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one to one: a life-altering event


Keith Burden is the executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Email Keith at


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It was a day or two after Thanksgiving, November 1979. My wife, daughter, and I were returning home after celebrating the holiday with family. As we drove into our small community, we were stopped by the lone traffic light. Directly ahead, a tow-truck pulled the mangled remains of an International Harvester truck. I remember commenting, “That looks a lot like Junior’s pickup.”

Minutes later we pulled into a friend’s driveway. I thought he might know what happened. He did. There had been a terrible accident. A family of four in our congregation was involved. The mom, dad, and daughter had been taken to a hospital in a neighboring community. The little boy didn’t make it.

My friend accompanied me to the hospital. Our hearts grew heavy as we made the 20-minute drive. Family members greeted us as we entered the emergency room waiting area. Slowly they recounted the nightmarish details.

The driver of the other vehicle ran through a blind intersection, broad-siding the pickup, and was killed instantly. The father was receiving treatment for his injuries in the next room. The mother and daughter had more serious injuries and were transported to a medical center in a larger city.

A few days later I officiated at the memorial service of the eight-year-old. His father was in a wheelchair. His mother and sister were still hospitalized. Our little church building was filled beyond capacity. The sight of that undersized casket lingers in my memory to this day.

Was this a difficult assignment for a young pastor? Sure it was! But something had happened a few months earlier that brought consolation to an otherwise unbearable situation. During a Sunday morning worship service, I gave an invitation. Without fanfare, that little lad slipped out of his pew and came to the altar—his dad following close behind.

I stood on the side of the stage looking down on the scene. Light flooded in from a side window silhouetting the image of that father hovering over the little boy as he prayed the sinner’s prayer. No one could have imagined that a short time later he would be in paradise, in the presence of his Heavenly Father.

A Thanksgiving seldom passes without this experience coming to mind. It serves as a timeless reminder to be thankful for family…especially our children. It also accentuates the importance of child evangelism.

Leading boys and girls to faith in Christ should be top priority for all of us. A trip to the altar could alter the life of a child you know.


©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists