Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

The Psalmist prayed, “Lord may my life be precious in your sight.” Christians sometimes pray for a hedge of protection around their loved ones. This is a concept introduced in the book of Job when Satan challenged God by saying that Job’s faith was strong because God always protects him. There have been a number of times when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. It seemed like death was nearby, but God in his goodness created a hedge of protection and delivered me.

The first time I encountered death was when I was around nine years and I went to swim in a nearby river with my friends. Our game was to jump in and count how long each of us could stay at the bottom of the river. I jumped in but when I wanted to come out, I became entangled in the roots of a tree. Instead of swimming up, I became even more tangled in the roots. I could hear my friends counting from the shore and I knew that I was going to die. My short life flashed before my eyes with supersonic speed; there I was dying as my friends were cheering for my ability to stay underwater. Finally, I pulled so hard that the root broke and I swam up to the surface.


The second time I experienced the fear that I might die is when I was driving a carriage pulled by two horses. I was coming back from the fields and driving through the village at a very relaxed pace. Suddenly the horses got spooked, the reins were snatched from my hands, and the horses started to gallop. There was nothing I could do except hold on for dear life. The horses ran towards a gate, but the gate was closed so they slowed down, made a right turn, and the carriage was stopped by a tree that did not want to move. By this time, there were neighbors coming to see the broken carriage and give me some words of wisdom. Apparently, I should have jumped out of the carriage instead of being glued to the seat for this terrifying ride that lasted less than a minute.


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The third time that I encountered death was when my parents moved to California. One of my sisters and I were driving from Detroit to Los Angeles, and our bigger car was towing another car. While we were driving through Missouri, the tow bar broke and sent our car off the road into a cow pasture. The pasture was fenced, but the speed of the car broke the fence. We sped through the field, with the other car pushing us from behind. The cows were mesmerized, and I looked at my sister and both of us thought, “This is it; we are going to die.” It was in that second, as the car was jumping across the field, that a verse I had memorized came to mind: “Even though a thousand shall fall to your left and ten thousand to your right, nothing will happen to you.” The car that we towed was completely destroyed and we had to rent a small U-Haul to carry the things that had been in the smaller car. The car that we drove needed to have some repairs and we arrived in Los Angeles two days late, but my sister and I were unharmed.

The fourth time I almost met death was when I went to help a friend with an experiment. This friend was very inventive and very daring. He was trying to create a pulley that would create electricity. We had to pull ropes to raise a heavy stone to the top of his invention. Once it got to the top, it would produce electricity. It looked bizarre but, being good friends, we tried to help him. As we were hoisting the stone up, the ropes snapped and the stone fell between me and the other friend. It fell so hard that it went almost a foot into the ground. If it had veered to the right or to the left, one of us would be dead.

Once I got married and we started having children, I became much more calculated about taking risks. I have always believed in divine providence and trusted God with my whole heart, but I am not willing to test the Lord with my carelessness or stupidity.

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George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...