The indomitable spirit of man is quite remarkable, but it becomes absolutely amazing when harnessed by the power of God.
The Mills Building sixth floor ward at the Philadelphia General Hospital was home to indigent teenage spinal-cord injury patients. Alphonso Williams was eighteen and a quadriplegic. The accident that robbed him of his ability to walk happened the summer he was seventeen.
I met Al a few days before Thanksgiving. Al was trying to arrange suitable transportation to get him home to the Richard Allen Homes for the holiday, so I talked with him about what he might need if I could arrange to take him home in my beat-up Chevy station wagon.
The night before Thanksgiving I pulled up to the Mills building, folded the rear seat down, and placed a mattress and blanket in the back. Tony, Al’s aide, lifted him on to the mattress, and I drove Al home for Thanksgiving. That was the beginning of a great friendship.
I became a regular at P.G.H. visiting Al and his ward-mates at least once a week. Even though I considered myself a spiritual mentor of sorts, more often than not, Al was mine. One day I came to visit and Al perceptively asked if everything was OK. “I’m a little bit bummed out,” I said. Al looked into my eyes and said, “Gosh, I didn’t think any one who could walk ever got discouraged.”
One of Al’s greatest wishes was to be baptized, and as a Baptist he would be dunked not sprinkled. We secured permission to use one of the hospital therapy pools. A lift would lower him into a small pool just big enough for him. About thirty friends and family gathered that morning to hear Al testify to his faith in Jesus Christ and witness his baptism. As they lowered Al beneath the water, I placed my hand on his head and had the awesome privilege to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Al’s favorite Scripture was Ezekiel 11:19 and 20 (KJV); ”I will take the stony heart out of their flesh; and will give them an heart of flesh, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Al always believed that God could heal him, but one day he said to me: “If God wants to heal me so I can walk, that would be fine, but I know He’s healed me in the most important place of all. He’s healed me in my heart.”
Al’s at home now. No, not the Richard Allen projects where he had lived with his family. He’s walking down those golden streets of his new heavenly home.
Looking forward to walking with him some day, I am,
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