Recently, I heard an amazing story of how God used my novel, Blind Sight, to turn someone’s life around. After hearing this story, even if I never sell another book, I’ll feel fulfilled as a writer.
At about 3 a.m. on March 1st of last year, two young men broke into Terry Caffey’s home in Emory, Texas. They shot Terry and killed his wife, Penney, and then went upstairs and murdered the Caffey’s two young sons, Bubba and Tyler. They then set fire to the house and left the family for dead. Although he had been shot twelve times, Terry escaped through the bathroom window and crawled three hundred yards to a neighbor’s house. To make matters worse, Terry’s daughter Erin was implicated in the crime. Overnight, Terry Caffey lost his entire family.
A month or so later, Terry went back to his property. The remains of the house had been bulldozed and little was left. Torn with grief, Terry was contemplating suicide. Unable to understand why God had taken his family and allowed him to survive, Terry cried out to God, “Why did you take my family? Why didn’t you take me, too? I don’t understand.”
As he stood there, Terry noticed a burned scrap of paper standing up against the trunk of a nearby tree. He went over and picked it up. The paper was part of a page from my novel, Blind Sight. The edges of the page were scorched and it was difficult to read. But the words were like a direct message to Terry from God.
Here’s the portion of text that Terry found:
[The viewpoint character in these paragraphs is Thomas Kent, a man who lost his wife and children in an automobile accident that he survived. In this scene, Thomas is praying.]
“I couldn’t understand why You would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. And I guess I still don’t totally understand that part of it. But I do believe that You’re sovereign; You’re in control.”
Justine’s voice reverberated through his thoughts: Maybe God knew we needed you.
“And I know that You’ve brought Justine and those children into my life. And they need me. Lord, You could have taken my life that day, but You spared it. And You’ve gone on sparing it. It doesn’t matter what happens to me now, but if I can help them, please let me do it.”
Thomas closed the drapes and stood alone in the dark room. For the first time in two years, he was at peace with God and with himself. He knew what he had to do. Justine and her children would be safe, even if he had to die to make sure of it.
Those paragraphs turned Terry’s life around. He found the strength to go on, and is now sharing his testimony in churches around the country. When he speaks, he brings the page from my novel, now preserved in a frame, and shows it to the congregation.
Because the page was only partially preserved, Terry didn’t know what book it had come from until a few weeks ago. He spoke one Sunday morning at Greenville Bible Church, and my daughter, Charlene, was present in the congregation. [She and Terry’s daughter, Erin, are good friends.] Charlene and Terry both had lunch at pastor Jim Corbet’s house, and Terry told them that he’d love to find out which book the page had come from. The pastor and his wife had both read Blind Sight and they thought they recognized the passage. Charlene agreed that it sounded like it had come from my novel. Pastor Corbet took his copy of Blind Sight down and they eventually found the page.
That same afternoon, Terry called and shared the story with me. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to a story that is nothing short of a miracle of God’s providence. Not only had the house burned, but the site had been long since cleaned up and the debris bulldozed and hauled off. What little material was left had been exposed to the weather for at least a month. And out of a nearly 400-page book, the only scrap that remained was a brief passage where a man who had lost a wife and two children came to grips with the sovereign goodness of God, submitted to His will, and decided to move forward.
That scrap of paper lay there against a tree trunk as if waiting for Terry Caffey: a man who had lost his wife and two sons, a man who was in deep despair and who was contemplating suicide, a man who desperately needed to come to grips with the sovereign goodness and mercy of God.
Needless to say, I am deeply humbled to have been the one who wrote the words that God chose to use. What an incredible, awesome God we serve!
–Is that amazing or what?
Terry and I just signed a contract with Tyndale to write a book about how God worked through this terrible tragedy, and has brought good from it. The only hitch is they want to release in September, so I’m writing my little fingers to the bone. The manuscript must be ready by June 15th. The current working title is Terror by Night.
James H. Pence is the founder of Tuppence Creative Ministries, an outreach that encourages excellence in the arts for the glory of God. In addition to being the author of six books, James is a performance chalk artist and vocalist.
A story about the crime and resulting convictions appears HERE.