Joe’s Story: Three Miracles Restored My Faith
Joe Minarik, who is 62 years old, grew up in New Jersey. When he was 18, he and his friends met an angel who saved their lives. But after Joe’s beloved grandfather died, Joe lost faith in God. Through a miraculous event that can be explained only as divine intervention, Joe’s faith in God was restored. Not long after that, God saved Joe’s life again. It took three miracles to restore Joe’s faith in God forever.
The First Miracle: An Angel Appears
In 1975, I was 18 years old. One Friday, I went with my friends, Brian and Lou, to New Gretna in South Jersey to visit a friend. The next day, we were going to go target shooting in an area known as the Pine Barrens. It was in November, and we ran into a snowstorm. At about 11 p.m., we were on the last road to get to the home of another friend, Andy, when we ran out of gas. We were stuck on an isolated road for three hours in the biting cold snowstorm. Finally, we saw a truck approaching us. It stopped, and the driver asked if we needed help. I told him we had run out of gas.
“I happen to have five gallons in my truck,” he said. He went around to the back of his truck, got a gas can and filled up our tank with a few gallons of gasoline.
I tried to give him money, but he wouldn’t take it. He said, “Please, if you see that someone needs help, stop and help them.”
I said, “Sure. I would like to fill this gas can up and return it to you. Do you live around here?”
He said, “Yes, a mile down this road.” He told me the street name and number and said to make a right, and it was the third house on the left. He said his name was Frank Gilmore.
The next morning, we put gas in a gas can and drove to take it to him. We knew where we had run out of gas, but we couldn’t find the street. In fact, there wasn’t any street off that road for miles. So we drove to the police station, and they told us no such street existed in New Gretna or in Forked River, the next town over. We looked at each other and said, “He had to be an angel.”
When I got home, I said to my friends, “I will send money to Frank Gilmore in two envelopes—one addressed to New Gretna and one to Forked River.” I did so, and a week later, both came back to me, stamped “Undeliverable.” That has stayed with me all my life. I always think about it. That experience made me a more caring and giving person.
Losing Faith in God
My paternal grandfather was Czechoslovakian. We called him Gigi, which means Grandpa, but later on we called him Gid. I was the firstborn, so I was one of his favorites.
At the beginning of 1987, I moved to California. Gid visited me when he was 89 years old. We had a great three weeks together. In 1989, he had a tumor removed. He called me a day before the operation and said in his broken English with his Eastern European accent, “I am never going to see you again. I go for big operation. I think I be finished!”
That shook me up. So I sold my house and moved back to Cape Cod. The operation was successful. I had a year to be with Gid before he started to go downhill. He passed away toward the end of 1990 at the age of 93. After his death, I was mourning him so much that I blamed God for taking him away from me. I lost all confidence in God, even though Gid had lived for 93 years. I was selfish at the time.
A Second Miracle
One night four months later, I awoke at 3 a.m., and something told me to go in the living room and get a book from the bookshelf. I tried to turn on a light in the bedroom, but it would not turn on. I walked into the hallway and tried to turn that light on, but it wouldn’t turn on, either. The same thing happened in the living room. I made my way to the bookshelf in the dark and pulled out a book; I didn’t know which book I had chosen. I found my way to the dining room table. I opened the book I had gotten from the shelf and lay it on the table. In the dark, I made my way to the light switch in the dining room, and the light came on.
I went back to the table and saw that the book I had taken off the shelf was the Bible. The Scripture I had opened the Bible to in the pitch dark was John, chapter 4. It’s about the miracle Jesus performed when He turned the water into wine at Cana in Galilee. A man whose son was sick heard that Jesus was in the area and begged Him to heal his son, who was close to death:
That story hit me hard. Here was a government official who didn’t believe in God but needed Him desperately for his son’s healing. God poured his grace onto the boy, and he lived. In the end, the official’s family believed. That is the moment when I started to have faith in God again.
A Third Miracle
One day in 2009, I was at work. I felt a numbing sensation in my left arm and leg. I told my boss I was going home. I walked out to my vehicle, and my grandfather, who had passed away 19 years earlier, said to me, in his broken English, “Don’t go to home; go to hospital.” His voice was not in my head; he was talking to me as if he were in the room with me.
I drove to the hospital. The doctors examined me and said I had experienced an aortic aneurysm. If my grandfather hadn’t warned me, eventually I would have been dead. The aneurysm measured 4.8 cm; they didn’t want to operate until it grew to become 5.2 cm. Six years later, I had the operation.
Two months later, I was out of breath. I would walk 25 feet and struggle to breathe. My boss finally said I should get checked out. I got a blood test, and the doctor called as I was driving home. “You are in end-stage renal failure,” he said.
I had to go on dialysis, and the doctors scheduled my kidney transplant for July 2016. While waiting for the surgery, I came down with a blood infection. They told me that if I had waited 12 hours longer to see a doctor, I would have been dead. I was in the hospital for two weeks but emerged fine after taking antibiotics. After I got another infection and took antibiotics again, they checked my blood count. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, it was in the normal range!
My kidneys were working again. The doctors removed the catheter from my chest, discontinued my dialysis and told me I didn’t need a kidney transplant. Was it a miracle from God? You’d better believe it. There is no other way to explain it. If you have faith in God and believe in the power of prayer, anything can happen.
Paying God’s Grace Forward
I remember the words of the angel God sent to help my friends and me back in 1975, and now I heed them. He said, “Please, if you see that someone needs help, stop and help them.” So I do. Small acts of kindness are rewarding and easy to deliver.
Sometimes at the grocery store, someone will be short of money. They will start to tell the cashier that they will put back some of the items in their cart. I will say, “Oh, no you don’t…I will pay for them.” Also, I often drop off canned goods and clothing at church thrift stores.
My Take on Joe’s Story
Often, we humans are stubborn. We resist answering God’s call for whatever reason. But God is patient and continues to pour His grace into our lives, even when we resist. God gave Joe another year with his grandfather, and He saved Joe’s life twice. He even pointed Joe to a hard-hitting passage of Scripture at the moment when he needed it the most.
Sometimes people view God as an angry, dictatorial tyrant who will punish them if they sin. Joe’s story is a beautiful example of God’s patience and compassion. He continues to “knock” on our hearts until we let Him in. And when we do, as Joe can attest, our lives are filled with joy, well-being and gratitude.
Time for Personal Reflection
- Have there been times in your life when your faith in God dwindled or even lapsed? What happened as a result? Did God “punish” you in some way, or did He perform a miracle in your life, like he did in Joe’s life, to show you that He was still with you?
- Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It’s not easy to believe in things we cannot see; that’s where the well-known term “leap of faith” comes from. Has there been a time in your life when you prayed and hoped for something and believed the Lord would provide it? Did He provide it? If not, continue to trust in His wisdom, His love and His perfect timing.