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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. ...

Giving Up ... Not an Option!

By John W. Kennedy
Jan. 26, 2014

Chris Wood had just turned back onto U.S. Highway 212 after stopping to refuel en route to his home in Gillette, Wyo., from Ellendale, N.D. Four hours earlier, Wood had hopped into his 1978 Camaro after taking his last exam of the semester at Trinity Bible College. He was heading home for Christmas break in December 2012.

As he drove that evening, Wood thought about his plans to keep up his daily exercise regimen during the holidays in the expectation of making the Trinity football team in 2013.

Dense fog began to roll in, another delay in Wood’s arrival home on the 455-mile journey. Wood had purchased an energy drink at a Faith, S.D., gas station to help him stay awake for the remaining four hours of the trip.

He never got to drink it.

With the pickup truck in front of him traveling a sedate 45 mph, Wood pulled out to pass. As he reached 65 mph and prepared to merge ahead of the pickup, semi-truck headlights suddenly stared Wood in the face from out of the fog.

That is Wood’s last memory before awakening in a snowbank, blood trickling down his face. The crash thrust Wood through his car’s windshield, throwing him into a ditch 10 feet away from the crumpled automobile.  

An ambulance arrived in the remote region 45 minutes later and took the freezing student first to a small hospital in Eagle Butte before he was transferred to a medical facility in Rapid City.

“It was really stupid of me to pass,” Wood says. “It almost cost me my life. I should have died at the scene.”

Instead, Wood underwent a trio of surgeries. The wreck left him with three broken bones in his left foot, a compound fracture of his left arm, a broken pelvis, a broken femoral head on his femur, a broken sternum, a broken nose, a dislocated hip, a punctured lung, and a ruptured spleen — not to mention internal bleeding.

Doctors expressed concern about Wood being able to walk normally again because of the loss of blood around his hipbone after the crash. In one operation, Wood had a metal plate with five screws attached to his hip. The thought of not being able to participate in sports devastated Wood.

Ever since childhood, Wood dreamed of playing college football. In 2011, he enrolled at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D., but he broke his collarbone in a bicycle accident three weeks before camp opened.

Subsequently, Wood relinquished his dream of attending college and playing football. He resigned himself to working in the Wyoming coal mines as he has done since 2007.

But TBC defensive coordinator Orah Garst spotted Wood playing flag football in Gillette and recruited him. Wood prepared to play defensive back at the Assemblies of God school, but then learned his high school grade point average deemed him ineligible for the 2012 campaign.

Nevertheless, Wood’s tenacity impressed Trinity football coach (and athletic director) Dustin Morgan.

Morgan knew Wood worked 12-hour daily shifts in the coal mine over the summer, riding 20 miles round-trip on a bicycle to stay in shape. After work, Wood road his bike four miles to a gym for a two-hour evening workout lifting weights before returning home.

“A lot of times when kids go through ineligibility, they will shut down and sometimes even leave school,” Morgan says. “But Chris worked his tail off, making sure he would be on the field in the fall.”

“The ineligibility really woke me up about how important school is,” Wood says. So Wood resolved to stay in shape physically and get in shape academically. His next semester at Trinity he achieved a 3.56 GPA.

Then came the wreck.

Morgan says as soon as he heard about the accident, the Lord spoke to him that He had a plan for Wood and would use the crash for His glory. Morgan drove to Rapid City to visit the hospitalized Wood, taking a No. 21 jersey with him.

“I told him, ‘You’re going to be wearing this in the fall, son, not on the sidelines as a decoration; you’re going to be wearing it playing,’” Morgan says.

Wood began his physical rehabilitation even before his weeklong hospital stay ended. He recovered well enough to be able to return for classes on campus last January.

Although his weight dropped 30 pounds to 165 after the collision, by spring Wood returned to the football field for noncontact drills, running routes, and catching passes.

“To see him running after what he had gone through was unbelievable,” Morgan says.

“I wasn’t going to give up and let this beat me,” Wood says.

Although his physical recuperation progressed, emotionally Wood felt stunted. He broke down in crying jags during class, and never told anyone why. Always an introvert, Wood initially didn’t see God’s hand in sparing his life in the accident. Spirituality had no part in his attending Trinity.

“I was just here to play football,” Wood admits. “I didn’t care what the school was about.”

Then one evening last spring Morgan invited Wood over to his house for dinner. Wood unloaded the burdens he had been carrying. Morgan asked Wood if he had ever truly committed his life to Jesus. Wood conceded he didn’t really understand what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Morgan led Wood in a prayer to confess his sins and accept Jesus as his Savior.

“It was the most memorable night of my life,” Wood recalls. “A feeling of calmness washed over me even as I recited the prayer. My anxieties and stress were just gone. It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had.”

In the fall, Wood not only made the team as a redshirt freshman, he started at wide receiver. He played all 11 games, averaging 14.6 yards on 18 catches for the season.

Still, every day is a struggle physically. Wood must stretch for 25 minutes a day so his left leg doesn’t stiffen up. When he puts pressure on the leg while practicing or playing, pain is a constant reality.

“It’s a daily grind, but for me it’s worth it,” Wood says.

“I try not to think about getting hurt in a game,” Wood says. “I know injury is always a possibility in football. But I’ve taken hits and gotten up from them.”

Wood, now 25, has three years of football eligibility remaining at Trinity.

He credits the Lord for rejuvenating him, both on and off the field.

“I’m a completely different person,” Wood says.

“To see his spiritual transformation is incredible,” Morgan says. “It’s just as impressive as what has happened to him physically.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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