By Mark Gillmore
Pastor Duane Scott Willis and his wife Janet dearly loved the nine
children God had given them. But mid-morning on November 8, 1994, a fiery auto explosion
on I-94 in Milwaukee claimed the lives of their six youngest. Within hours, the freak
accident had made national and international headlines. From behind guarded hospital doors
came good news concerning Scott and Janet: their physical recovery from first and second
degree burns would be complete. However, the most astonishing recovery became apparent as
Scott and Janet displayed their emotional and spiritual stability.
Milwaukee, the nation,
--even the world looked on in amazement as eight days later the bereaved couple explained to
the media how they could make it through such a sudden and horrific tragedy. The following
statements are excerpts from that news conference.
"Psalm 34 says, I will bless the Lord at all times. His
praise shall continually be in my mouth. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.
Janet and I want to praise and thank God. There is no question in our minds that God is
good, and we praise Him in all things. God is a great God."
"As far as the accident is concerned, I was looking at the road
and was alert. Our little baby was behind us; Ben was behind us on the other side. In the
back seat were the other four children; they were all buckled in. I saw
the object (a metal brace, 6" x 30", 30 lbs.). I thought it was one of those
blocks that maybe came off one of those flat-bed trucks. The car in front of me swerved,
and I knew I couldnt miss hitting the object. I thought if I took it on the tire I
might roll the car. It was a split-second decision.
"When we hit the object, the rear gas tank exploded, taking the car out
of control. I was able to grip the wheel and take the car out of the slide. When we were
sliding and the flames were coming around the seat, it was a shocka
surpriselike, What is this? It was just roaring flames coming up on both
sides. I was yelling to get out of the car. Janet and I had to consciously put our hands
into the flames to unbuckle the seat belts and reach for the door handles.
Janet fell out the door while the car was still moving. Benny was in the midst of the burning midst
of the burning; his clothes were mostly burned off by the time he got out. The five
youngest children, who had been asleep, died instantly. No sound was heard by Janet or me
as we struggled to get out of the van. An unknown man took his shirt off his back to soak
Bennys wounds,and another beat out the burning clothes on Janets back. Benny
died in intensive care around midnight."
"We believe children are an heritage of the Lord. We thank God for
six precious children-- four rascally boys, a sweet girl, so much like her mother, and
a little baby, just beginning to smile and grow. We understood that they were given of the
Lord, and we understood they werent ours. They were His, and we were
stewards of those children. And so God took them back. He is the Giver and Taker of life.
We must tell you that we hurt and sorrow as you parents would for your children. The depth
of pain is indescribable. The Bible expresses our feelings that we sorrow, but not as
those without hope."
"What gives us our firm foundation for our hope is the Bible. The
truth of Gods Word assures us that Ben, Joe, Sam, Hank, Elizabeth, and Peter are in
Heaven with Jesus Christ. We know, based upon the Word of God, where they are. Our
strength rests in the Word of God. The Bible is sure and gives us confidence. Everything
God promises is true."
"We thank God for His preparation for this trial. Janet became a
Christian as a teenager after reading a Gospel tract that somebody had handed her. On
February 5, 1975, I (Scott) trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. A man showed me
that I was a sinnerand I knew my own heart. Nobody had ever, ever in my life
presented the Gospel to me. I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ; I believed that He
died for my sins. I became a Christian that day. Since then God has been working with us.
He has prepared us for this trial. Were not special people. Were sinners saved
by grace. But were not taking a short view of life; we take a long view of life, and
that includes eternal life. We realize that someday well stand before the Lord, and
the things that are here will matter very little. Gods grace is sufficient for
Scott and Janet always speak directly concerning Gods Word and
the issues of life. Neither would hesitate to ask: Are you and your household prepared to
handle the certainty of death? Gods Word teaches that "it
is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews
9:27). When you stand before the Lord God, what will His decision be concerning you? Do
you have absolute assurance that Heaven is your eternal home? Have you trusted in Jesus
Christ as your personal Savior from the penalty of your sins? If not, please read and
believe the follow statements from Gods Word the Bible, and accept Jesus Christ
In Gods eyes we are all on the same level: "There is none righteous, no not one . . . For all have sinned"
(Romans 3:10, 23). We are all sinners deserving eternal judgment in the lake of fire
because "the wages of sin is death"
(Revelation 20:15; 21:8; Romans 6:23).
However, "God so loved the world, that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life" (John 3:16). Eternal life can be received only as a gift
from God. It can never be earned, because "by grace are ye
saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest
any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through the death and
resurrection of Jesus, Gods Son, God provided the only means for mans
Eternal life is available to anyone! "Whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). Talk
to God RIGHT NOW in prayer! Admit to Him your need as a sinner and your trust in Jesus
Christ as your personal Savior. He will save you NOW!
Dear God, I know that as a sinner I deserve eternal death, but I thank You that Jesus Christ, Your perfect Son, died in my place that I might be saved. I here and now open my heart to Christ and receive Him as my Saviour and as the Lord of my life.