EXCERPT from Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union’s Centennial Journey, 1923-2023 (pg. 253-256) by author Jan Turner.

In 1988, Randy and Nancy Sprinkle, missionaries to South Africa, both developed serious health problems. Randy was having leg pain and could barely walk. When he went to see an orthopedic doctor, the doctor suspected Randy’s leg pain was caused by a problem in his back. Outpatient tests showed damage to the discs and vertebrae in his lower spine, creating pressure on the nerves running into his legs. The doctor sent Randy back to Maseru, Lesotho, and ordered him to bed rest for three weeks to see if the inflammation and lower back pain could be reduced. Later, Randy was admitted to the hospital, where he discovered he had herniated discs in his neck and lower back. Randy was sent back home with a fitted traction device and orders to stay in bed for the next five weeks.

Time to Leave

The rest of the family had been sick with strep throat. Nancy’s health was also affected by lupus. She was physically and mentally exhausted. With their many health challenges, they determined that the time had come to leave Lesotho and return to the states.

The Sprinkles moved into a missionary house near Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. After meeting with a neurosurgeon there, it was confirmed Randy would need neck surgery. The herniated disc would be removed, and the two flanking vertebrae fused. A few months later, he would be scheduled for surgery on his lower back.

Randy called Marilyn Coble, the Missouri WMU Prayer Coordinator. The Missouri intercessors were following the Sprinkles’ health developments closely. Marilyn had been anticipating the call from Randy. She had already planned how she would use the telephone prayer chain to spread the news quickly. When Randy told Marilyn the date of his surgery, Marilyn shouted in astonishment and amazement. Marilyn told Randy, “The dates of your hospitalization and surgery are the same as the Missouri WMU Annual Meeting on April 15-16, 1988, at Second Baptist Church in Liberty. God did it again. God is way out ahead of us. God has already done far better than I ever could have. There will be over a thousand of us gathered and ready to pray for you in Liberty.”

Randy could see God moving behind the scenes, and he felt at peace.

Preparing for Surgery?

The following week, Randy entered the hospital and was given two injections in preparation for a myelogram that would provide the information needed to perform the surgery. It was also compared with a myelogram he had previously in Africa.

After being kept in the x-ray room for an extended period of time, the surgeon came into the room and said, “We had been planning on removing a herniated disc that was causing your problems. But now, it is a perfectly normal disc. This is very difficult to explain. In contrast to your previous x-rays and MRI, today’s myelogram looks normal and healthy.”

Randy was released from the hospital and sent home. Clearly, God had intervened and healed the damaged disc in Randy’s neck.

The morning after Randy returned home, Marilyn Coble called to see how Randy’s surgery had gone. She was surprised to hear Randy’s voice and wanted to know why he was home answering the phone already. Randy detailed to Marilyn what had transpired at the hospital. Marilyn then returned to the WMU Annual Meeting and related how God had answered their prayers for Randy.

Randy is best known in Missouri for designing and implementing the International Mission Board’s first state/mission prayer partnership — the Missouri/Lesotho Prayer Partnership, particularly embraced by Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union and still functioning today.

NOTE: [Revisions were made to the original text for space]


Jan Turner, Author, has compiled a hundred years’ worth of God’s amazing moving upon missionaries, leaders, and presidents. She pens the true stories of motivation and inspiration that inspired MWMU women into missions. They were dedicated leaders with the innate desire to keep missions alive in Missouri Baptist churches.

Be inspired and encouraged! Available from Amazon in print or digital.

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The NICU nurses brought the tiny infant to his mother so she could say her final goodbyes. But when she laid her hand over him, something incredible happened.

Photo of a fetus in the womb at 20 weeks gestation

Beth Hutchinson was scheduled to have uterine surgery on February 13th, 2020. Ten days prior, she was elated to find she was pregnant and canceled the surgery. She and her husband, Rick, were elated as she didn’t think it was possible to have children.

Almost five months into the pregnancy, she called the doctor because she wasn’t feeling well. The doctor discovered she was already dilated three centimeters. Beth was admitted into the hospital and going into labor, fearful for the baby. They were informed if she gave birth, they would not do anything to ensure the baby’s survival.

Age of Viability

Twenty-one weeks is not considered viable in most states. In Minnesota, the age of viability – or the ability to live outside the womb – is cut off at 22 weeks of gestation. (Many states it’s 24 weeks). These 24-25 week micro-preemies have only a 26% – 44% chance of survival, a study done in 2007 said.

Babies born earlier than 24 weeks (6 months) are at risk for a number of long-term effects of prematurity.

Dr. Stacy Kern, neonatologist of Children’s in Minnesota and Beth’s doctor, stated that many NICUs around the world will not resuscitate babies born at 22 weeks or younger.

At 21 weeks, the baby is the size and weight of a carrot, less than a pound and shorter than a ruler. They prove too small to provide care for with underdeveloped organs and air sacs for lungs. The baby has problems breathing on his own plus many other problems with a reported survival rate of less than 0%.

But many of these perfectly-formed little ones are proving these statistics wrong. 

Born Too Early

Little baby Richard had different ideas that day. He was born June 5, 2020 at 21 weeks, 2 days old and weighed less than a pound. At half the gestation period, baby Richard fit into the palm of the father’s hand. Both pro-life believers, Rick and Beth knew their son had a chance at life. Saving his life was not an option. The Hutchinson’s asked the doctor to try, even though their baby was one of the smallest micro-preemies born.

“It’s incredibly rare for a baby at 21 weeks, 2 days, to be resuscitated, let alone survive,” said Dr. Kern. She noted that he is one of the youngest babies she has ever cared for. 

Instead of fully developed lungs, the baby had only air sacs. He needed help breathing, so he was hooked up to two ventilators.

“There’s not a lot of research out there for how to care for a 21-weeker,” said Dr. Kern. She noted that he is one of the youngest babies she has ever cared for. (EYEWITNESS NEWS-KSTP.COM)

When he still wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his brain, Dr. Kern brought him to his mom and dad one final time. At that point, many micro-preemies will spend their final moments before breathing their last breath on their mother’s chest.

Something Incredible Happened

When they laid the little guy on his mother’s chest, things began to turn. As Beth laid her hand on her son, baby Richard’s oxygen levels began to rise – 80 and then 90%. 

“It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. He just continued to surprise us day after day,” said Dr. Kern.

The Hutchinson’s thank everyone at Children’s in Minnesota that he was given the chance to live, and thank God that he is making major strides every day.  A healthy 6-month-old Richard went home December 4, 2020. Now at ten months, he continues to use oxygen, has a inhaler and relies on a feeding tube, although he is learning to use a bottle. His lung doctor has been working with Beth to help Richard wean off his oxygen and he’s doing great.

“Richard surprised everyone at Children’s Minnesota. He’s taught us all how resilient tiny babies like him can be,” admitted Dr. Kern. “To me, he is a miracle,” Sometimes I look at him still and I think, how did you make it?” 

If you want to follow Baby Richard’s progress, Elizabeth has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/baby.richard.

Another Miracle 21-Weeker

Another miracle baby born two days earlier than Richard is little Jemarius, born in Georgia on December 29, 2019.

Born at only 21 weeks, 0 days at 12:12 o’clock, Jemarius became the YOUNGEST surviving preemie in the world to date. He weighed 13 ounces and was approximately ten inches long.

His mother, Jessica, had already lost two babies at 22 weeks and said the doctors didn’t want to give this baby a chance either — simply because he wasn’t at the 23-week viability threshold. Two more weeks, and they would give him all the care he needed. Both mother and father begged the doctor to try to save little Jemarius even though he had been given zero chance of survival.

Knowing other micro-preemies have survived, the doctor was hopeful. Technology was on their side, and they gave the baby the care he needed.

After five months in the NICU, he went home weighing a whole eight pounds! Jemarius is now a healthy, happy one-year-old.

“That’s my miracle baby,” said his mother, Jessica.

As a recent study found, up to 71 percent of preemies can survive if they are given active care, as opposed to just palliative care.

Every baby is precious in God’s sight – the Gift of Life itself!

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“They said I was glowing,” Shirley said. “They also said I was dead.”

In the fall of 2016, Shirley Chokan began having excruciating pain in her abdomen. After a couple of days and no relief with the heating pad, she checked herself into the Emergency Room. The doctor who examined her said her appendix was about to burst. His face revealed that she was in bad condition. She asked if he could make just a little cut, so she wouldn’t have a large scar; he said he couldn’t promise. He seemed so overly concerned, she asked if she could pray with him before he did the surgery. He agreed. So, she prayed that God would be his hands.

“I’ll do my best for you,” he assured her.

The surgery went fine, and she ended up with only a tiny scar. Later on, when she was due for a colonoscopy, she decided to call the same nice doctor who had done such a good job with the appendectomy.

A Simple Procedure Gone Wrong

On October 5, 2016, Shirley went in for the simple procedure. But while she was on the table, her heart stopped three times! For over three minutes, the hospital staff frantically worked to bring her back.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Chokan, but your wife died,” the doctors told Shirley’s husband.

It was such a shock, he began to laugh. “It’s only a colonoscopy,” he reasoned. They told him her heart had stopped, then started, then stopped three times. Terry refused to believe she was gone.

She Was Being Lead

Shirley relates, “Everything seemed black– like I was gliding through the darkness. I was aware of my death but had no fear; I knew I was okay. Love and so much peace enveloped my soul. All the things of the world passed away. No worries, no stress, no pain.

I wasn’t asked who I was; I only knew I had an appointment to keep.  Beautiful colored lights appeared ahead, and for some reason, I knew was in a garden. It was so peaceful and beautiful, and I wanted to stay. Any longings for this world were completely gone; there was no attachment to things left behind.

All of a sudden everything came to a full stop. I heard the words, ‘Stop. You must go back.’

I resisted and said, ‘NO! I don’t want to go back.’

“Not Your Time Yet”

‘It’s not your time yet,’ I heard. As soon as the words were spoken, I was back on the table.”

After the third time Shirley’s heart stopped, a shot of adrenaline was administered.  She immediately woke up and began ‘talking up a storm’. The nurse screamed, her face white as a sheet. She was terrified and couldn’t believe her eyes.

Shirley immediately began talking and laughing about what she’d seen and where she’d been. She couldn’t move as the procedure was only half over. The doctor finished but she couldn’t quit telling them about her experience. The nurses panicked.

“What happened?” Shirley asked.

“You were dead; really dead,” the doctor said. “I even told your husband.”

“Your body was glowing,” said one nurse. “We knew something must be happening, but we didn’t know what?”

“You were the most beautiful dead person I’ve ever seen,” commented my doctor.

That made Shirley smile. God is good. “Oh well. Guess it’s not my time yet. I’m back!”

God’s in Control

The doctor and nurses nervously left the room and made her stay a few hours for observation. They weren’t quite sure what to do with her. A nurse stayed to watch her vitals. “We were astonished when you glowed. “It really scared us,” she admitted.

“God was watching over my body, I guess,” Shirley responded.

“Someone was,” the nurse agreed. She was intrigued and wanted to hear more although the other staff didn’t want her to say anything more. The more Shirley talked about dying and going to heaven, the more nervous the nurse became and asked her to stop.

Shirley was sent to a heart physician following the procedure who explained if too much air is pumped into the intestines during a colonoscopy, it may have stopped her heart. She knew all along God was in control – and she was okay with that. He would take care of her. She said it was a funny feeling of being lead along and nothing she could do about it.

Heaven is Real

Later, Shirley was able to share her testimony with another person who was dying. “I was glad to comfort them. I told them, ‘You know Jesus, so you’ll be fine. You don’t have to fear because Jesus will lead you into heaven.‘” It gave the person real peace. If that was the only reason for me to experience this miracle, then it’s enough. But I want readers to know this too.

God is in control when you die, and you can’t make your choice where to go at that time. Wouldn’t it be better to make your peace with God now and know you’re headed to glory when your time comes?

As told to C.A. Simonson by Shirley Chokan, Ohio.

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The previous post gave an amazing account of Joshua Shirk, who survived a kayaking accident in May, 2020. Under water for a length of time with no oxygen, he should not have survived, but God…

Little Joshua has come a long way, and it’s time to post an update. Over 27,000 people follow this young man’s healing progress and continue to pray for him. God is good. Eye contact has improved, he’s starting to eat more solids and in more amounts, and constantly showing signs of improvement.

God is still in the healing business! Follow Joshua’s progress on Facebook at “He’s Fighting, We’re Believing.”

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Joshua Shirk Facebook

When Monica Shirk gave a message in her church in Moorefield, W. VA. on “Surviving the Storm,” little did she know her family would be facing the biggest storm of their lives in a few short weeks. When the worship song, “Eye of the Storm,” (Ryan Stevenson) was sung, it resonated with eight-year-old Joshua. The next day, he asked for it to be played several times, embedding it in his spirit. It would become a quieting and healing salve to his soul in coming days.

A few weeks later on May 17, 2020, Gary and Monica Shirk decided to go kayaking with their son and daughter on the South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia. Gary’s brother, Benjamin Shirk, and Gary’s Aunt Lisa came along. All with experience and a love of the sport, each one had their own kayak, including young Joshua. As five kayaks set out on the river that afternoon, they had no idea of the tragic event about to unfold and force them into the fiercest storm of their lives.

Kayakers on a river – DSCF5873 | MJC Rodez | Flickr

Six-year-old Abigail was tucked in front of her uncle Ben; everyone else was in their own kayak. According to regulations, and keenly aware of safety precautions, the Shirks made sure the children’s life jackets were secure. Then they tethered Joshua’s child-sized kayak to his father’s as instructed to keep it from getting too far ahead.

The day was beautiful, and they planned to have a wonderful time as they pushed onto the river. Passing a couple of men fishing from their boat, they waved. They noticed a few campers as they passed the Circle C Campground.

Downriver, a large tree loomed on the bank with massive roots running into the river. Benjamin, who had Abigail in his kayak, managed to stay upright and move downriver. However, the strong undercurrent grabbed the other kayaks, sucking them into the grasp of the woody, gnarled arms of the tree, capsizing them.

Capsized kayak | Creative Commons

Joshua’s kayak, which was tethered to his father’s, caught on the roots sending Joshua’s and Gary’s kayaks in the opposite direction, flipping both of them from their rigs. His lifejacket, so meticulously strapped to his chest and legs, became entangled in the underwater roots.

Monica and Lisa following behind also flipped, with Monica smashing her head on the roots. They all surfaced as they were swept downstream. But where was Joshua?  He was not to be found. They reasoned he had to be close to the capsized kayak and the massive tree. The terrible realization was that he was still trapped by the tree under the dirty river water.

When the campers from Circle C heard the screams, they came running. Benjamin had managed to get Abigail safely ashore.  The wife stayed with Abigail; her husband called 911.

Two men in a boat | Creative Commons

Derek Alt and Nathan Kesner, director and assistant director of Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority “just happened” to change their fishing day from Saturday to Sunday at the last minute due to other circumstances. It was a good thing they did. About twenty minutes after the kayakers passed these two fishermen, they received an emergency call on their radios. Someone was in dire trouble downriver. They paddled ashore and drove to the site. Four other emergency teams also responded.

Benjamin ran back upriver to rescue Joshua. Jumping in the water, the river was too swift for him to stand. Holding on to limbs and roots for balance, they would only break sweeping him downriver again and again. Frantic, he ran farther upriver so the current would sweep him close to the tree, only to have roots break and be taken downriver all over again. This happened four times and he was getting tired. It seemed the clock stopped as an eternity passed, even though it had been only five to ten minutes. But that’s too long for someone to be trapped underwater. Becoming exhausted, he had to try again, and on the fifth time, Benjamin could only describe it as “a calm.” The current quieted enough for him to walk out and stand in the water and release Joshua’s life jacket from the tangles of his underwater grave. The boy’s heart was not beating. He lifted the limp body onto one of the large roots.

By this time, the two fishermen/ paramedics were at the scene. One of the men began chest compressions but could not get the boy to breathe.  A rescue boat was called, but because of the strong current and the roots, it could not get to them. The paramedics had to take Joshua into the river again and load him into the boat where he was taken to a waiting ambulance and then rushed to a hospital in Petersburg.

“You never know what’s going to happen when God shows up.”

Monica Shirk

Mom and Dad watched in horror from the other side of the bank where they had gotten out of the river, not aware of the terrible condition of their son.  Monica’s Aunt Tonya was called to meet Joshua at the hospital as Monica and Gary were transported to the hospital by ambulance a few minutes later.

Life resuscitating actions were performed on Joshua all the way to the hospital in Moorefield where their medical team there continued for forty more minutes to coax life back into the boy’s limp body. All without success. Everything seemed hopeless. Resigning himself to the hard facts, the doctor went to the waiting room to tell Monica’s aunt the news.

“There is no pulse, no heartbeat. No life. Joshua is gone,” was his message to her. She only had one response. “We serve a great and mighty God. He is our ultimate Healer.”

At that very moment, a nurse from the other room yelled out, “Doctor! Stat! We have a pulse!” Joshua started to breathe on his own and his pupils responded to light.

From Facebook page

Close to fifty minutes had passed since Joshua had taken his last breath before going underwater. Once his heart began to beat again, a medevac was called to transport him to a larger hospital in Morgantown, W. VA. over one hundred miles away. Due to storms, it could not make the trip, so an ambulance met the medevac at Mt. Storm.

However, by the time Joshua reached Ruby Hospital in Morgantown, his brain had begun to swell due to lack of oxygen. The normal time for swelling to reach its peak is three days. Joshua’s swelling lasted for six days threatening to push into his brain stem which would be fatal. The doctors said the child was not a candidate for surgery, so all the family and medical team could do was to watch and wait – and pray.

I knew my God was more powerful than their words.

Monica Shirk

Doctors were worried, but Monica and Gary continued to hold on to faith. They knew God could answer and heal. “I did not allow any negative talk in front of Joshua,” she said. “I didn’t like what they told me – that Joshua was severely brain-damaged and could only hope for a vegetative state the rest of his life. I knew my God was more powerful than their words.” The family continued to believe and hope in God. God would have the final say.

One month after the accident | Facebook

Joshua began to respond – squeezing fingers, pushing his legs. He couldn’t talk yet due to biting his tongue during the accident. Instead, he communicates by blinking. Once for no, twice for yes. His mother reports that one day he seemed irritated with one of the doctors. When the doctor asked if he wanted to be left alone, Joshua blinked twice. The doctor left with a smile and Joshua kicked his legs in excitement. Monica notes that whenever Joshua becomes agitated, the one thing that always calms him down is the song, “Eye of the Storm.” Only a couple of weeks before, no hope was given of recovery. Now there was positive proof of normal brain activity and personality was showing through.

One month later, Joshua was released from Ruby Hospital – from death to life. Much work and rehabilitation is needed to continue progress, build muscles, and learn life all over again at an inpatient rehab center in Morgantown. But this young boy is a fighter. He’s learning to swallow again. He is sitting up, learning to walk again with the help of aides, and trying to form words.

Joshua was in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) for thirty days. “The doctors said they had never seen anyone bounce back so quickly,” said Monica. “He truly is a miracle and proof we serve a mighty God. One doctor said himself that they use their knowledge…and give it the best shot they can, but ultimately, it is always up to God.”

Week five: Joshua decides to roll over on his own.

Week six: Joshua spoke his first word – (he wanted more lollipop) and even more in speech therapy! The family is ecstatic.  Monica states on the Facebook page, “The physical therapists were impressed with the progress Joshua has made in head control. He was able to support himself enough to use the potty chair for the first time. That made him extremely happy!”

Joshua and his therapists – Facebook

The family continues to believe and hope through their strong faith in God. “I could not have handled this without God,” Monica admits. “Joshua’s story has spread far and wide and is a testament to God’s strength. My son was trapped underwater for ten minutes, yet he never got pneumonia or any infections. My son was dead for forty minutes. God is capable of anything,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen when God shows up. Please continue to keep the prayers coming. Let us not grow weary, but keep the faith!”

“My son was trapped underwater for ten minutes, yet he never got pneumonia or any infections. My son was dead for forty minutes.

God is capable of anything.”

Monica Shirk
Joshua – 7/4/2020 – Facebook capture

The Shirks update a special Facebook page devoted to Joshua’s journey. As of the first on July, it has over 19,500 followers from across the world praying for his recovery.

Facebook page “He’s Fighting, We’re Believing”

Listen to “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson and be encouraged!

“In the eye of the storm….You remain in control…

Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.

Permission to share from Monica Shirk. 6/28/2020 | Facebook page

Sources: newstribune.info; funender.com; whsv.com and Monica Shirk

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