By Ralphine Major
“Yes,” Don Hughes answered, confirming that he was the one who stopped to help Barbara and Mike Cruze on the interstate. Larry Stinnett was with him. As the two men ran to the pickup truck to begin praying over Mike, their wives (Ginny Stinnett and Karen Hughes) stayed behind in the car and began praying also. The Cruze couple could not have known that these strangers were dedicated leaders at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church where they put Mike’s name on the prayer list. “Through God’s mercy and grace, we have seen how God works,” Barbara said. “God has blessed us in so many ways.”
Seven years after Mike’s miracle, the strangers who met that evening on the interstate have become dear Christian friends. Don and Karen Hughes and Ginny Stinnett are now active members at Black Oak Heights Baptist Church. Sadly, Larry Stinnett passed away in 2012. The Stinnetts’ son, Todd, is the Senior Pastor at Black Oak where Mike and Barbara often attend. The Cruzes were surprised to learn that the Backflow Specialty Company they have used in their landscaping business is actually the Stinnett family business that Larry founded and son Brad operates.
In our first conversation, Barbara told me she saw three men coming toward their truck that evening on the interstate. “The third man was Jesus,” she said.
“Do you recall what he looked like?” I asked.
“I truly didn’t see details—just the figure of a man,” she answered.
Many local churches, including Sevier Heights where Mike’s brother attends, were involved in praying for Mike. Churches across the state prayed for Mike. The Master Gardener’s plight even reached as far as Virginia, New Hampshire, and Colorado, among other states across the country. Mike and Barbara’s home church, Mount Harmony Baptist on Strawberry Plains Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee, provided much support. “Mount Harmony not only played a role in collecting a love offering but much, much prayer and support and much love was shown through food, cards, phone calls, and visits,” Barbara shared. “Our church family meant everything during that time, a lifeline, a support network in many ways,” she added. In addition to their church, support came from others. “Family and friends provided that same support, love, and many prayers,” Barbara remembers. “It is amazing what God has done through this. So much good has come from Mike’s aortic dissection. We have grown stronger in our marriage as well as in our relationship with God,” she added.
Don, Karen, and Ginny have even visited the couple’s home church. “There is so much power in prayer,” Barbara said confidently. “We believe that Don and Larry praying over Mike at that moment in time is what saved his life, and we give all the glory to God! They were angels in our eyes!” Her words reminded me of the often-quoted scripture in Hebrews 13:2 (KJV): “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” God is great, and God is good! A Master Gardener is a living and breathing witness to what God did along a stretch of interstate when prayer warriors stopped to pray.