The Step That Changed His Life

The Step That Changed His Life

Chaplain Mike Meyer used his cane to steady himself as he knelt at the altar at the Central Florida District Assembly to be ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. As he maneuvered his prosthetic legs into a kneeling position, he remembered how one step in Vietnam changed his life forever. Forty years - and it was still picture-clear in his mind.

It was September 26, 1971. Mike began the second humid day of a mission to locate and explode armed charges in a known minefield. He had volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Anything was better for this Floridian than the biting cold he had endured in Germany, or so he thought.

Michael had just placed a charge next to a cluster of 'bouncing Bettys,' baited traps that didn't detonate until someone stepped off of them. They shot a person about three feet into the air, exploding with metal balls that could cut a soldier in half.

In a mind-stopping moment, an invisible force picked Mike up and placed him in a pinball explosion of shrapnel before dropping him hard to earth. Feeling fortunate because he had no pain, he tried to figure out how he could have taken a mine blast without injury. That's when he saw what was missing - his right foot. He also saw that the spray of shrapnel had reduced both legs to pegboards. The blast should have killed him.

The next year was an endless parade of infections, surgeries, hospitals, pain, double amputation above the knees, medication, rehabilitation, and prosthetics - all because of one wrong step. But God had other steps for Mike, steps he could take without his legs, steps that would give him life and purpose.

When he received medical retirement in 1972, Mike returned to school to earn a GED. Frustrated with wheelchair life, he started using Canadian crutches, the kind that offer forearm support from a metal cuff. Then, he graduated to cane-only assistance, a feat that doctors told him would be next to impossible. Using military benefits, he continued on to college, graduating from Florida Atlantic University. In 1982, he married Barbara Jean. Step by step, life continued to open for Mike.

Then, there was another explosion. Barbara was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. While cancer changed everything, it also led them to take the most important step of their lives. In the days of fatigue following chemotherapy, Barbara had started watching a TV evangelist. She urged Mike to watch, too.

Wanting to do anything to help his wife, Mike suggested they visit an Orlando church. This was an unusual step for both of them. Mike had been raised nominal Catholic and Barbara had embraced Christian Science.

God spoke to Mike and Barbara the night they visited the church. Both went forward to repent and receive new life through Christ. Mike remembers, 'A strange sensation came over me. I felt like I was walking about a foot above the floor. The Lord removed so much that I felt like I was a helium balloon.'

Their search for a nearby church led them to the Davie Westside Nazarene Church. They found a group of people who loved them through the difficult days to come. They stood by Mike when Barbara lost her six-year cancer struggle in 2001.

As Mike adjusted to his single life, he heard God speak again. 'I believe the Lord has put a call on my life,' he told his pastor. It was not the first time he had thought about ministry. When he was 16, he dreamed the same dream three nights - he was a priest saying mass in a Catholic church, except no one in the church was Catholic.

He had started paperwork to become a priest while hospitalized after amputation, but felt checked not to complete the process. Now he understood that he was right about ministry and wrong about the priesthood. When he found out that Asbury Theological Seminary had an Orlando campus, he enrolled.

God brought another wonderful woman into his life and they married in 2005. Bertha became a positive supporter during his arduous studies at the Central Florida Nazarene Bible Institute and Asbury Seminary in Orlando.

One night while Mike watched a story about police chaplains, he felt a tug on his heart. 'I wonder if I could do that?' He called to find out the requirements and discovered that the new Orlando police chief planned to expand the chaplaincy program. By 2007 Mike became part of that expansion. Every crisis call confirms he's where God wants him. Like the middle-of-the-night call he received to console two teenaged boys who witnessed the fatal shooting of their mother and grandmother at the hand of their father.

As Mike Meyer, police chaplain, associate pastor of Orlando Union Park Church of the Nazarene, and double amputee, knelt for ordination, he thought about the God-ordered steps that brought him to ordination. 'I am humbled and awed by all that God has done.'

Geneva Silvernail, former Nazarene missionary educator and now vice president for Asbury's Florida campus, has seen Mike's tenacity firsthand. 'Michael is determined to answer a call regardless of his difficulties. It is apparent that what he learns in class, he applies directly to his work.'

'It's all God!' says Meyer.

If a land mine couldn't stop him, nothing will. His life is a walking object lesson for this truth, step by obedient step.

Debbie Salter Goodwin is a freelance writer and ministry partner with her pastor-husband, Mark, at Portland, Oregon, First Nazarene Church.

Holiness Today, September/October 2012