Few experiences in this life are more gratifying than sitting in the congregation while your grandchild reports his or her Church mission. Stockton Hiatt included in his account several miracles he had experienced; miracles clothed in various raiment.
He told of two young children in Africa; their situation unfortunately not uncommon. They were two more children than their parents felt they could support so they were left at an orphanage. The boy was four. His little sister was two. Yet, a worker told them “You are too old for people to want to adopt you. You will probably spend your life here in the orphanage.”
The little boy was crushed. He wanted to be in a family. He made it a point of personal prayer. He had never prayed before, and didn’t know the formalities He could only pour out his heart to heaven and hope for the best.
Meanwhile in the town of Billings Montana a mature married couple prayed. Prayer was not new to them. They prayed, “Heavenly Father our family is grown now. We have space and financial means to reach out and bless other people. What would you like us to do?”
God heard their prayer and matched it with the prayer coming from the orphanage in Africa. The couple adopted the two children and took them to their new home in America. Prayers answered mission accomplished, miracle received
The second miracle was to a young man, a talented athlete. The high point of his impressive high school career was out leaping a wide receiver a foot taller than he was to knock away the pass and seal for his school the state football championship.
He was anticipating even greater things at the collegiate level. Then tragedy struck. He contracted a disease that would leave him crippled for life. At least sufficiently handicapped that he would never play sports as he had before. He was bitter. The Heavenly Father he had trusted all his childhood had let him down. What was the use of praying to a God who had so little power or so little concern that he could not fix his devastated life?
He left his activity in the church, and lost his hope for the future. This was his condition when Stockton and his missionary companion found him. Stockton himself had interrupted a college football career to serve his mission. So he could identify with the young man’s love of sports, and console him. No obvious miracle on the outside, but in the boy’s heart a more important one. He found his lost faith, and looked forward to a happy and productive life even within his limitations.
An older woman confined to a wheelchair for many years had resigned herself to this condition. But she asked for a blessing to give her patience to endure. Stockton and his companion went to the tiny house where she lived with her daughter.
In the blessing Stockton found himself promising the woman that she would walk again. She thanked them for the words of comfort. And they left her home.
As they walked down the wheelchair ramp that covered her front steps, they were prompted to stop. They sat down on the ramp and Stockton said, “For some reason, I think we should pray.” The reason was made manifest in the prayer. They had the distinct impression that they should return to the woman’s kitchen. She was surprised when they knocked again, but invited them in. Stockton said, “We have not finished our work here. The Lord promised you through us that you would walk again. Now it is time for you to walk. Stand up and walk.”
The woman haltingly raised herself supported by the arms of her chair. She let go and stood unsteadily. Her daughter said, “Mother be careful you will fall.”
The mother did not fall. On trembling legs she took one step then two and several then she began to run and skip around in her small kitchen she even jumped up and down. Tears ran down the faces of all in the room.
This was a miracle indeed, on the level of the Apostle Peter saying to the crippled man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) It was biblical in its proportions.
Stockton didn’t intend to enter a national debate, but such does exist between the “Magical Thinkers” and the “Scientific Thinkers.” For a quick overview see columnist Jerry Earl Johnston’s discussion “In the modern world, there’s scant room for magic,” Deseret News, June 20, 2015, p. C1. For an older philosophical/theological treatment I suggest Miracles, by C.S. Lewis, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1947. If you choose this route, set aside some time, and your predispositions. It’s a deep and interesting trip.
The Magical Thinking movement has entered the halls of ivy with university courses being offered on everything from unexplainable events to witchcraft. Scientific thinking was already ensconced in academia and, if current trends continue may become America’s unofficial national religion.
Those who choose to exclude the miraculous from their universe of possibilities may interpret Stockton’s experiences using only their logic. The African children’s adoption might be classed as a coincidence. Kindly people reaching out and helping children is not too uncommon even in today’s sometimes hardened world.
The young man’s change to a more positive attitude was admirable, but not outside the realm of natural possibility. His body was not miraculously healed.
The strengthened legs of the woman might be explained as a psychosomatic condition cured by the encouragement of the elders triggering a new resolve and providing energy to her legs.
The Magical Thinking people would have no problem accepting all these things as miracles. They would also accept many other things that I, and perhaps you would not classify as miraculous.
Who is to have the final say on these and other such events? I suggest we give that authority to the people who experienced them.
I suspect the African child does not believe his prayers were answered by a cosmic game of chance. I think the athlete knows that it is by God’s grace that his heart was healed and he can now look ahead through new and happier eyes. The dancing lady must have known she was standing through strength beyond her own.
And there was one more miracle that Sunday, the authenticity of which I claim the authority to decree. Stockton didn’t know he had reported this one, but the rest of us got the message. He, like tens of thousands of other young men and young women, had answered the call of Jesus to, “Follow me.”
He had thereby matured to true manhood through his service to the Master of Miracles.
That is a miracle to make the heart of a grandfather swell with gratitude.