'Don't let me die, not like this': Accident victim survives odds, finds joy in leading churches

'Don't let me die, not like this': Accident victim survives odds, finds joy in leading churches

North Keywood Circuit more than doubles in size

Scott Spence was a 25-year-old welder when his life was forever changed by a boiler that burst and blew scalding steam into the coal pit where he was working.

The force of the blast knocked Spence to the ground, and all of his exposed skin – face, neck, wrists, back of his hands – was instantly burned. The rest of him began to burn when his protective clothing became saturated, cooling and melting on his body.

“I didn’t have time to hurt,” says Spence, although he remembers smacking at what felt like bees stinging his face. “I knew my life was in danger.”

The strong young man, who until then felt he had “the world by the tail,” cried out to God: “Oh Almighty God, don’t let me die. Not like this.”

Today, people who get close enough can see evidence of the November 1993 accident that left Scott Spence with a five percent chance of survival.

“The scars are there, but you don’t see them when you’re with him,” says the Rev. Brenda Carroll. She was Abingdon District superintendent when Spence first realized God wanted him to become a pastor.

Most people only notice the dark prescription glasses that protect his eyes, Carroll says. Then they notice his humility and depth of faith. “That’s just part of who he is – being humble before God.”

For the last nine years, the former welder has served as pastor at his first appointment, the North Keywood Circuit, which includes Blackwell Chapel United Methodist Church and Mahanaim UMC. Together, the two churches have grown from 60 in total worship attendance to 150. More than 70 new members have joined within the last eight years, in a location Spence describes as “in the middle of nowhere” in Meadowview, Va.

The parishioners say the pastor has grown along with their churches, while the now 43-year-old pastor says the parishioners have “loved and supported him” all the way.

“Scott has a huge place in his life for the holy spirit,” said Carroll. “When you have two churches with spirit, and you put somebody like Scott in there, things are going to happen.”

“If not for his testimony, Scott would be just another victim of a bad accident,” said Tim Kelly, lay leader at Mahanaim. “Not everybody wears his scars as a testimony to the Lord. When you’ve got that kind of leadership and members who are willing to work, people will see that church as active and be drawn to it.”

See Part 2: Burn survivor
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