It was a hectic summer at the Chapel in the early sixties. We had been building the parsonage and it was now finished. Whew!
I had drawn the plans and was charged with coordinating the construction. At that time the Chapel had three contractors in its membership, all of them putting a lot of time into this project. I was sore pressed to keep them in materials and from running over each other.
The second the work was done the Peters family hastened to move in, for I was scheduled to leave for a Pastor’s Conference at Hume Lake. We made it! Hooray. I just had one task before I was ready to go-I needed to hook up the dryer and washer so Alva could use them during the week I would be at Hume Lake. I would do that the next morning (Saturday) and the premises would be fully operable when I left for Hume Lake Monday morning.
We had a gas dryer and my main job was to hook up the dryer to the gas line. The washer and dryer and water heater were all in together with the half bath in the basement. I hadn’t installed the gas valve yet, the pipe was just capped off. All the other gas appliances were operating, each with its own pilot light. I didn’t want to shut off the gas at the tank and relight all those pilot lights, so I took a short cut (big mistake). I put pipe dope on the gas valve threads so it was all ready to screw onto the pipe when I took the cap off. I planned to remove the cap, put my thumb on the end of the pipe till I could grab the valve and screw it on. I proceeded with the plan-remove cap-thumb over end of pipe-grab valve-thumb off pipe and quickly pop on valve. Piece of cake! But something was wrong-the threads of the valve were defective, and wouldn’t engage the threads on the pipe. As I tried and tied, gas was leaking bit by bit because there was no good seal. Just then I noticed a little blue flame crawling across the floor towards me. The leaking propane had gone over to the water heater and picked up a light from its pilot light. I dropped the valve and pulled back just as the flame reached the now wide open pipe. A furious jet of flame blasted across the room between me and the door. The washer and dryer were also between me and the door. I was trapped!
I covered my face with my arms, and furiously wriggled around and between the washer and dryer towards the door. When the flames hit me I screamed with pain and then I was through the door and running to the propane tank to shut off the gas. I reached the tank, and shut off the gas, which was a short and painful act. I looked at my right palm, and saw that the tank valve handle had loosened a two inch diameter piece of blistered skin, all torn and misaligned. I rushed back to see if anything was burning. As I came through the door Alva and Steve, investigating my scream and the roar of the burning gas, arrived on the scene and stood in shock.
I told them it was OK, I had turned off the gas, and nothing had caught fire. Susan had come down by then so we did a survey on my condition. I was wearing a T shirt, and nothing under the T shirt was burned. Somehow my hair had not been reached by the flame and had not caught fire. My scream while in the flame insured that no flame was inhaled into my lungs. I had second degree burns on my face as my arms were only partial protection. My arms were all third degree burns-my skin looked like Fritos glued all over my arms.
Though I was in great pain, somehow it seemed endurable. 1 Cor. 10:13 came to mind, “No temptation (can also mean trial) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tried) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation (trial) will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
In any event, everyone else was so shook that I had to take over. I told Susan to call Dr. Faris, tell him what happened, that Alva would drive me to Sierra Hospital and would he meet me there.
I got a towel to lay my arms on, as they were weeping a clear liquid, and Alva and I headed for the hospital. She was driving so fast I had to calm her down. What good is driving too fast going to do if we never make it to the hospital? I insisted that she obey the speed limit, which she reluctantly did. As we drove I was worried. What if they have to put me out and they use sodium pentothal in the process (truth serum)? What if I start talking about my life before I was saved? Would I disgrace Jesus? Please, help me Lord-don’t let that happen!
When we arrived at the hospital Dr. Faris was waiting. He looked at my arms, thinking about the treatment he was going to begin. He grabbed one of the Frito-like pieces of skin and asked me if it hurt as he slowly pulled it off. I told him I couldn’t tell if it was any worse than it was already hurting. With that he told me he was going to put me out for the initial treatment. He led me to the operating room. I was soon unconscious and undergoing debridement (removal of damaged tissue). Dr. Faris told me the surgical instrument used was a scrub brush, wielded with vigor and probably using tincture of green soap. I’m sure it was a good thing that I was unconscious!
After the procedure Dr. Faris talked to Alva while I was in the recovery room. He told her that it would take months of skin grafting surgery before I would be back to normal. She said nothing about this to me.
When I came to both arms were encased in wet bandages and my face was bandaged here and there where there was a patch of third degree burn.
When Dr. Faris came in he explained what he had done. He said I would stay in the hospital and in a week he would repeat the procedure and change the bandages. I felt weak, but otherwise OK . I asked Dr. Faris if I had said anything while under the anaesthetic. He gave me a funny look,. He gave me a funny look, said that I hadn’t, and wondered why I asked. When I told him he had a good laugh.
The next day was Sunday, and they had to make do without me at the services. Vivian Baker had prepared for and sang at the morning service, God Leads His Dear Children Along—some through the waters, some through the floods, some through the fire but all through the blood.
Alva came to the hospital Monday morning to commence her caregiver ministry for her half baked husband. After greetings, I said to her, “Honey, I am supposed to walk, but only with someone alongside. I have been hearing this beautiful southern gospel music, so let’s walk around and see if we can find where it is coming from.” We toured all the hallways of the hospital but couldn’t find it. As we entered my room there it was again. I moved around to find the loudest spot, and it was the room air conditioner. My brain was interpreting the sound of the air conditioner as gospel music! Cool.
When Dr. Faris came by, Alva drew him aside and told him about the gospel music. “Oh oh,” he said, “we are over medicating him.” I didn’t need the pain medication, it was just addling my brain, so he stopped the regular dosage and left it as available on demand. I was feeling better every day, and had a voracious appetite, especially for fish. Alva would go out and bring me a malt or some other craved for tid bit.
The Chapel Elders, Scotty Chester and Edison Ryals, came to pray for me, but Dr. Faris had left a strict “no visitors” edict, so they just went to my door and prayed for me there, doing a “virtual” anointing with oil.
It was Saturday again. One week as an invalid. Dr. Faris took me into the OR for a second treatment and a change of the wet bandages. He came into the recovery room after I came to, and blurted out “You have all new skin!” Still groggy, I replied “That’s nice,” not knowing that I was supposed to go through months of skin grafting. Alva told him God had healed me when the Elders came and prayed for me. Whether he believed that or not, he sure was mystified!
There were a few spots on my arms that were most severely burned that were not completely covered with new skin, so he replaced the wet bandages, and kept me in the hospital till I regained my full strength. I ended up missing only two Sundays and of course, attending the Pastor’s Conference.
All this was before the Charismatic Movement hit us. We just obeyed James 5: 14 & 15, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
Hallelujah, the Lord is good!