The day was like many others colored with details that fade to gray in less than a fortnight. the daily routines breathed in and out with expected regularity; People making coffee, doing laundry and working. Yet, one event transformed the ordinary to the extraordinary and the hand of god was revealed in the flesh.
Does God still do miracles today? Theologians may debate their existence, but for a Texas couple, the answer is a resounding yes. Cody and Cheri Clemmons encountered God’s miraculous intervention on a rainy day in March 2009. Just like every other day, the couple greeted the morning with prayer and Bible study. “We took communion that day, because we had been studying about it,” Cheri remembers. “We were also reading a book that said God is in control of physics, time and matter. It really started as an ordinary day.”
Owners of a home-based business, the Clemmonses spent the day working and chatting about God’s sovereignty over the physical world. As suppertime drew near, “we both began to have an incredible craving for an all-beef hot dog—you know, the kosher kind,” Cody says. As the craving grew, the couple decided to chance missing their daily parcel service delivery and drive the extra distance—in a downpour—to the closest grocer who carried Hebrew hot dogs. “We both had such an obsession with getting a hot dog,” Cheri says. “What we didn’t know was that we were about to see God in control of physics like we had never seen before.”
A Life-Threatening Collision
On Highway 6 near Crawford, Texas, the couple was just a few miles from home when they encountered a fiery car crash. An SUV had lost control on the rain-slick pavement and hurtled into an oncoming compact car. After flipping several times, the SUV came to rest on its roof in the grassy median, just a few inches from the crushed compact. Fire was already licking around the feet of the SUV driver, Lisa Bowdoin, who was suspended upside down. For the driver of the compact car, Anthony Russo, escape was impossible. His lower body was completely crushed in the car; his legs had become one with the vehicle.
When Cody and Cheri arrived on the scene, other good Samaritans had already rescued two young girls, one with a concusssion and the other with broken legs, from the SUV and warned the Clemmonses to “stay back because the cars were going to blow.” Cheri climbed between the vehicles to see if anyone was still inside. She saw Anthony pinned in the tiny car and squeezed his arm, telling him he was going to be OK. When she peered into the SUV, she discovered Lisa, who suggested that with a knife, she could cut herself free from the seatbelt and escape.
Cody grabbed a knife from their car and wriggled through the back window of the SUV. As he laid on his stomach, flames started to fill the vehicle, and he could feel the heat on his face. Cheri stood behind Cody, leaning over him. The whole time they were both praying. “Cheri sounded like she was at a football game,” Cody remembers. “Everyone could hear her praying.”
She was praying in agreement with God’s Word, praying verses from the Bible. “I was wrestling with God,” she says. “It was a desperate level of prayer, and I didn’t care what people heard or thought. This was between me and God, and He had to do something.” Cheri remembers saying to God, “YOU say that the fervent prayers of a righteous man avail much. I’m righteous through the blood of Christ. You said that You would send angels to help. Send Your angels now!”
Lying on his stomach inside the SUV, Cody knew Lisa couldn’t fit between the seat headrest and car ceiling. “A child might have fit through that 6-inch space,” he says, “but not an adult. I also knew there was no way I could physically pull her out while lying on my stomach. You can’t belly-crawl and pull a weight—you have to raise your body to pull. I had no room to rise up.”
As Cheri prayed and saw Cody’s hands reach for Lisa’s, the blaze in the car exploded, engulfing Cody and Lisa in a fireball. Flames shot out the back window and burst upward, covering Cheri’s back and melting her jacket. She continued to pray, crying out to God, and also calling to Cody, wondering if he was still alive.
“At that moment, there was a flash of bright white light next to me, and I felt a bump against my side, like someone was squeezing between me and the car, where there really was no room,” she says. A pair of hands—ageless, young and smooth—extended out of the bright light, reached past her, and covered Cody’s and Lisa’s hands.
Inside the car, as Lisa grabbed hold of Cody’s hands, she saw “a flash of white light, and then a pair of white hands covered ours,” she says. “The next thing I knew it was like I was going through a white tunnel, and then I was outside the car.” Cheri concurs with this. “After I saw those hands extend out of the light and into the car, there was movement, and suddenly Cody and Lisa were lying on the grass beside me,” she says. Flames still covered Lisa’s legs.
All Cody remembers is that a pair of hands covered his. “The next thing I knew, Lisa and I were lying on the grass,” he says. Other passersby used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames on Lisa’s legs, then helped Cody move her away from the burning cars.
Another Divine Rescue
As Lisa and Cody rested, fire began to blaze inside the compact car.
“I saw flames roll over Anthony and cover him, and I remember thinking he was going to burn to death,” Cody says. Anthony, who had passed out, regained consciousness as the flames began to enter his car. “I saw a man standing in the back passenger window, and he said, ‘Calm down. Everything is going to be all right.’ I was watching my arm catch fire, and I couldn’t figure out how it would be all right,” he says. “Then the man smiled and walked away, and I passed out.”
An explosion erupted, covering both vehicles. Theresa Surley, another passerby who had stopped to help the accident victims, also witnessed the explosion. “I cried out to God to help Anthony, because there was no way he could escape that car on his own. He was injured, and at that point, unconscious. Then I saw him being carried from his car—that’s the only way I can humanly articulate it,” she says. “It was like he was floating across the grass, and then he was set down, gently. I didn’t see angels, but it must have been angels that removed him from the car.”
Right about then Cody realized he wasn’t hearing any screams, which seemed odd, since it seemed likely that Anthony would be burning to death. “I looked toward his car because I heard someone saying, ‘Help me, help me.’ And there was Anthony, lying in the grass three to four yards away from the car,” Cody says.
Cheri ran to Anthony and began to pray. His arm, which she had touched before, was now black and charred. As she kneeled at Anthony’s head and prayed, Theresa joined her. “At one point I opened my eyes, and there was a man kneeling at Anthony’s feet. He was watching me pray and smiling,” Cheri says. “As I continued to pray fervently, he smiled even bigger and said to me, ‘Calm down. Everything is going to be all right.’ As he spoke, there was so much peace and calm.” Theresa, who was also praying with her eyes open—right beside Cheri—never saw or heard the man. “I believe he was an angel,” Cheri says.
By the time first responders arrived, more explosions had rocked the vehicles and filled the sky with black smoke. Above the smoke, a rainbow arched over the scene, inspiring rescue personnel and witnesses to speak openly about God’s promises and saved lives.
After the Flames
Following the divine rescue, the Clemmonses’ lives changed. “We began to live with our eyes on God, instead of on our circumstances,” Cheri says. “We look around daily, and instead of becoming frustrated by events, we ask God where our divine appointment is. We know that He is in control and that we’re here to do a job for Him.”
Theresa, a massage therapist, changed the way she conducts her business as a result of that day. “I have studied many different methods and modalities for healing. I had all those systems illustrated in posters on my office walls—things based on man-made intellect and observation,” she says. “But that day on Highway 6, we didn’t use any of those methods to save those people. Cheri and I prayed the prayer of agreement based on Matthew 18:19—and people were saved. All we needed was the name of Jesus.” Today Theresa’s office walls feature the smiling faces of her 12 grandchildren. “I took down all those posters. Now I rely fully on the Holy Spirit for direction in healing massage,” she says.
Anthony, who had believed in God but wasn’t a Christ-follower, became one as a result of his miraculous rescue. “I had always known God was there, but I had never asked Him for anything, or put any effort into a relationship with Him,” he says. “That accident made me pick up the Bible. Now I walk in relationship with God. I credit Him with saving my life that day.” Anthony continues to recover and devotes his days to caring for his young family.
Lisa experienced more than physical healing following the accident. “I’d always been a believer, but at that point I was frustrated about many things and going through a low period in my spiritual life,” she says. Looking back, she sees that God worked through the events of the accident to help her refocus. “I was strongly independent, but for nine months I couldn’t walk. I had to depend completely on others for everything. God taught me so much during that time about not trying to do things on my own and letting Him have His way in my life.” Since the accident, Lisa is pursuing a new career path: pediatric occupational therapy. Her passion is to help foster children be the best they can be. “Many of these kids have difficult backgrounds, but through God they can excel,” she says.
For Cody, the accident transformed him into a man who wants others to know Christ. “The one commission we have as believers is to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus. Few are willing because they don’t want to get burned by the tongues of the unsaved. Because of that fear of personal injury, so many people will burn in the fires for eternity,” he says. “That day of the accident, I was afraid to get hurt. I was afraid of the flames, and I told God I didn’t want to die. But I was obedient and went in to help. I saw the flames roll over Anthony—and I saw God rescue him. That was such a powerful illustration of God’s saving love. Now I can’t help but share Jesus with others.”
Today the Clemmonses share the love of Jesus through nursing home ministry. They also were inspired to create a website—whatifministry.org—that helps lead searchers to Jesus. They know firsthand that God is a miracle-worker who works through ordinary people. “If we allow ourselves to be used, God uses us. If we don’t, He’ll excuse us,” Cody says. “And in His mercy and grace, He’ll even use us when we’re scared. All we have to do is choose to obey.”
Too Many Miracles to Count
- When Theresa Surley arrived on the scene, she called a firefighter friend in the nearest township to alert him to the accident. “I told him the wrong location but then the firemen showed up at the right one,” she says. “He later said that what he heard me say was the correct location—but those were not the words I used.”
- Cody, Cheri and Lisa witnessed the angelic hands that helped pull Lisa from her burning SUV.
- Theresa believes angels carried Anthony Russo from his car. “He was unconscious and yet his arms were propped up above his body in a U-shape—just the way they would be if someone were carrying him,” she says. “He couldn’t have moved himself.”
- The steering column pinned Anthony to the driver’s seat, breaking four of his ribs. A firefighter said the steering column was bent and broken away from him, permitting his escape. “The fireman said it’s humanly impossible to bend or break that column,” Anthony says.
- Although Lisa Bowdoin’s lower body was completely on fire, she suffered no burns on her legs. “She had huge blisters,” Cheri says, “but no pain. She is a woman of faith, and God spared her pain.”
- Cheri’s jacket melted, showing evidence of the flames that licked her body, but she sustained no burns and no singed hair. “Upon seeing my jacket and examining me, the ER doctor said, ‘We have a medical term for this. It’s called a miracle of God,’” Cheri says.
- Despite being engulfed in an explosion, Cody received only minor burns on his hands and forehead, along with a little singed hair.
- Anthony later learned that no one had seen the man who told him it was going to be all right. When he and Cheri compared notes, they discovered that they had seen the same man, and he said the same thing to both of them. They both believe he was an angel.
- Through the testimony of God’s divine intervention, Cheri’s father came to salvation, as did a young gang member the Clemmonses met and witnessed to outside a pharmacy on the night of the accident. Anthony came to the Lord and Lisa’s faith was greatly strengthened.
- Someone nominated the good Samaritans—including Cody—for the Carnegie Hero Medal. The cash award granted with that medal, $5,000, covered the Clemmons’ medical expenses associated with the accident.