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St. Clair Springs pastor says hunting accident may have saved him from house firecomment (0)

November 13, 2008

By Grace Thornton

Jerry Wadsworth’s 12 broken ribs jab him painfully when he moves, talks — even breathes. But that’s not going to stop him from telling you about how God saved him from the flames.


“I just thank God I’m alive,” he said.

Wadsworth, pastor of St. Clair Springs Baptist Church, Springville, in St. Clair Baptist Association, found his first salvation in the Lord as a young man, then surrendered to a call to preach in 1987.

But his second salvation came in the early morning quiet of St. Clair County Oct. 15 when a deer circled his tree stand and he repositioned his crossbow, shifted his weight to aim around the tree — and plummeted more than 20 feet to the ground.

“It took forever to hit the ground. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that,” he said. “I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t know where I was. I guess I was in shock.”

He’s not sure how long he lay there with 12 broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung before he was able to yell for his dad, who was in a tree stand nearby. His dad somehow managed to get him in the truck, out of the woods and back out to the road, where some friends called 911.

“I never would’ve made it out of there had it not been for the Lord,” Wadsworth said.

What followed was some of the worst pain of his life — screaming while paramedics laid him flat on the board, then later blacking out at the hospital when doctors had to cut his chest and insert tubes to inflate his lungs without giving him any pain medication.

“I just remember Dad squalling in the truck while they were putting me in the ambulance, saying, ‘I’ve killed my son. I’ve killed my son,’” Wadsworth said.

And he wasn’t sure that he didn’t want to die. “I couldn’t stand it. I kept saying, ‘Lord, cure me or kill me. I’ll do whatever You want me to do, I just can’t take this pain.’”

The Lord chose to cure him, Wadsworth said with a laugh. “I guess He still has stuff for me to do.” That became even more evident two weeks after the accident, in the wee morning hours of Oct. 29, he said — the night he could’ve died.

His wife, Teresa “Sissy,” was sleeping in the intensive care waiting room at UAB Hospital — as she had been since he was admitted — when she got a call from her 21-year-old son, J.R., that their house had burned down.

“Our son had been asleep on the couch. He woke up when he felt the heat from the fire on the back of his neck,” Teresa Wadsworth said. He made it out — but only with the clothes on his back. He ran down the road for help, and by the time he got back, the house was gone.

“They say it went up like a keg of dynamite going off,” Jerry Wadsworth said.

The couple gives God all the credit that J.R. made it out alive, and with the news of the fire, a new gratitude also emerged.

“We know that if I had not been in the hospital and I had been at the house, I probably would’ve died,” Jerry Wadsworth said. Teresa, he said, would’ve been at work, and he would have been in the bedroom with the door shut, the window unit running and the fan on, unable to hear a thing.

“He probably wouldn’t have made it out,” Teresa Wadsworth said.

And even if he had heard it, he might’ve tried to stop it rather than running from it, said Vernon Stidham, deacon chairman at St. Clair Springs Baptist.

“Some of us have thought about it — Bro. Jerry’s the type that he’s a fighter. If he had been home, he might’ve tried to be in there and fight the fire,” Stidham said. “We kind of think the Lord got him and her both out for a reason.”
Jerry Wadsworth agreed. “God’s got His reasons.”

So the members of St. Clair Springs Baptist — a church that’s grown from 14 to 50 or 60 in attendance in the year since Wadsworth came — have joined hands in several prayer meetings, thanking God for the safety of their pastor and asking for help and healing.

It may take a while. Right now he’s recliner bound, and doctors project six months to a year before he has his full range of motion back. He’s also recovering from the weakness caused by the pneumonia, staph and several other infections that put him on life support for several days of his hospital stay.

But Jerry Wadsworth the “fighter” is upbeat, as is Teresa. “We’re just thankful for the way God has provided, and we’re thankful to be home,” she said.

For now, “home” is a loaner house about 250 yards from the ashes of their old one in Margaret, filled with furniture St. Clair Association had in storage from the sale of a missionary residence. The Wadsworths didn’t have any home insurance, so everything they owned was a total loss.

“A lot of people are really ministering to them, and we’re trying to partner together with Habitat for Humanity to see if we can build them a new house,” said Ben Chandler, St. Clair Association director of missions.

Gary Leopard, former pastor of St. Clair Springs Baptist, is helping fill the pulpit, and he also set up a trust fund for the family. Other churches and community members have held barbecues, offered services and donated items and funds.

“People who don’t have the Lord, I don’t know how they deal with things like this,” Jerry Wadsworth said. “We are overwhelmed by His provision. People ask how we keep going, and we tell them that without our Christian brothers and sisters, we wouldn’t be able to make it.”

For more information on the Wadsworths, contact Chandler at 205-594-5173.

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