An accident that happened years ago changed Virgil Minden’s voice forever. It also changed his understanding of God.

At 14, Virgil had an interest in his parents’ motorcycles. He wanted his father to teach him, but his father didn’t. One day, when both of Virgil’s parents were out of the house, Virgil decided he was going to ride the motorcycle.

He and his two younger brothers went to the garage and Virgil started the motorcycle. He rode around the family’s tear shaped driveway which was lined with fences. After returning to the garage, Virgil looked at his younger brothers and said, “Don’t tell mom and dad or I’ll kill you.”

Over the next month, Virgil continued to ride his parents’ motorcycle when they were out of the house. He normally rode around the driveway, but on occasion would ride elsewhere.

Virgil’s brothers didn’t say a word to their parents, keeping in mind the threats from Virgil. To prevent their parents from knowing about the motorcycle rides, Virgil disconnected the speedometer and all three of the boys helped cover any tracks left by the bike.

Virgil’s parents, however, could sense something was going on. Tensions in the family rose and eventually the family got into an argument. Yet, Virgil’s parents still did not know about the motorcycle.

The day after the family’s argument, Virgil went to school. His day was not going well, and he decided to leave. He walked three miles home, upset.

When he arrived home, he wanted to relieve his stress. Since he had been riding the motorcycle for a month, it was almost second nature to seek distraction through a ride.

As normal, Virgil started the motorcycle and went for a ride around the driveway. As he came close to curve, he realized he was going too fast. A combination of inexperience, brakes, wet grass and gravel caused Virgil to lose control of the bike.

The motorcycle threw Virgil into the fence and then Virgil fell on top of the motorcycle. Virgil blacked out and the next thing he remembered was running towards the house. He realized he was bleeding and tried to wipe the blood away. He went to lay down but was in too much pain that he kept moving.

As he walked around, his younger brother saw him. His brother asked if he should call an ambulance. Unable to speak, Virgil shook his head no. Soon after, Virgil fell.

The younger brother was scared, and this time decided not to listen to Virgil and instead called for help. When he reached 911, he urged the medics to come quickly. He hung up the phone and called his father. His father instructed him to cover Virgil with a blanket.

Five minutes later, several emergency vehicles arrived to take Virgil to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Virgil’s mother had felt impressed all day to pray for Virgil. She continually lifted him up in prayer throughout the day. At the time, she was taking a refresher course in nursing. When she finished her course for the day she went to her husband’s office. There, Virgil’s father was speaking on the phone with Virgil’s younger brother about the accident. Virgil’s mother headed straight for the hospital.

While there would typically be traffic headed towards the hospital, which could cause an extra 30 minutes of commute time, that day there was none. Virgil’s mother arrived at the hospital before Virgil did, waiting for him to arrive.

When Virgil made it to the hospital, staff were ready to assist. Immediately the medical team put a trach tube in Virgil and then added a chest tube to help his almost collapsed left lung. Virgil was then placed in ICU.

The next day, Virgil had a CT scan done. The scan revealed his throat was completely swollen shut except for the trach tube. He was taken into surgery the next day.

The surgery was shorter than expected, but the news was also graver. Virgil had sustained several injuries. He had a long tear in his esophagus. His throat was completely crushed. His left vocal cord was torn out and his right vocal cord was barely attached. He had a fracture in his left femur. He had broken his jaw in four places and lost a tooth. He also had third degree burns.

The Sabbath following the accident, Virgil was anointed. For Virgil, the anointing meant more than a request for healing, it was about forgiveness. He knew he had done wrong, and he knew he needed forgiveness.

Four hours after the anointing, Virgil’s swelling in his throat went down. While originally it was expected that Virgil would be in the hospital for at least a month, he was released in 12 days. A week after that, he returned to school with his trach tube.

When Virgil returned home from the hospital, his father was on a business trip. Normally Virgil was excited for his dad to return from business trips. At that time people could meet loved ones in the terminal, and Virgil and his brothers would often run to greet their father.

Virgil preaches at his church a few months following his accident.

This time was different. Virgil did not want to greet his father upon his return. He was scared he would be punished for riding the motorcycle and the accident. Virgil’s mother explained that Virgil’s father was not upset with him, that he had already forgiven him even before Virgil could ask.

Through this experience, Virgil better understood that humans are not saved through acts and being perfect, but rather we are saved by God’s grace and forgiveness. He realized God isn’t waiting in Heaven to condemn humans but forgive and love them.

Today Virgil can speak, but his voice doesn’t sound like it did before the accident. He is often asked if he is sick or if something is wrong with him. He said this has given him the opportunity to share his testimony and his understanding of God’s forgiveness.