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Heart Matters: Light in the Darkness

"Marlin, go outside now," I'd urged. "You've been in front of the computer long enough. Dad needs help."

Marlin,11, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. His aim of helping Dad quickly evaporated when he noticed neighbors playing outside, though, and he ran to join them.

After the front door slammed, I returned to my quiet kitchen, rolling out pie crusts in the peaceful afternoon. But it wasn't peaceful long.

"Mommy!" It was my daughter, screaming. "Marlin got hit by a car!"

I ran outside to see, and my heart stopped.

Marlin was lying in the street. While playing, he'd stepped right into the path of an oncoming van. His leg was severely injured, but the larger concern was that he was totally unresponsive.

Marlin ended up on a flight-for-life to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. There the neurosurgeon gave us the surreal news: "Marlin has two blood clots and multiple skull fractures. The clots must come out immediately, but the risks of surgery include death, brain damage, and seizures." Our choices were grim, but necessary.

Marlin pulled through the surgery. He'd remain unconscious and disoriented, though, and struggle to communicate for the next two weeks. I was shocked to hear him cry out in the middle of the second night, as clear as a bell.

"Jesus!" Marlin called out, "I love you! You're my best friend!" It was a speechless, tearful moment for all of us sitting in Marlin's room.

On the fourth day in the hospital, I was startled once more when Marlin spoke, again clearly and precisely.

"Here I am, Lord," Marlin said. "Take and use me, for I know you have a plan for me. When the night is lonely and I have no light to see, still I hear your voice calling to me." These words were lines Marlin had been practicing for an upcoming musical at our church. Marlin was going to play Daniel.

Often after a traumatic head injury, a person's ability to filter what he or she says gets lost. So whatever's inside just comes out -- whether it's curse words, prejudices, or a preoccupation with cartoons. With Marlin, it was Jesus.

Over the course of two frightening and uncertain weeks, our family got an up-close look at what was embedded in Marlin's heart. And so did all the people in his wing of the hospital. Marlin talked constantly to Jesus during his comatose state, sometimes so loudly that people 10 rooms down the hall could hear him.

To calm Marlin, we sang to him. His way of responding was to sing back the songs he'd learned in Sunday school.

During times when I was too exhausted to talk, I'd simply rest my head near him and whisper Jesus' name in his ear. These things had a calming effect on Marlin. We watched as the Jesus that Marlin had accepted into his heart as a small child became the Jesus that held Marlin close to his own heart throughout Marlin's darkest days.

Today Marlin's head injury is 100 percent healed. Amazingly, he was able to perform his part as Daniel in the musical, and this year he moved from our children's ministry into the youth group. He's also helping me serve first- and second-graders -- a role he loves.

Marlin's story is proof for children's ministers that the invisible seeds you plant will spring up in children's lives. Marlin's faith kept him strong; he knew God wouldn't leave him in darkness. He knew this thanks to the children's ministers who'd faithfully planted seeds in him throughout the years.

Brenda Roth has served in children's ministry for 30 years.

What's on Your Heart?

Send your 500-word story to "Heart Matters," Children's Ministry Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481. If we publish your article, we'll pay you $125.

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