The painting Fred and Janet’s daughter made for them after the bombing (photo provided by Fred).
Compiled and edited by Ali and Elton Streyle
Fred and Janet asked that Psalm 23:4 serve as an outline for this testimony.
The Bombing: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4a)
Tuesday March 22, 2016 marked the second day of spring, “but it didn’t feel like springtime yet,” remembers Fred. That morning, he and his wife Janet were waiting in the Brussels Airport Delta check-in line for Fred’s morning flight to the United States.
Fred is the director of an organization that specializes in player development with basketball camps, summer leagues, and college scholarship trips. The events also share the good news of Jesus Christ and teach youth how to achieve life goals.
Authorities report that on March 22, 2016, at 7:58 a.m., a bomb exploded in the Brussels Airport, killing 12 people. Fred and Janet were a mere 15 feet away from the blast. They remember hearing a loud explosion and seeing a ball of fire flash between them. Before falling unconscious, Janet recalls thinking she was going to die. However, she had real peace because she knew where she would be going (Heaven) because of her belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. John 3:15 “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Several minutes after the explosion, Fred regained consciousness. He realized instantly that he had awakened in a terrorist attack. There was carnage all around him. “My soul quickly responded,” he said. “My bloody right hand reached confidently toward the ceiling and I yelled loudly, ‘God help us! Help us, God!’”
“Immediately after I called out to God, He gave me a list of objectives. These purposes replaced any panic that I felt: calling for Janet, finding Janet, and fleeing the building.” It was a scene he would never forget. “I called her name several times, but she didn’t respond. Then I recognized her silhouette in the haziness to my right. I crawled to her, put my hands on her shoulders and asked if it was her.” It was.
The Sidewalk: “I will fear no evil, for you oh Lord are with me” (Psalm 23:4a)
Once on their feet, Fred and Janet made their way through the rubble strewn across the floor out to the sidewalk in front of the airport. Another scene of horror and chaos awaited.
There were many people outside, injured worse than they were.
“God, we felt, gave us a level of composure. He helped us to the point that we could help others. The Lord is the Good Shepherd. God’s grace accompanied us in the valley of the shadow of death. We feared no evil. We just felt compelled to stay and comfort others until the professionals arrived,” Fred recalled.
Janet’s mind was also filled with objectives to obey that day: to comfort people and pray for people, but don’t physically move anyone. Together Fred and Janet prayed for these victims of the bombing and others who would appear minutes later.
As Fred and Janet continued to care for the people around them, a paramedic arrived and hurried to the group on the sidewalk.
Fred thought his face, height, and lean frame looked familiar. When he went to help him lift the medical equipment over a fence, he asked, “are you a basketball player?” The man replied without hesitation, “yes! You’re Fred! I played in your Summer League last year.”
After this unlikely meeting, Fred was encouraged, saying he “felt like a teammate just arrived on the scene.”
The Recovery: “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4b)
The Good Shepherd gives deliberate direction to His sheep during difficult times using His rod and staff. In a similar fashion, the Word of God gave direction and comfort to Fred and Janet.
Fred suffered from burns on his head and was peppered with shrapnel from the blast. Shrapnel also cut the back of Janet’s head. The pressure from the bomb caused both of their eardrums to shatter, and they have been prescribed hearing aids as they continue to suffer from hearing loss. Fred’s eardrums melted due to his proximity to the bomb’s severe heat and he has undergone 4 surgeries to repair them.
The Direction, Hope, and Impact of God’s Word
“In the first few days after the attack, we had a lot of really warm comments on Facebook. There’s a lot of kindness out there. Romans 15:13 was posted twice, and that verse has been super encouraging.”
Roman 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (NIV).
As Fred dug deeper into this passage, he began to see what he calls echoes, because of the prayer’s symmetrical structure. “Paul frames his prayer with the God of hope at the beginning and ends it with the Holy Spirit’s power. Hope is coupled at both ends too. The core of this prayer focuses on the primary task for those in need: trust in God to produce hope, joy, and peace.”
Romans 12:12 was very impactful for Fred, so much so that his daughter made a hand-painted sign for his office with the following words: “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (NIV).
More Answers to Prayer
After the attack, Fred and Janet prayed for and wondered what had become of the people they had cared for on the sidewalk. They soon had an answer about one of the people they had met that day.
Janet is good friends with an intensive care nurse in Brussels, and the nurse called to see how she and Fred were doing. Janet expressed her concern about a specific woman she had helped. The nurse recognized who she was talking about, and it turned out that he was the nurse caring for the woman Janet had helped.
The woman remembered Janet’s help, and she has since become close friends with both Fred and Janet. “She’s finding hope and healing. She followed a Journey from Creation to Christ study with us. These discovery Bible studies led her to faith in Christ” Fred shared.
Despite the evil and darkness Fred and Janet experienced that day, they have found hope and peace through their relationships with God. Their perspective and attitude about what happened that day can only be described as God-given. In a letter posted on Facebook just eight days after the bombing, Fred and Janet wrote the following:
“In the midst of the chaos, we feel it was helpful for us to understand the unthinkable. We are familiar with the first pages of the Bible that paint a picture of the predicament of our world: humans tend to turn away from God’s goodness and sometimes do terrible things. We humans so easily follow the evil one. His ways are evil, and he rules in this world. He does it daily in small ways, and at times in horrific ways. Tuesday in Brussels, we were reminded of this truth.
Nonetheless, we are convinced that God is love, peace, and the light in this dark world… More than ever before, we want to keep learning from Jesus Christ how to be peaceful, loving, and lights in our marriage, in our family, wherever we are, and whatever we do… In the coming days, we’ll need to hold on to what Jesus says to anyone who wants to learn from Him and receive His help: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27 [NIV].”
Christ’s Example of Service
After five months, Fred and Janet were still very fatigued. In a stressful situation, Fred said “I was at the end of my rope physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually. I went to a sidewalk café and began to pray. “God, show me how to serve, because I am at the end of my energy.”’
God showed him that Romans chapter 12-15 would be the best place to look for answers about serving God, so he read and reread those chapters. According to Fred, the pivotal segment is found in Romans 15:1-13. “During the days I was reading [these verses], I discovered afresh Jesus as our example of service. He lived to please others rather than himself. [Romans 15:3a “For even Christ did not please Himself…”] I needed to adopt His attitude with the measure of energy God gave me.”
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 15:5-6 (NIV).
As teens, Fred and Janet each put their trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They praise God for the peace that comes with the promise of eternal salvation. Had they not survived the terrorist attack, they know they would have entered the place Jesus prepared for them. John 14:1&2b “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me… I go to prepare a place for you.“
This experience has confirmed to Fred and Janet the urgency of sharing the Bible and the Good News of Jesus Christ as Savior to all people.
“God is good all the time, and He wants us to imitate Christ and keep serving. Some people don’t believe that because Satan blinds people and wants us to doubt God’s goodness. Don’t get caught in that trap. One day everything will be rectified,” Fred says.
He continues, “Janet and I haven’t felt bitter about the attack because God is the God of vengeance. He repays evil.” Romans 12:19b “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”
“We have a new appreciation about the importance of forgiveness and praying for anyone who hurts people,” Fred says.
Fred and Janet are thanking and praising the Lord that in spite of the horror they went through, they have been experiencing Romans 12:12 through God’s protection and the absence of the anxiety and fear that normally comes with this kind of traumatic event. “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.”
Fred says that spending time in God’s Word, praying, “and trusting Him in whatever state you’re in leads to finding hope. That is His identity. He is the God of hope who wants us to overflow with His hope.” Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”
If you would like to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ like Fred and Janet have, and experience the hope that He brings, visit the Salvation tab on our blog.
**Fred has produced a New Testament study Bible titled, The Parchment Project. Its unique format and summary charts help readers see the big picture of each of the 27 New Testament books. Learn more about it at parchmentproject.com **