FACING THE STORM – An 8-yr-old boy, a capsized kayak, and no heartbeat for over 40 minutes


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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The Power of Praise – The Story Behind “I Raise a Hallelujah”


“My weapon is a melody… heaven’s going to fight for me…” says one line of this song. It’s the power of praise that lifts your spirits and brings God’s power. Sing a little louder every day!

A 2-year-old’s miraculous healing from a deadly disease sparked a worship anthem for Bethel Music, a worship group from Redding, Calif.

“When you can’t pray anymore, and all the prayers have been exhausted, that’s when you feel the prayers of others,” said Jaxon’s father.

People all over the world commented on Facebook, Instagram saying they were praying for Jaxon’s healing.

Battling a Deadly Disease

The Christmas tree was set up and a mother and her two-year-old son, Jaxon, built their Christmas cake train. Later that evening when he lay down on the floor, his mother knew something was terribly wrong. This child was deathly sick.

A few days before Christmas in 2017, little Jaxon was airlifted to an intensive care unit suffering with an acute disease caused by an E. coli infection. It had shut down his kidneys and caused seizures. Jaxon was in danger for his very life.

His mom and dad felt hopeless as they stood by his bedside and prayed. The little boy was unresponsive. One night the doctor told them he didn’t think their son would make it through the night. Joel Taylor, Jaxon’s father and CEO of Bethel Music, said they needed a Christmas miracle and sent out the news to his network. People responded.

Worship leader Jonathan David Hesler, friends of the Taylor’s said, “I just felt like this giant of unbelief stood in front of me and I just thought, ‘Jaxon’s gonna die tonight. We’re not going to see the miracle.’ And as this giant stood in front of me, all of a sudden, out of my gut, this song started coming out….’I raise a hallelujah…in the presence of my enemies….'”

Jaxon Taylor – Photo Credit: JoelTaylor via Instagram

When There’s Nothing Left to Say

When you’ve prayed all you know to pray and can’t think of another word to say, you have to trust.

Joel Taylor admitted he didn’t have any more prayers to pray but could feel the prayers from around the world being spoken on behalf of his son.

“In the battle for his life, the global church community rose up like a mighty army and joined us in prayer and worship all over the world,” Taylor said. “Our son was miraculously healed and today is perfectly healthy. For us, Victory has become a declaration of truth over hopelessness, a prophetic statement in the storm of adversity, and a battle-cry when facing the impossible. The battle belongs to our God, and our God is victorious!”

Raised by Praise

See Jaxon’s whole story

SOURCES: foxnews.com, cbn.com

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The Step of Faith: Healed from Icy Fall


With excruciating back pain, I had to walk with two canes to keep pressure off my back. I was only 49 years old but walked and acted like an old man after taking a nasty fall onto an icy cement parking lot. When the missionary man took my canes away and told me to walk in faith, I was sure my legs would give out, planting my face into the carpet.

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Home Explodes in Tornado: Mother & Baby Survive


A Disaster in the Making

This past weekend in southern Missouri was a weather disaster in the making. One day, it was balmy in the morning, reaching to 65 degrees in the afternoon. Strange for January. Rain began to fall, and then torrents came down creating flash floods with five to six inches of rain in places. Some almost drowned as they had to be rescued crossing overflowed creeks. But miracles still happen. And this one needs to be told.

Screenshot KSPR33

The temperature began to drop rapidly, making the possibility of a tornado reality. Warnings went out on phones and sirens blared. That’s when Bailey Jacobs thought his wife may be in danger. He called from work to warn her to take shelter. She hadn’t heard any warning signals and wasn’t aware of a tornado. While they were talking, he said it sounded like the trailer exploded, and then the line went dead.

Everything Gone

Bailey rushed home from work, dreading the sight he knew he’d find. He thought he’d lost his family and everyone he loved.

Screen capture from KSPR33

He found his property in ruins. The trailer was ripped from the foundation and smashed into pieces. He jumped from his truck and ran to the site, calling out for his pregnant wife, but found no sign of her or his baby girl.

Screen Capture from KSPR33 news

An Act of God

Then he got a phone call. His wife and baby were at the hospital. With the baby in her arms, she said she felt the trailer coming loose from its foundation and beginning to roll. At some point she was thrown from the trailer, later awakening in an area surrounded by cinder blocks. Somehow, she was alive and managed to drive herself to the hospital.

“An act of God,” said Bailey. “They shouldn’t be alive right now.” Bailey Jacobs expressed his gratitude for a real miracle. Both mother and child were checked out and released from the hospital without any injuries. See the full story here.

Seems there’s been other instances where God has protected a mother and child. In 2017, a mother and baby were thrown from an exploding trailer and taken up into the vortex of the tornado. They also both survived with only a few scratches.

In 2008 in Tennessee, a baby was hurled 300 feet by a tornado. The tornado smashed a brick building and leveled their home, but the eleventh-month-old baby survived, found cold and scared in a muddy field nearby.

I am so thankful our God is a loving Father who protects and saves.

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An Unexpected Pregnancy


An unplanned pregnancy during Bible times did not have the option of abortion. Consequences were unthinkable: the woman could be stoned for such a heinous act. The promise of a Messiah had been known for ages – but it was not something young Mary had planned in her future. She knew the consequences. She knew what everyone would think. But still, she was willing to be God’s handmaiden.

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Mary sat on a hillside outside of Nazareth overcome with awe. Her heart fluttered as she fought to breathe. What had just happened? She lifted her arms toward heaven, closed her eyes and gloried in the warm touch of sun on her face. She opened her eyes as a gentle breeze wrapped her in its wisp, and whispered praise to Adonai. He was great and greatly to be praised. She worshiped in the glory of the Most High God.

Her mind had been on God a lot these last few days. “Just think,” her friend Hannah had said in wonder, “It could be you, Mary…or me…or Susanna. One of us could be the mother of the Messiah.”

“You’re such a dreamer, Hannah.” Mary remembered laughing at her. “How could such things happen? You need a man to make a baby.”

“But not the Messiah. It would be a real miracle. It would have to be…” Hannah reasoned, “…to be God’s Son.”

Mary nodded. “It would be a miracle, indeed. Unlike any other.”

Ponderings

She had pondered the words of her friend all week. She and her girlfriends often talked about being the chosen one. It was part of their teaching: someday a virgin would bear the Messiah. Every girl wanted to be ‘the one’ chosen. What an honor it would be to give birth to royalty!

Now as she contemplated the events of the morning, these same thoughts tumbled through her brain again. Did I imagine it? Dream it? Did it really happen? Mary shook her head.

The large being who appeared as a man shining with light had suddenly appeared before her. She had cowered in fear, but his words had been calm and reassuring.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary. I am Gabriel and I have a message for you from God.”

Her skin prickled. Could it be true? Was she dreaming?

“You are highly favored among women, Mary. The Lord is with you.”

She had drawn back in question. What does that mean?

“Don’t fear,” he told her again. “You have found great favor with God. You will soon have a son, and you’ll call him Jesus.”

Jesus? The name means ‘he will save’ – a Savior?

The angel continued, “He will be the son of the most high God.”

The Messiah? But scripture says the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. I’m from Nazareth – and I’m promised to Joseph. A frown creased her forehead. “But how?” she asked the angel. “How can these things be? I’ve not been with any man.”

“The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and the power of God will cover you. The holy child which shall be born will be called the Son of God.” Mary had marveled at his answer. She did not doubt his words. Would she accept this mission? She knew the answer immediately, but was she willing? In surrender to her own will, believing she knew the cost, she bowed her head and answered. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your words be fulfilled as you have said.”

Then as suddenly as he appeared, he disappeared – leaving her with more questions. She believed without a doubt that God had chosen her to be the mother of His son. She opened her heart in worship and felt God’s power come over her.

Now What?

She wasn’t sure how long she had been on the hillside that morning, but something felt different as she made her way home. She wanted to run to Hannah and Susanna and share her great news, but would they make fun of her? Then a scarier thought entered her mind. What would Joseph say? Would he believe her, or leave her? Would he accuse her of unfaithfulness to him? Would he choose to expose her and bring her before the Council for judgment? She knew the law and the consequences of adultery. The whole town would know and call her a whore. A public disgrace called for a public example. How could she make them believe she carried the Holy One? They’d think she was lying or just plain crazy. She could face the ultimate penalty for this offense – stoning.

“Mother, what will I do?”

“Mary, are you sure you weren’t just daydreaming?  Perhaps you had too much sun out on the hillside today.” Her mother felt her forehead and looked into her eyes.

“You don’t believe that an angel spoke to me? He said I was highly favored among women.”

Mary’s mother chuckled. “Oh, Mary. You are hardly a woman yet – only a young teenager.” She patted Mary’s shoulder in condescension. “I only think you have the active imagination of all young teenage girls your age. You and your friends have talked nonstop about the Messiah.”

“I’m telling the truth, Mother. The angel said nothing is impossible with God. Don’t you believe that?”

“Of course, I do, but what you’re telling me….”

She cut her mother off. “The angel also said your cousin Elizabeth is going to have a baby.”

“Elizabeth? Impossible. She is way past the child-bearing age.”

“Maybe I should go see her. The angel said she was already six months along.”

“Maybe you should, daughter. She might talk you out of this silly notion you have.”

A Visit to the Countryside

Mary retrieved a few things and headed toward Judea the next day. Excitement grew in her heart the closer she neared the little town. If God can give Elizabeth a baby in her old age, then surely He can do a miracle in me, Mary thought. I believe you, God. I am your handmaiden.  Mary was anxious to hear what Elizabeth would have to tell her.

Mary saw Elizabeth outside in her garden, tending to the flowers. She hurried to see her. “Elizabeth!”

“Mary?” Elizabeth looked up in surprise and wrapped her arms around her own protruding belly as it jumped. A smile broke out upon her lips as she hugged her niece.

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me? As soon as you greeted me, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! You are blessed to believe the Lord will fulfill His promises to you.”

Mary put her hand to her mouth. How would Elizabeth know unless God had told her? ‘The mother of my Lord,’ she said. Tears welled in Mary’s eyes with new realization and the inspiration of truth.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” She smiled at her aunt and lifted her eyes toward heaven with renewed faith and determination. “From now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name….”

Mary stayed on with her aunt for another three months until it was time for Elizabeth to give birth to baby John. As she left for home, she pondered their talks and treasured in her heart all the knowledge her aunt had spoken. With her belly beginning to bulge, Mary knew she would have to face the townspeople of Nazareth. She would have to talk to Joseph. But she glorified God for the miracle child He had placed in her womb.

Please, God. Speak to Joseph too. Show him how to help me raise this holy one. She trusted God to protect her and direct her paths. Not sure what all lay ahead, Mary only knew one thing for sure: she was blessed. Blessed among all women. Chosen of God. She would serve God to the best of her ability in this adventure of a lifetime and become the mother of God’s Son.

Reference: Luke 1

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