The Worst Day of My Life

Posted: September 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

November 15th marks the 9th year anniversary of the most horrific experience of my entire life, and it has nothing to do with internal church issues…but then again it’s the worst “INTERNAL” church issue I’ve  ever experienced.

From my early childhood I have ALWAYS viewed life as being simply too short.  I remember dreading to go to sleep at night, not because I didn’t enjoy rest & leisure.  I was just afraid I’d MISS something FUN or important.  I have even daydreamed about being CLONED somehow, so I could do 3 or 4 lives all at one time.  My problem with graduating high school – I knew I could technically do ANYTHING…but not EVERYTHING.

When the Holy Spirit got through to me in 1976, I realized how many “church” people are evidently NOT Christ followers.  I had prayed a prayer and was baptized in 1972 but it became REAL to me in 76.  Who knows, maybe I’ll stand before God and hear Him say…no son, I actually redeemed you in 72 and you just decided to get serious in 76.  Either way, I’m sure now and what came with getting serious was a literal “counting of how many days I have left”.  I still hated sleep but NOW it had as much to do with possible “wasted hours”, as the missing out on fun.

At 18, when I knew God wanted me in full-time church ministry and presumably pastor as my vocation, I saw it as a race… not a slow paced marathon, but a very, very, VERY long hard sprint.  Seriously, consider that if you are old enough to read this and understand it, you only have at best some 3000 weeks left?  If you have $5.00 you have 3000 weeks.  If you have $5 billion, you also have 3000 weeks.  Point is…3000 weeks.

So my ministry has always been one of urgency.  I have a sign in my office that reads “Thou Shalt Not Whine.”  And, to exponentially multiply this, I married a perfectionist who happens to have more talent in her little finger than me or most people I know.  SO…our quest together is to GET IT DONE, get it done RIGHT, get it done FAIRLY, and get it done YESTERDAY.

Quick synopsis of our ministry – started as a youth minister – couldn’t wait everyday to get off of my secular job as a mailman to get to our REAL job – youth ministry.  Church of @150 – we had 25-30 youth.  But, that wasn’t enough.  We started a para-church county wide ministry in 2 neighboring towns – we saw 100+ young “spirit warriors” give their lives to Christ within a few months.  If their parents attended a church other than ours, we directed them to attend THAT church with their family.  Many years later this “Spirit Warrior Youth” thing is well into its second generation and there’s no idea how many people these young “warriors” have influenced for Christ.  Seems like we’ve always strategized “outside the box”.

Seminary – I prayed God, “I have two children and a good job … (deal) if you can work out a transfer with the post office, I can go.”  Weeks later I was in the Gretna, Louisiana post office working minutes away from seminary.  As my second year began, a classmate said, “I know a church that you need to talk to.”  Weeks later, I was no longer a mailman.  I became a full time youth minister of around 75 youth (church avg. 700) – within 6 months we maxed out at 152 before we eventually received a call back home to pastor a small rural church in SC…a “GREAT” small church, ran about 60-70 that allowed me to cut my teeth and make youthful mistakes.  We saw 47 baptisms that first year.  Soon we received the call to a city church – small city church where literally half the deacons & leadership were having (or recently had) affairs and two of them (males) with each other.   I learned very quickly that a step UP to a bit larger church was not always the best step (so I never again took the ministry “ladder” approach again).  Now we look for “the writing on the wall” from the Holy Spirit.  When He is in it … you just know!!!

In 2000 we saw the writing on the wall and knew without a doubt that God was directing us to Christchurch, New Zealand where we would spend 5 years that literally changed our lives and mindset (we actually spent our first year in Auckland). Finding out that two of our four parents had stage 3 cancer brought us back to the States for a while (that lasted a long while).  New Zealand became home to us because we changed … and we fit.  There have been many life lessons that we have gained along the way.  And many great experiences worth mentioning, but I won’t bog you down.

Lis and I both have always been serious soldiers, showing up first in line …for marching orders.   Lord…you SAY it…we’ll DO it.  One day in 1987 during Spirit Warriors, I felt the Lord saying, “If you really want THIS building…walk around it 7 times (like Joshua) and show your sincerity.”  I know…I’m an IDIOT.  Well, after my seventh time around, I felt very personally satisfied.  Lesson learned.  And NO, we didn’t get the building – the Lord just wanted ME to realize for myself that I, Chip Morgan WOULD DO WHATEVER HE SAID even if I didn’t understand the details.  I DID what I was TOLD.  I can’t wait to talk that one over face to face.  Glad to bring you a smile… SIR.  I still laugh over that because I can imagine all of heaven pointing and laughing (I’m kidding … I know there are more important things to do there).  The overwhelming GOD message – “Chip, I don’t need you to FIGURE IT out for Me or even for you…I just need you to keep your eyes ON ME.  I’ve got this.  When I say move…you just learn to MOVE.”

So, now I am downright obsessive about the days that I have left.  I figure statistically, if you stand before the Lord (in that day) without having had SOMETHING (plant, water, harvest) to do with at least 5000 coming to Christ, you’ve wasted a lot of life.  Just THINK, if we interact with 3 people a week and let our “light” shine and your words be heard, 5000 is pretty much a minimum over a lifetime.  It’s like a pyramid business, you influence one who influences one, who influences one.  Or even better it’s like the Bible, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

NOW MY TRAGEDY!!!

My wife and I had just gotten to the church – a church that had been written off by most.  The search committee promised, after I reiterated over & over … please DON’T call me unless we are going to REACH THIS IMMEDIATE COMMUNITY like NEVER before.  I am NOT AT ALL interested in simply maintaining a satisfied church.  There was an Army base within easy walking distance (tattoos… no way) and an urban housing project literally feet away (poor, unruly, kids of different races … you’re kidding).

We began to head in the right direction with a great unified attitude as we started to renovate a 1970’s church into a state of the art 21st century place of worship.  Instead of putting the jailhouse industrial look back into the bathrooms we created “a beautiful Tuscan tiled bathroom that people actually came out of talking about how nice it was. We spent $5000+ instead of $2000.  We…excuse me (I) … yes I … insisted that the 1970’s wallpaper come out of the 30 ft high sanctuary and throughout all the halls.  Also the children’s building needed to be “themed,” as well as our nurseries.  OF COURSE, it was only the idea that originated from me.  It took my wife and some wonderful ARTISTS and some strong construction oriented people to make it happen.  We also wanted to turn our youth building into the MOST cutting edge hang-out that it could possibly be … within our budget.

Lisa and I were in our offices like we were on most late afternoons.  Everyone else had gone home and we were getting ready ourselves.  We had hired a very admired Christian man who sang Southern Gospel music with his family group on the weekends and worked as a painter by trade during the week.  He was the lowest bid and we knew him & his ministry so he got the contract.

They were in the process of repainting our two-story, 30 ft tall, fan shaped sanctuary from top to bottom.  It was Bruce, his son, and two workers that had been with him, like forever.  Bruce had borrowed a scaffold from a dry wall guy in our church and had his extension ladder braced on top of the double scaffold.  We had enjoyed him singing “I’m winging my way back home” all day while he worked away.

Lis and I were in the office wing…some 100 yards away, I’d guess.  All of a sudden we heard a “traffic accident”, a fallen power pole, maybe the wall of our church crumbling … SOMETHING … something loud and NOT good.  Time sort of went into slow motion when we realized that it was very close, like INSIDE.  I moved fast, then I ran.  When I swung the sanctuary doors open I caught first glance of a pile of scaffolding and ladder at the back of our church.

I have always known that I was a leader because in any tragedy I go into “Survivor” mode.  Yep, I’m the one they send home first – I automatically & very sternly instruct … YOU call 911, YOU get a blanket, and YOU come help me with this.

Only this time it was WAY worse. The 3 workers/son actually SAW it happen, so just one look at the result and (instant shock) it petrified them to such a degree that they absolutely could NOT come back inside.  Three grown men almost crying, “I CAN’T!”  I guess I went into three stages – 1.shock – 2.protect my wife – and 3. you’re IT buddy… whether you want to be IT or not.  When I approached what I thought would be, at least somehow, a fixable situation… it was anything BUT.

My first words were, “LISA   DO  NOT come over here!!!  DO     NOT – he IS alive – so call 911.  What my eyes were gazing on was straight out of anything but REALITY.  Oh…God…oh…God…oh God and I was not taking His name in vain.  Bruce had been painting the very tip of the peak of the wall when the ladder pushed the scaffold completely over causing him to plunge head first off the top of the ladder into the tangled scaffold and onto the concrete floor.  Claw marks were visible on the freshly painted wall.  The scaffolding sprawled onto the rear 3 pews and in the middle of it all was the contorted body of this gentleman who had brought a smile to us all morning with his singing.

When I got to him, he was inverted at about 30 degrees, his right leg twisted so far back that his foot was up close to his shoulder.  I couldn’t tell or I don’t really remember the other leg.  His back was no doubt broken because of the extreme bend.  Both of his arms were obviously broken, his left sort of parallel with his body, back just enough to be snapped.  And his right arm was not even describable.  It was exactly like an arm is NEVER supposed to be.  It was bent behind his back straight up, with 4-5 inches of a raw jagged bloody bone sticking out the end with the hand and wrist dangling below like a piece of rubber.  The worst part is that I knew I shouldn’t – I couldn’t possibly – move him, and the problem was … his face was slammed, nose first into the thinly carpeted concrete.  (We would later dig nose bone fragments out of the concrete.)

He was still breathing and all I could do was keep calling his name and trying to encourage him if he could hear me.  I wanted to KEEP MY WIFE AWAY from the horror and make sure HIS SON didn’t come back in.  The ONLY constructive thing I could do for him was to keep the blood away from his nose and mouth, so he wouldn’t asphyxiate.  And for what seemed like an eternity I scraped a quart of blood at a time away from his face, each swipe would only make room for the next quart to gush out.  I simply could NOT get ahead of the flow, but I knew he’d drown if I didn’t keep it up.  It started to GET TO ME and I don’t know if I cried out loud … or just inside.  But when the ambulance finally arrived, the paramedics came in, took one look and couldn’t have cared less about any damage that might take place by moving him.  They moved as much metal that could be moved and one of the two guys said to me “OK…now grab his legs and let’s flip him over as evenly as we can.”

He was immediately intubated and before long they were gone and there we sat…tired, clueless, helpless, SPENT.  My precious wife … (some of ya’ll … just think you know my wife) she began to console the workers and son (she is the most compassionate person I know) and we got them to just sit & wait there until the family could arrive from 30 minutes away.  Bruce lived in ICU for several days but he never regained consciousness.  He was basically dead when I was in his face, urging him to hang on.

I left the church that day, NEVER to be the same.  For months all I can remember hearing from my congregation was the scaffold guy (deacon) worrying about getting sued, and everyone talking about how tragic the accident was.  I was numb.  But I had a job to do and that job was to be the PASTOR, the counselor, the “encourager”.  Life became EVEN MORE URGENT for me.  The chairman of deacons had helped me and Lis clean up the blood with a carpet cleaner (over & over & over & over & over…foamy blood).  I think if anyone understood he did.  We replaced the carpet squares in the middle aisle at the back under the clock next to the sound booth.  If you go into that church today you can see exactly where it happened (as clear as day) because the carpet doesn’t match.  Week after week, I stood in the pulpit staring back at the war zone that I had NOT yet come to grips with, as a reminder every week.  Some commented that my preaching had changed – more urgent – not quite as funny – much more serious.

For months, there was not one single solitary HOUR that passed that I didn’t think about it.  I woke up one morning weeks later at 3 am throwing up, numb, really hurting in the chest, dizzy, head pounding, I could NOT move – a sure heart attack.  I told Lisa that she had best call 911, I thought it was bad.  When the ambulance got there and got me to the hospital I found out for the first time what a “panic attack” is and how it mimics a heart attack.  Weeks later, again I just randomly passed out in our hall bathroom and knocked a hole in the wall.  It scared the girls to death.  I told a few close friends, but by this time everybody was back to their normal lives .  The funeral was way past.

BUT, finally the breaking point came.  One day I was driving home and I heard an advertisement on the radio about this man’s family singing, still ministering, and I started to literally sob.  They were going to be at some local church.  I remember as vividly as if it were today…I SAID IT OUT LOUD to myself.  THE LORD NEEDED ME … TO HEAR IT.  I seriously said through a stream of tears, “IF I HAD NOT KILLED THEIR DAD…he’d be singing with them tonight”.  It was then that I knew I needed help…real help.  You see…with leadership comes responsibility, and down deep in my soul I reasoned that “if I had not insisted that our church look its best to welcome new guests” Bruce would still be here.  I WAS GUILTY…I surmised.

Thank God for doctors in a military town who deal with PTSD everyday!  It’s been several years now and I don’t think about it as much…probably once every week or two…and I don’t dwell on it as long.  I generally have a terrible memory, but I can reenact every microsecond of that event.

I HAVE changed – I’ll never be the SAME person.  I’m glad God is actively molding and changing me (and Lis) for new and exciting challenges.  And we will proudly approach the next challenge with just as much ZEAL as we have faced prior ones.

I pray that I will continue to CHANGE – to grow and learn, and that God will correct me and/or reward me.  And I pray that November 15, 2007 will always remain “the worst day of my life”.

Comments
  1. Minha tia faleceu possui 1 ano e ela incessantemente me disse գue meu
    nome estava no testamento, mаs eu não ѕei ɑ quantia ou bens deixado. https://Www.Facebook.com/qualityassessoriadocumentacoes/

  2. Hey nice post. I hope it’s ok that I shared it on my Twitter, if not, no
    issues just tell me and I’ll delete it. Either way keep up the
    good work.

  3. Wow, what a story of a tragic event. Def see the sense of urgency in your Ministry. My family & I thank God for you & Lis serving The Lord in Chillicothe.

  4. chipmorgan says:

    Thank you my Kiwi daughter…it seems like forever, but like yesterday too since we have seen you. Our plans, had our situation been better, was to help get you girls over for the BIG DAY. I’m sure it would have made the day complete especially for Jen. Thanks for the compliment Sarah and I hope God is smiling on your life these days. Chip

  5. Sarah says:

    Wish I could give you a hug! You remind me of my dad 🙂
    Amazing to see how God uses our worst moments to mould us and ultimately bless us. x

  6. Melanie Parsons says:

    Once a Spirit Warrior, always a Spirit Warrior.
    True Warriors are trained to fight the real battles, the ones that send most “soldiers” going AWOL. Warriors are covered in scars that prove they’ve seen, and survived, the deepest, darkest trenches. They choose their battles wisely, knowing that when it comes to battles, you win some, you lose some. It’s not all about the battles, but it is ALL about the war.

    You are a true Warrior and I am so proud you. How blessed was I to go through my Basic Training under your leadership! 🙂
    Isaiah 40:31

    Love you much,
    Melanie

  7. Giinger says:

    Thanks for being so real! And for being CHANGED and outof the RUT! We are no good to God when we become indifferent with no purpose! Glad to know there are others out there running the race with INTENTION for time is SHORT! Just like you, I have no time for needy whining Christians…the harvest is white so get out of my way! Looking forward to more of your posts!

  8. Nett Everett says:

    Posted this on Lis’ page but I wanted to repeat to yours. (I am experiencing some aweful jetlag while writing this so I hope it makes sense….LOL!!)

    This past June as I stood by and helpless watched a my mother’s life slowly slipped away…..and then the excruciating days that followed (and the days that still find my mind flooded with thoughts of what I could have done differently), I am reminded that we spend WAY too much time on things that don’t matter. I have been on a mission since June the make sure that I don’t continue to waste time on purpose-less things. ….like whining because I don’t have this or that…..or needlessly finding fault in people. There’s so much more that I could say but it’s late and I need to spend time with family… Thanks for sharing this incredible story! Nett

  9. Can I just say….WOW….and I’m proud of you wouldn’t even come close to what I feel and think. This was awesome, Chipper….you’re an incredible writer…an amazing man who continues to mesmerize me with your talents. I love you SEVEN!

  10. Jena says:

    I’ve never been more proud of the amazing man I get to call Daddy…I love you 7…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s