Matthew Botsford: To Hell and Back
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CBN.com “I felt this hot pierce in the top of my head from the back. Then everything went black.”
Matthew and Nancy Botsford worked hard and played even harder. They pursued life with gusto -- except when it came to God.
“God existed but that’s it,” Matthew recalls.
But everything changed on one March night in 1992. Matthew and two sales associates were in Atlanta on business. They had just left a restaurant and had gone outside to catch a taxi, when suddenly…
Matthew and the others never saw it coming. Behind them, several men were arguing when three of them pulled out guns and started shooting. One of Matthew’s friends took a bullet to the head and died instantly. The other was unharmed. Matthew was also shot in the head, and he too died.
“Utter blackness. Incredible fear. I went to a place what I believe was hell. It was void of anything good. Beyond anything any words could describe.
“This hand came down towards me, and as it did, it brought warmth, just flooding this room I was in with this brilliant white light. I was being pulled upwards. I heard this voice say, ‘It’s not your time.’”
Mathew was resuscitated on the scene and taken to Piedmont hospital in Atlanta. Nancy flew in from their home state of Michigan. Her first meeting with the doctor was devastating.
“He said there’s a 30 percent chance he’ll make it through the night. After that, he’ll probably be in a wheelchair,” Nancy recalls. “They didn’t know with the brain injury if he’d be a vegetable or not. He says he might even have to be in an institution.”
Nancy took a walk down a corridor to clear her head.
“I just saw this blackness, and this blackness in front of me just started getting bigger. I felt myself just falling into this blackness. I had no control. I was just losing it. That’s when I felt this heavy hand on my right shoulder. I felt this pull back, and I turned around. There was nobody there, and I knew it was Jesus,” says Nancy. “I went straight back to Matt’s room. He’s all wrapped up and bandaged. I just said, ‘Lord, I’m not saved. Bring back my husband even if he’s in a wheel chair. It doesn’t matter but bring back who he is, who his heart is, who his personality is. I promise I’ll stay with him.'”
That promise would be tested. Matthew was in a coma and flatlined several times.
Nancy lived hour-to-hour as it seemed that one crisis followed another. But with every crisis came a glimmer of hope.
“Every situation would be critical and then things would turn around,” she says. “He was put on kidney dialysis, and they said he’ll be on it three weeks. In three days, things turned around.”
After 27 days, Matthew awoke from his coma.
“It was incredible,” she says. “The whole focus now was to get him on his feet. To go against the odds that he’s going to be in a wheelchair. Our focus now was just get him better.”
The left side of Matthew’s body was paralyzed. But worse, the damage to his brain affected his ability to think and perform even the simplest of tasks. They returned to Michigan where Matthew started rehab trying to rebuild his body and his mind.
“But the rehab was painful,” he says. “Physically and cognitively. I remember I would do simple things like run through the alphabet in my head, make sure I could go through A to Z… They were teaching me how to eat.”
For two and half long years Matthew worked through the pain with Nancy by his side. Progress was slow. He eventually left the wheelchair and walked with a cane. Recovering mentally was a much slower process. But Nancy remembered her promise to stay with Matthew through it all…
“Cognitively he was not with it. He was in la la land. I did not sign up for this, but I remembered that promise. That was stronger,” says Nancy.
The Botsfords were so focused on Matthew’s regimen, they forgot their experiences with God.
“It wasn’t there. There was no focus there,” she says. “It was all about Matthew.”
That is until they moved to Florida. One day Matthew met a neighbor while out taking a walk.
“I remember looking up at him and saying, ‘Hey, where’s a good church around here?’ And it floored me what came out of my mouth.”
Nancy recalls saying, “What! We’re not looking for a church!”
But eventually, they attended an Easter service.
“We just knew then this is it,” says Nancy. “This is what we need. It just came alive that this is what we’ve been missing. There was this peace, that anchor, that stability… it just took us over.”
Through the years they began to recognize God’s hand in their journey. Today, Matthew walks without the help of a cane and even gets to drive. Mentally? He earned a college degree and is writing a series of sci-fi children’s books called Johnny Rocket -- all of which is amazing considering the bullet is still in Matthew’s head! But the big miracle in this story…
“When I was dead, I didn’t cry out for God. Yet He came down and with His own hand pulled me out of hell. That’s a loving God,” Matthew says.
Nancy concurs, “The miracle is that God so much loved Matthew that He didn’t just leave him in hell. He brought him up. The miracle is how He changed his heart. God exchanged his heart and gave him His own. That’s the miracle.”
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