Monday, December 25, 2000

Nothing less than a miracle

Three lives wrenched apart, then, almost mysteriously, reborn.

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bud Babcock pulled on running shorts and Adidas shoes and set out for his regular jog. Five hours later, he was undergoing brain surgery to correct a life-threatening leaking aneurysm.

        That he is alive to celebrate Christmas and open gifts today with his wife and two teen-age sons is a miracle, he believes.

[photo] Bud Babcock with sons Trevor (left) and Gavin and wife Karen.
(Craig Ruttle photos)
| ZOOM |
        “Too many things happened right for it to be anything else than a miracle,” says Mr. Babcock at his Symmes Township home. “The Lord has a reason for me to still be alive.”

        On this day, Christians across the Tristate and the world celebrate the greatest miracle of all — Christ's birth. They believe on this day 2000 years ago that God entered the world in the form of a baby.

        On this day, three Cincinnati-area residents also celebrate miracles in their own lives. Like nearly half of all Americans who in a recent Newsweek poll said they had experienced a miracle, these three people say God touched their lives, making the impossible possible.

        And like 84 percent of Americans in the poll, these three Tristate residents believe in miracles.
       ×SubHed Father's Day miracle

        Mr. Babcock sang in the bass section of the choir at Montgomery Community Baptist Church last Father's Day. After services, the Babcock family ate lunch with friends.

        Then Mr. Babcock, 48, set off for a 5-mile jog. It was 2 p.m.

        A mile or so into it, he started feeling clammy. His head pounded. He couldn't go on.

        Mr. Babcock sat down near the driveway of a neighbor's house. He didn't know the homeowners but to wave “hi.” Turns out the neighbor was a doctor. And the doctor was mowing his grass that afternoon.

    84 percent of adult Americans believe God performs miracles.
    48 percent say they have personally experienced a miracle.
    63 percent say they know other people who have experienced a miracle.
    43 percent of non-Christians and people of no faith at all say they have asked for God's intervention.
    Source: Newsweek, May 1, 2000, edition

        He checked Mr. Babcock's pulse and looked to see whether his eyes were dilated. He took Mr. Babcock home and told his wife, Karen Babcock, to call 911. The neighbor, Dr. John Hanagan, felt something was seriously wrong.

        Initial tests at Bethesda North Hospital turned up nothing. The head of neurology happened to be on duty — on a Sunday, on Father's Day — and read the results of an angiogram. His diagnosis: a leaking aneurysm in the brain.

        Mr. Babcock, whose most serious health problem had been the removal of his wisdom teeth, had blood seeping from an artery in his brain. It's often fatal.

        Within an hour of arriving at the hospital, friends showed up and began praying. One family held their hands over Mr. Babcock's head and asked for God's healing grace.

        By 6:30 p.m., 30 people filled the waiting room. They were fellow church members; family friends; teens in the youth group with sons, Trevor, 19, and Gavin, 17; the music director. They brought pizza and soft drinks, and they prayed.

        As nurses wheeled Mr. Babcock into surgery, “I just said, "I love you,' ” Mrs. Babcock recalls. “I wondered, "Would I see him again this side of heaven?' ”

        A group of friends prayed over the surgeon's hands, and then they waited. Six long hours.

        By 12:30 a.m. Monday, doctors told Mrs. Babcock the surgery went well. But they couldn't say whether Mr. Babcock would have paralysis, memory loss or other problems.

        Mrs. Babcock didn't sleep that night.

        “I didn't care what was left (of Bud). I just wanted him here, alive,” she says. “I kept thinking minute to minute, "How much time do we have?' ”

        Mr. Babcock remembers little of his two weeks in the hospital.

        “Every once in a while, I'd hear a still, small voice saying, "Fear not. I am with you,' ” he says. “I'm convinced that I heard that every time someone was praying.”

        Six months later, Mr. Babcock is fully recovered. He's back to work at Procter & Gamble in the information technology department. There's very little memory loss; he's a bit foggy only about what happened a few days before Father's Day. And save for a left-side hairline scar, there are few physical reminders of the aneurysm.

        He hasn't been able to use the golf clubs his family gave as a Father's Day present — cold weather came before he was well enough to hit the greens. And Mr. Babcock can't jog anymore. Doctors fear the repetitive pounding could cause more bleeding. Roller coasters are out, too.

        But those are slight inconveniences Mr. Babcock is more than happy to live with.

        He thinks each day of the series of coincidences — the miracles, he calls them — that saved his life. He fell in the yard of a doctor. It was a slow day in the emergency room, and he didn't have to compete for medical attention. The chief neurosurgeon was on duty. And hundreds of people prayed for him.

        “It's one thing to intellectually know you might not live to go to bed tonight. Nobody's promised tomorrow,” Mr. Babcock says. “It's another thing to spiritually experience that. ... I'm always thinking about what should I be doing that He wanted to keep me alive for.”

Miracle of survival

        Across the world, God worked in mysterious ways in the life of Brother Peter Coung Tian. He now lives in Madeira and is studying to be a Dominican priest, but Brother Peter grew up under Communist reign in Vietnam with 11 brothers and sisters.

        In 1983, Brother Peter sat with 40 people on the bottom of a rickety boat, 20 feet long and 5 feet wide. They were trying to escape. A storm rose at sea, and the boat crashed onto an island. For three days, Brother Peter and the other refugees scoured the island for food and water but could find none.

        On the third day, Vietnamese police found them.

[photo] Brother Peter Coung Tian lights a candle Thursday before Mass at St. Gertrude chapel in Madeira,
| ZOOM |
        An officer ripped the rosary beads from around Brother Peter's neck and threw them to the ground, the toe of a boot grinding the beads to pieces.

        Brother Peter was taken to prison. He was stripped of his clothes, except for underpants. Guards placed him with 50 other prisoners in an area the size of a medium bedroom. There was no light. No bathroom.

        Once a day, prison officials gave a handful of rice and salt and a small cup of water to each prisoner. For the first three months, someone else fed Brother Peter. His legs were shackled, and his arms cuffed behind him. When the guards unlocked the cuffs, Brother Peter couldn't move his arms to the front of his body for a week.

        Before he ate, Brother Peter always said grace, thanking God for what he was about to receive.

        “When I lived in prison, I only needed one thing,” says Brother Peter. “I needed to see the light.”

        After six months, guards opened the door and called him out of the room. Light blinded his eyes, and Brother Peter couldn't move for 20 minutes.

        Guards placed Brother Peter in different parts of the prison for the next year. Prisoners helped Brother Peter bathe, cut his hair and gave him clothes. Eventually, he was allowed to work outside on prison grounds.

        Brother Peter gathered spare vegetables and fish to bring to fellow inmates. Prisoners would ask, “Why are you silent before you eat?” Brother Peter used the time as an opportunity to share the word of God.

        After 18 months, Brother Peter was released from prison. It is through God's grace, he believes, that he survived. He taught the Catechism and choir at a small parish church for five years and then asked local government officials for permission to leave the country. They did not know of Brother Peter's prison record, only of his good work at the parish, and gave their approval.

        Brother Peter immigrated to Canada, and this year, came to Madeira to continue to work on his vocation of becoming a priest.

        “I prayed to God that I wanted to get out of prison, but I did not know what God had planned for me,” says Brother Peter. He thinks today that God intervened in his life and helped him survive, “So I can talk with people about my experiences and relate with people who have been in prison.”

Miracle on Woodward Street

        Three years ago, Arlene Turner and her family were on the streets. Her husband had lost his job. They'd been kicked out of their apartment. Bills stacked up.

        They stayed for a few nights at a cheap hotel on Central Avenue before they found out about St. John's homeless shelter.

        “I never thought that would happen to me,” says Mrs. Turner, 44. She always had plenty of money and prided herself on being able to send her two older children to private schools so they could get a Christian education.

[photo] Arlene Turner now has a new apartment in Over-the-Rhine.
| ZOOM |
        At the shelter, the family shared a public phone. They couldn't easily have guests, and the children couldn't invite friends over to play.

        Mrs. Turner was numb. She was embarrassed. And she was mad. Mad at herself and her husband for not being able to provide a home for the children.

        The family stayed at the shelter for eight months, then moved into subsidized housing in Over-the-Rhine. Mrs. Turner retreated into what she calls her “cave.” She didn't like to go out of the house or talk to people.

        “My kids didn't go out. I didn't go out,” she says. “We stayed in and they would watch movies and play video games. A lot of times, I was hibernating in my room.”

        Depression swallowed her whole — until the day a social worker suggested she try Mercy Connections, a nonprofit neighborhood outreach and skill-development program. For some reason, this time Mrs. Turner listened. She started attending a class on Microsoft Word and Excel. Each day participants prayed and supported one another.

        It was the beginning of a series of miraculous events for Mrs. Turner and her family. It was the beginning of a new life.

        Time and again, people she didn't even know came to her rescue, testament to “God working in mysterious ways.”

        Two weeks ago, the Turners moved into a brand-new apartment complex at Main and Woodward streets. There's a playground across the street where her children, ages 15, 10 and 4, can play.

        Mrs. Turner doesn't have much furniture. The family spreads their blankets on the floor. But the paint smells fresh, and the wiring is good. There are plenty of windows and lots of light. This place won't be a cave.

        Mrs. Turner also has a job at the Sarah Center, an organization that works to empower inner-city women by teaching them how to make and sell jewelry. She attends community council meetings and serves on an Over-the-Rhine planning and steering committee.

        She is helping people who are at the same place she was three years ago.

        “I understand what it's like to live in survival mode, where all you think about is how to feed your kids,” Mrs. Turner says.

        She has a responsibility, she says, to reach out her hand and help people, just as others helped her.

        Mrs. Turner has hope again. One day, her family may be able to take a vacation or entertain friends. One day, her children may go to college.

        But most of all, Mrs. Turner says, now she knows, “God didn't forget about me. I'm part of the plan.”

- Nothing less than a miracle
She'll depend on teamwork
Q&A: Norma Holt Davis
A piece of history returns to City Hall
Heart arrives in time for baby's first birthday
PULFER: Christmas story
Woman devoted to aiding homeless
Charter director says it still has a role
New dentures bring a smile
A look at the world of work
Accidental shot kills officer
Accused sheriff turns down plea bargain
Departing Democrats look back
Entrepreneur Crosley reigned over Reds
Etch A Sketch's departure shakes small Ohio town
Gift program sees growth in donations
Ky. population: 4 million plus?
Man, 42, pleads guilty to sister's murder
Office, shopping complex planned
Pipe organ business seeks modern niche
School grants degree to deceased student
Scooter taken for wrong ride
Sex predator hearings ordered
State will study Warren traffic
Students exposed to creches from afar
Tristate A.M. Report