How My Daughter’s Accident Taught Me to Pray Boldly
Tim McGinnin is the director of a nonprofit organization that supports seniors and people with intellectual disabilities. He and his wife, Selina, are both ordained pastors at their church in New Hampshire, where they serve assisting pastor roles. In 2013, their fifteen-month-old daughter, Samantha, suffered a catastrophic fall that could have killed her. This harrowing experience taught Tim how to forgo polite prayer and instead pray boldly to God for His intervention.
According to a 2015 home safety fact sheet from Safe Kids Worldwide, suffocation, falls, TV and furniture tip-overs, accidents with toys, and ingestion of button batteries from toys were the top five causes of deaths among children nineteen and younger.
Having a first-aid kit at home, babyproofing danger zones, and keeping a close watch on children are obvious measures we all take to protect our children. But accidents happen, and when they do, nothing can prepare us for the shock and horror we feel when one of our children sustains a serious injury. Most parents feel an extreme amount of guilt when an accident happens to a child, even if there was nothing they could have done to prevent or stop the accident from happening. In situations like this, God’s grace is a glorious remedy that can comfort us and help us cope with the flood of emotions we feel. God’s grace can overcome all afflictions.
My daughter is a member of Tim and Selina’s church, and I was visiting the church the day Tim shared this story with the congregation. Here is their story, told from Tim’s point of view.
. “Home Safety Fact Sheet (2015),” Safe Kids Worldwide website, https://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/documents/skw_home_fact_sheet_feb_2015.pdf
In July 2013, our daughter, Samantha, started walking at a year and three months, and she was doing a really good job. Anybody who knows my daughter knows that she is a fairly independent little girl, so my wife and I kept the hand holding to a minimum, even when Samantha was first starting to walk. We were visiting some friends we don’t see very often who live on a huge property with horses and other animals. One morning, I took Samantha outside to see the animals.
We went back in the house and were getting ready to take off for the day. Samantha was walking around the house while Selina and I were saying good-bye to our friends and gathering our things. All of a sudden, we heard bang, bang, bang, and we realized the basement door was open. Our fifteen-month-old little girl tumbled down fifteen wooden stairs and landed on a concrete floor.
I am calm in a crisis. Not this time. We didn’t hear her make a peep. I ran down the stairs. It was pitch black, and I couldn’t see anything. I heard my little girl whimpering. I picked her up and rushed back up the stairs. She was barely fussing, which worried me. They always teach you that it’s better when a child is screaming. So we knew it was bad. I can still hear in my mind those three thuds before she hit the floor.
We got her up the stairs and checked her. We could tell that none of her arms or limbs were broken, but her head was banged up. She was bleeding from her mouth and barely making a sound. We put her in her car seat and drove toward the main road. Our friends’ house is nearly impossible to find, so Selina and I drove up to the main road but didn’t know what to do next. Do we call 911? Do we take her to the hospital? What do we need to do? We didn’t know how serious it was. She should have been screaming because she was hurt, and she should have been crying, but she wasn’t.
The Emergency Medical Care and Prayers Began
We pulled over on the main road, and I called 911 while Selina called Pastor Tammie from our church to ask her to have everyone pray for Samantha.
The first responders showed up after about five minutes, but it seemed like it took them an hour. They were glad to see that she was in her car seat. The paramedics began folding towels and stuffing them in the car seat. Then they wrapped medical tape around her head. They said, “Sir, this is a precaution. We don’t want her to move her head, in case she has a head or neck injury.” Samantha was just staring ahead.
The paramedic told us they were going to take Samantha to Monadnock Community Hospital. He said he was going to arrange to have a helicopter on standby, just in case they needed it.
Selina was in the ambulance with Sam, and I was driving behind them. It is a surreal experience driving about 80 mph down a main road, following an ambulance with your fifteen-month-old daughter riding in it, not knowing what’s going on. All that I knew to do was cry out and scream to God while I was driving. I didn’t know what was going on, and I know they don't call helicopters for the heck of it.
When we got to the hospital, the ER doctor was standing outside, waiting for us. The ambulance pulled up, and the doctor consulted with the EMT. The EMT came over and said, “We’re going to take her to Dartmouth in Lebanon. The helicopter is going to be here in fifteen minutes.” In the meantime, our pastor, Tom, called to check in.
He asked what was going on. I replied, “I have no idea. A helicopter is on the way.” Tom said he was going to send Phil and Sue, two of our church members, to the hospital to wait with us. They live right around the corner from the hospital, and Phil works for the hospital. When they arrived, Phil took me aside and told me, “Tim, this is one of the best doctors we have in the area. I’m sure he’s taking really good care of Sam.”
The helicopter arrived and landed in a small fenced-in area. The pilot emerged from the helicopter and walked over to us. He said, “Only one of you can come on the helicopter with her.” That was Mama. As Selina was getting on the helicopter, the pilot said, “We can't take her to Dartmouth; there’s a storm up there. UMass Memorial in Amherst is our second choice. They have a great pediatric trauma center too. So that’s where we're going to go. We’ll get there in twenty minutes. It will take you probably an hour and twenty to catch up.”
I rode with Phil, and Sue followed us in Selina’s car so that we would have a way to return from Amherst, Massachusetts. As we headed to the hospital, Phil and I were both praying. I was calling my parents, Selina’s parents, and others to let them know what was happening. It was an overwhelming experience.
If you want to know how to be Jesus in a moment to someone in crisis, be there for them like Phil and Sue were there for us. They were Jesus incarnate in that moment for us.
My Prayers Became Fervent
Have you ever been in one of those situations where you know you’re supposed to pray for something, so you do it out of obligation? You pray a polite prayer like, “Dear God, can You please take time out of Your busy schedule to consider helping me with this?” This was not one of those situations. Not even close. I didn’t know how much love I had for my daughter until that moment. I told God, “I know the promises that You have spoken over my little girl’s life. You have showed me things that you have planned for her life. There is no way that’s going to be taken away. There is no way that this is going any other way than my little girl being perfectly healed.”
We must put our foot down in prayer. We have to boldly go before God and say, “Lord, I need You to intervene in this right now.”
About thirty minutes into the car ride, Selina sent me a text message with a picture of Sam attached. I had been crying off and on already, but when I saw the photo, I broke down and sobbed. In that moment, I felt the Lord say very strongly, “Tim, it’s going to be OK. I am taking care of her.” The Lord used that photo to show me that it was going to be OK.
When they got Samantha to the hospital, they cleaned her up and put her in a neck brace. Again, when they got there, one of the pediatric trauma doctors was waiting for her. He examined her quickly and ordered some scans.
At about 3 o’clock in the morning, Phil, Sue, and I were still in the waiting room when the doctor came out to give us a report. He said, “I can’t find anything wrong with your little girl. Because of the fall, we’re going to keep her overnight for observation, but she’s going to be fine. She’s OK. She’s just banged up a little bit.” They rolled a tiny second hospital bed into the room so Selina and I could take shifts sleeping. We spent the rest of that sleepless night in Samantha’s room. Every time she stirred and moved, we would wake up, we felt like we had to check on her every five seconds. But she was OK.
Prayer is not magic. It’s not about saying the right things. It’s about expressing our hearts to God. I did not say a very well-crafted prayer in this situation, and I’m sure of it because I could barely speak half the time. Words aren’t always necessary in prayer. We do not have to be eloquent and worry about saying the right things. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all:
God Wants Us to Ask Him to Intervene in Our Lives
Some people read this and think it means we’re praying in tongues, but that is not it. It’s just that when you don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit will do it for you. When I was following that ambulance, I felt that happening. And let me tell you, there weren’t many words being said other than, “Oh God, oh God, Jesus, help protect my daughter.” Everything else was groaning, crying, tears, and hollering out to God. But He worked through that.
The way of prayer is both humble and bold. We admit our need, we admit our sin, and we admit that we missed the mark, but we come boldly because of the work of Jesus.
God wants us to ask Him to intervene in our lives. It is His gift to us. If someone gave you an amazing gift and you never used it, how do you think that would make that person feel? But if someone gave you something and you used it every day, that person would feel really good about that. So you don’t have to worry about bothering God. You don’t have to wonder if you’ve used up all your access to the throne of grace. No rationing is going on here.
This is a story of a miraculous intervention because of God’s love and because people prayed. I must acknowledge that not all prayers for miracles are answered in accordance with our wishes. There are many examples of faithful people who prayed fervently for the miraculous recovery of a child in grave physical condition, but the child was still lost. This does not mean they didn’t pray hard enough or boldly enough. However, this should not stop us from telling the stories like mine of God’s answers to prayers that amount to undeniable miracles.
My encouragement for you is that when you see a situation in which God’s kingdom, reign, and rule need to be involved in someone’s life, in a situation, in a circumstance, in a difficulty, in a family member’s health—whatever the situation might be—I want you to be bold. I want you to go to the throne of grace, not because of who you are, but because of who Jesus is. I want you to talk to your Father in heaven and, in accordance with His will, put your foot down—not to demand anything from Him but to stand boldly and say, “Father, this is Your will. I ask You to accomplish it in the name of Jesus.”
Our Story Encourages Others as a Testament of God’s Faithfulness
We have shared this story publicly from the pulpit, and we have used it during pastoral care with many people. We have found that our story encourages friends during difficult and trying circumstances. It demonstrates God’s faithfulness to His people.
This is really a key story for Selina and me as a married couple and for our family in general regarding how we have learned to trust God’s faithfulness more deeply.
We also use our story as an example of God performing healing and other miracles in today’s age. It demonstrates that He is just as active now as He was during biblical times.
During this ordeal, the following verses provided great comfort to Tim and Selina.
Fred’s Take on Tim’s Story
There is great comfort in Tim’s realization that God wants us to ask Him to help us, and He does not expect our prayers to be articulate or eloquent. He wants us to cry out to Him in our darkest moments of crisis and ask for Him to pour His grace into our lives. Tim says we need to do this “not because of who we are, but because of who He is.” Sometimes we view God as a stern judge of our human flaws.
Tim’s story shows that God is a loving, gentle Father who wants only the best for us — and to teach us how to depend on Him. As Tim indicates in his story, we may not understand why some prayers of desperation seem unanswered, but that shouldn’t stop us from making those prayers — and making them boldly.
Time for Personal Reflection
- Have you ever been present when one of your children was injured? Was there anything you could have done to prevent it? How long did you harbor guilt over that accident? Did you call on your faith through prayers for forgiveness and for healing in that moment of your greatest need?
- Has a friend, acquaintance, or colleague you know ever been in a situation in which their child was injured? Can you point to miraculous healings in response to prayer that may have even dumbfounded the doctors?
- When you seek the Lord’s healing powers in prayer, for children or for adults, do you pray boldly and stand on His promises, or do you tend to ask timidly for His will to be done? Are you reluctant to be bolder in your prayer requests? In your daily prayers, resolve to be more specific, and expect God to respond with His loving grace.