Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Above: Leslie Haskin. Photo: Mike Cantwell Photography, 2011
I am sure you remember the terrible events of 11 September 2001—the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. I can recall people where I worked at the time stunned and in a state of shock. And we are miles away from the US.
Leslie Haskin was at work on the 36th floor of World Trade Center’s north tower that morning, directly underneath where one of the planes hit. Somehow, she survived. But 22 of her friends were killed on that horrible morning.
Her successful corporate career and financial security were shattered. At the impact above her, she started trying to escape, hearing the screams of people above her, and the sound of elevators falling. Leslie headed for the exit stairs and ended up walking to the concourse level in darkness. Fire and smoke and jet fuel—it was a nightmare she still remembers today. She saw people dying—fire fighters and policemen doing their duty.
A Prayer In the Midst of Mayhem
Leslie grew up in the church. Her father was a Baptist pastor, but as an adult she never bothered going back to church, or praying. But that day she prayed like never before. She desperately needed God. She somehow struggled out of the building soaked in dust and blood. It was a day of utter destruction and terror. Haskin closed her eyes and said a short prayer, “God help us.” Then she began to mouth the words of her mother’s favourite hymn, one she sang to Haskin to awaken her on Sunday mornings:
Pass me not, O gentle Saviour,
Hear my humble cry;
while on others Thou art calling,
do not pass me by.
God answered her prayer and she walked out of the building. Hours later she made it to her house in upstate New York. A Christian neighbour waited in the driveway for her. “She took me in and helped me change, get a shower, and brush my hair. God sent his angels to help me,” Haskin says.
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Leslie Haskin went from an important job as a high powered executive to a homeless person. She and her son were living on the streets. Severe post-trauma gripped her life. She couldn’t even speak. The attacks of 9/11 ruined her life and her mind. But today she is a new and transformed person—believe it or not. God took her from the ashes of the World Trade Center and gave her a new life.
It’s an extraordinary story. She was committed to a psychiatric hospital for several weeks, then under a doctor’s care for eight months, and saw a therapist for three years. The situation was bleak. The doctor’s prognosis was that Leslie would never return to a productive state of mind. She was heavily medicated. She suffered depression, anxiety and a terrible fear. One day her 13-year-old son Elliott asked her if she would accept Jesus into her life. She did, and her life started to change. Even though she was homeless, things started to change, and God renewed her mind. Today she is a new person who has written about the experience. Leslie is living proof that Jesus Christ can change your life completely.
God’s Loving Arms
God is a God of surprises. Leslie Haskin says: “I learned that God’s love is the one universal certainty in this world. I learned that, even in the worst of times, God’s loving arms are outstretched to carry us through.” Today, Leslie Haskin is an evangelist. She’s on the boards of two rescue ministries: Safe Hugs and Save the Children. Haskin travels all over the world, encouraging thousands of people in their journey with God. Her message is a simple one, “God is always bigger than our burdens.”
I found this to be a powerful true story. And yes, God is bigger than our burdens. The Psalmist knew this when he declared, “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure” (Psalm 18:32). Even in times of terrible tragedy. The day of the attacks was, for Leslie, the end of her old life and the beginning of something new. For years, Leslie asked herself why a God who is loving and caring would allow such suffering and for years she had no answers. It wasn’t until her life started getting worse before it got better that Leslie began to understand how God worked:
Our lives are a consequence of our choices, …my life was changed as a result of the choice of one man full of hate and evil… the consequence of this was a plane that flew into a building that ruined my mind and life.
It was in the midst of this incomprehensible chain of cause and effect that God gave Leslie something bigger than her circumstances to focus on: peace. “If we begin to live inward, from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, when our circumstances change for better or for worse, we have the peace of God that… takes us above and beyond what our eyes see.” And that’s exactly what Leslie did—rise above.