extinguish the flames, the fire just kept roaring. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was rolling in a dry, grassy pasture. With every roll, my flaming body was setting the field on fire, adding to the searing heat. Nature dealt her own cruel blow by mercilessly fanning the flames with that cold, morning wind, which moments before had seemed to be my best friend. Now that same mountain wind became my worst enemy, charging down out of the mountains and onto the neighboring plains, fanning the incessant flames.

Still, I kept rolling. The fire would not give up its relentless assault on my dying flesh. I became angry. I suddenly had an awareness that it was eating my face away. My thoughts raced for a solution.

“… It’s messing me up!” I rolled with both hands over my face in a vain attempt to protect my youthful good looks. It was of little use. Time himself seemed to slow down to watch the gruesome spectacle. Everything went into slow motion as I fought the fire. Roll. Whoosh! The gasoline-soaked clothes on my backside would ignite as I rolled on my stomach. Roll. Whoosh! My front side re-ignited when I rolled on my back again. It was a mad cycle of torment and rapidly increasing hopelessness. Then I became furious. This had to stop.

But how?

Suddenly, in a flash, I knew the answer. I could stop fighting and give my life to the fire. In a brief moment of clarity, my mind laid before me a choice. I can inhale this fire, give myself up to it, and die right now, or I can fight through this and live, but never be the same person again. I had no concept or concern about what might lie on the other side of death. As far as I knew, there would be no pain, no suffering; my life would just cease to be. If I took one breath of the flames, it would be all over. The same element that was mauling my skin with its fiery teeth would make quick work of my fragile lungs.

Time stopped altogether now, as if holding his breath — watching me, waiting to see what I would choose.

A thought came unbidden to my mind, as if Someone was giving me a choice. “So, you choose. Will it be life or will it be death?”

Death. In an instant, I knew.

I chose death.

I stood in the flames and exhaled all of the air out of my lungs, prepared to breathe in the fire. Perched on the threshold of eternity, I was literally one breath away from stepping over. Then, as I chose death, for reasons beyond my understanding, a remarkable thing happened. Life chose me.

With no sense of falling, I felt the ground rise up to meet me. A black quiet washed over me like a flood. I knew that I hit something, but there was no pain; in fact, there was no feeling of any kind — only the dark, intruding world of the unconscious.

Unconsciousness was replaced by peace when I emerged from my involuntary slumber. It was a euphoric kind of peace that saturated my entire being. I did not feel the ground, even though I was lying on it. Neither did I feel any pain, or any other sensation for that matter. Fear was a thousand galaxies away, harassing some other poor soul. All that I could feel physically, emotionally and mentally was pure, inexpressible peace. Lying there on the horizon between the black voice of unconsciousness and the blinding light of reality, a Voice spoke to me. It was clear, it was inner, and it was Other.

“Everything is going to be all right.”

God’s promise, “Everything is going to be all right,” became an anchor for Kc Kopaska, even before he accepted Christ as his Savior. In the ensuing months of hospital treatment, God brought about a series of survival miracles. Kopaska would eventually find spiritual as well as physical healing, and go on to share his testimony with thousands.

From Afterburn by Kc Kopaska and Carole Liston (Bloomington, Ind.: Westbow Press, 2011). Excerpted with permission.


KC KOPASKA is director of Native American Ministries for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions.

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