An Alaskan evangelist is not letting what doctors call a near-death experience stop him from preaching the Gospel.
Jimmy Stewart is being called the “miracle man” after a gas leak explosion left him with third-degree burns on more than 77 percent of his body.
Although the 59-year-old former athlete looks different, his heart to share Jesus has not changed.
Just seven months after his accident he returned to his position as the evangelism and church growth director at Alaska Baptist Church in Anchorage and is sharing his testimony.
“It truly was a miracle that I survived the initial explosion and fire,” Stewart told Baptist Press. “The first 48 hours in the hospital were critical. God protected me and sustained me… I believe God did many miracles.”
In July, Stewart crawled under his home to check the source of a gas leak in the crawl space of his family’s cabin.
Stewart told BP News that a gas tank exploded and blew open the cabin while his family members were inside. He said he took the brunt of the explosion and described the fire as a “flash bang” that miraculously extinguished in seconds.
“Visqueen (plastic sheeting) covered me, melted from the blast, and flesh was hanging from my body,” Stewart said.
Stewart had the strength to run and check on his family but later learned the fire burned his skin white, took his hair, burned his chest and shredded his pants.
He was flown to Harbor View Medical Center and spent the next nine months recovering before being discharged in November 2016.
His wife Kathryn said she relied on prayer support and encouragement from friends and family during that time.
“I just always felt He had it in His hands,” she said. “We never had any doubt even in the difficult times.”
Shortly after his release he escorted his daughter Katelyn down the aisle for her wedding, officiated the ceremony and danced with her during the father-daughter dance.
It has been a busy season despite having 20 surgeries and daily physical therapy.
Still, neither his family or friends focus on the scars or his physical pain, but rather, they are praising God for answering their prayers for healing.
“You know Brother Jimmy, before the accident you were handsome and strong,” Rebekah Kim, wife of Southern Baptist leader Paul Kim, said. “But now God is shining through you and you are more beautiful.”
“God has used these statements to encourage me, and I don’t mind if it took a little fire to make me more beautiful,” Stewart said in a February testimony at First Baptist Church in Anchorage.
“I’ll say this, more people have been drawn to me in a kind, compassionate way, than the opposite. And people walk up to me and ask me about the story, and I get to share Christ as a result,” he added.