Read TruthInConviction at

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

A miracle is something that happens that only God can perform. Some miracles are immediate—fast. Others are slow moving.

We often make a fuss about the immediate ones. But we should be more on the lookout for the slow-moving ones for they are just as significant to the work of the gospel.

My first real miracle of eternal importance occurred when I was 7 years old. I met Jesus as personal Savior. So I have been coming to know Him better now over 61 years. It was a stroke of divine grace that obviously no mortal could muster.

Another miracle happened in 1964. It had to do with a paper posted to a seminary bulletin board. You see how insignificant a piece of paper might appear? That’s what makes the context of this occurrence a miracle. It was God who brought my eyes to that paper. I did not plan on reading that paper that day after seminary graduation.

It was a post inviting essays for a contest sponsored by Winona Lake Bible Conference. It was a competition open to all seminary students throughout America. The prize? A 21-day trip to the Middle East: Rome, Athens, Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Jordan, Israel.

I had got my master’s degree diploma and was waiting on my wife to complete her fourth-grade-teaching year. That gave me a couple of weeks to write the essay, mail it and then forget it.

We drove from Kansas City to Calgary Alberta Canada for our first pastorate. One day, the phone rang telling me I had won first place. A miracle for a fellow salaried at $45 a week.

Then in 1967 my wife became ill. In our mid-twenties, we had to leave the ministry to drive to Connecticut. But where to stay and what job to find?

That was a double-miracle. The house was 218 Main Street, Manchester where my in-laws lived along with my brother-in-law and his family—three families to one house. Fine. To me it was a miracle to have a roof over my head plus a garage to store my furnishings.

The job? Trained in religion, it’s very difficult to locate a secular position. Yet I applied for associate manager of Community Services Department at the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce and got it.

But it was not only that miracle that impressed. The second one was more unique. I had also applied for executive of the Hartford Planned Parenthood, not having a clue what PP was about!

After all, I was in my twenties and PP then was not all that well plastered. Thank God I got the Chamber position and not the PP one. I as pro-life consider that second miracle in the couplet quite the remarkable one. Talk about deliverance!

In 1970 my wife needed brain surgery. Now the miracle was not only that it was successful but that we came upon world-renowned Dr. James L. Poppin at New England Baptist Hospital / Lahey Clinic. He was the neurosurgeon Kennedys called on when Bobby was slain and when Aristotle Onassis’ son was killed in a plane crash outside Athens. In fact, my wife was seated in the doctor’s office when the call came from Onassis.

Only God could have provided the post-surgery healing plus the contact with genius Dr. Poppin.

In 1980 I was undercut by an associate minister. I was stunned, at a loss, beside myself as to where to go and what to do. God reached down with a miracle only he could have discovered. It was a lovely parsonage with church in New England—far from the scene of betrayal. It was where my family could minister for the next 11

In 1998 I was rescued by divine grace from denominational politicians who betrayed me by taking away parsonage, pulpit, health coverage and salary.

The district superintendent had believed a lie. Another pastor told him in 1991 that I had said, “We have to get rid of that guy.” The lie was that I was after the superintendent. I never said that. The superintendent never checked out the lie’s “truth.” He and a compatriot in devilment worked for the next 7 years to find a way to oust me.

But miracles happened. The denominational loss opened up an extended family via a house church ministry that is now in its tenth year.

When my parsonage was taken from me, my wife and I lived in a beat-up trailer. One day I walked through the Maine woods, coming upon an open, empty cabin. I walked into it, asking God to provide me with that three-room-and-bath shelter sans cobwebs somewhere for the rest of my life. I would be most content.

God miracled a cottage by Lake Sebago—two bedrooms, living / dining area with kitchen and bath—just the floor plan of the woodsy cabin. We’ve enjoyed this lovely home since 1999.

In addition, God miracled us with a 9-room country home and 50 acres in a Nova Scotia village in 2003. No mortal could have provided as the Lord provided.

In the early days of the house church ministry, I picked up the city paper to read a half-inch ad inviting applications for substance abuse counselor at a methadone clinic. I applied and got the position. What a fulfillment to help heroin addicts every weekday! And all because God led me to a tiny classified ad while browsing through Borders Books and Music in South Portland.

One day at the clinic I advocated for an addict client. That meant countering the supervisor’s unfair grilling of that same client. The boss did not like my disagreeing with his mistreatment of the client. At 1:30 he walked into my office: “You’re fired for insubordination.” I was in shock.

God told me to empty the office of personal items, walk steadily to my car and drive out of the parking lot. After all, I had looked up from the clinic’s lobby to spy two police cruisers driving in. The supervisor was wanting me jailed.

Another counselor told me later that the cops spied her behind the clinic on her smoke break. They said: “We understand a staff member here is giving trouble.” She said, “I know nothing about it.” With that God lifted me into safety in the nearby mall parking lot, lost midst hundreds of autos.

Then God reminded me that I had a 2:30 appointment at the Cumberland County Jail for a substance abuse counselor position. I interviewed with a fellow from Prison Health Services headquartered in Virginia. After an hour of chitchat, hardly scanning my resume, he said, “I don’t see why we shouldn’t hire you.” That was it. God miracled me a job with inmates. Fired at 1:30. Hired at 2:30.

Daily helping robbers, rapists, and murderers turn their lives around was a tonic I had never dreamt possible in my lifetime. Yet, then of course, miracles do happen—some fast and immediate. Some slow-moving but sure.