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Jun8WedRun over and left for dead, it took two words to change my life. June 8, 2016 by Patti Howell
My life changed on March 20, 2010. In fact, I can even tell you the exact time: 4 a.m. I was lying in an Edmonton street, bloodied and broken, after being run over by a drug dealer's car. They had sped away but I could hear the car's tires screech in reverse as they decided to come back and finish the job.
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- Faith & Friends
Luckily, God spoke two words to me that saved my life.
I was born in 1963 in Toronto. My parents divorced when I was five, and my mother worked two different jobs to support me and my three siblings. That left us vulnerable to predators who posed as babysitters. Times were different back then and there was not the same scrutiny of caregivers that there is now. I experienced sexual abuse from a very early age at the hands of several of them.
The only bright spot during those years were the summers I spent at the Salvation Army summer camp at Jackson's Point, north of Toronto. I don't know how my mother was able to arrange it, but my siblings and I spent two weeks up there each year. I still recall that time spent with caring counsellors and fellow campers as the happiest of my entire life. Through the awful years that followed, no matter what happened, at the back of my mind was the idea that The Salvation Army was a safe place.
As I entered my teens, my life spiraled out of control. The years of abuse had hardened me, and I carried hatred as my shield. I made wrong choice after wrong choice. I dropped out of school after Grade 9, which made it difficult to find any kind of financial stability, and the mistakes snowballed.
By way of protecting myself from being hurt, I became my own abuser. My life was a whirlpool of prostitution, addiction, homelessness and violence, and at its core was a deep and dreadful desperation.
March 20 was no exception. By then, I'd moved to Edmonton hoping to find a better life, which hadn't happened.
That night was a typical one for me. I was “working,” and while I waited for my dealer, two men drove up. They were strangers to me and we exchanged words, but when they found out I wasn't going to do business with them, they decided to make sure I wouldn't be dealing with anyone else.
As I walked away, they started up their car and slammed into me from behind. I didn't know it then but the crash broke my hip, my pelvis and both sides of my jaw. Then the passenger jumped out of the car and robbed me.
I don't know how to explain what happened to me next. It was four in the morning and there was no one else on the darkened street.
But as the dealers drove away, I heard a voice saying two words to me: “Move, Patti.” I believe it was God speaking.
I found the strength and will to drag my broken and battered body to the space between two parked cars.
Just in time. The dealers had decided to drive back and finish the job. Somehow, I got most of my upper body between the parked cars before the drug dealers ran over my legs.
I'd never experienced such pain. The doctors later told me that in addition to my initial injuries, my left kneecap and my right calf were broken, and my left heel was crushed.
It was just as well that I passed out because the pain was overwhelming. Fortunately, a bystander who happened on the scene called the police and paramedics.
I woke up a month later at the University of Alberta Hospital from a medically induced coma and immediately knew what I had to do.
“OK, God,” I prayed. “I've ruined my broken life beyond any imagining. Take what's left of it and do with it what You will.”
He'd saved me from certain death, I was convinced, and only He could create something good out of what was left of me.
And He did.
I spent the next three months confined to my hospital bed, followed by another month learning how to walk again at a rehabilitation facility. From a wheelchair, I progressed to a walker and then a cane to my own two feet.
Through all the pain and frustration, God must have been working on me because I had no desire to return to my old way of life. I successfully completed a 56-day recovery program and was placed in a transitional housing facility.
Now that I was settled, a voice, with no less urgency than when I had been run over, told me to find a place to worship. But how to get there?
After five different churches turned down my request for transportation, I made one last call.
“We don't have a wheelchair service but I'll come and get you myself,” said Sandie Presley, the director of pastoral care. And that's how I found my way to The Salvation Army's Edmonton Temple and Majors Don and Donna Bladen, then the pastors. And I have been there ever since.
I am now a soldier in The Salvation Army. I attend church regularly and do as much volunteer work as I can with my still-limited mobility. I'm happy and grateful to be alive.
Even though I struggled, I managed to graduate from high school. From there, I went to college to work on a two-year diploma in social work, and I graduated in May 2015. I am now employed at Transitions, a program that assists those who wish to escape sexual exploitation or human trafficking. I facilitate classes on communication, self-esteem and career development, amongst others. With two words, God redeemed the horror and waste of my life and placed me exactly where I need to be.