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An Amazing Alaska Easter Sunday ‘Resurrection’

Mar 29, 2005

Pastor Dan Thornton of the Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, Soldotna, Alaska, tells of this amazing incident in his church Easter Sunday. You can keep up with Pastor Dan’s blog at

Yesterday was an Easter Sunday worship service that my church will never forget. A dear man, Dale Richard, died and was resuscitated right during the service.

The congregation was standing for prayer, but Dale chose to pray seated. Then he slumped to one side, being held somewhat by Suzanne. Keith Randall saw this and rushed to help lay Dale on the floor. Those nearby helped to move chairs and give some room. A lady offered to help (it was her first Sunday in our church) and when Keith asked her what training she had, she said she was a nurse practitioner. She promptly told someone to call 9-1-1 and checked on Dale’s raspy breathing.

Since Dale was seated near the back of the auditorium, those in front were not aware of all that was happening. The brass quintet started playing and the ushers started taking the offering. So professionally and decisively did people handle the situation that any thought of panic didn’t register.

Meanwhile, Dale’s breathing stopped, eye movement ceased and the pulse that seconds before had been checked and felt in the neck was now non-existent. Jeannie McNutt had alerted Keith Hamilton (Captain of the local fire service volunteers) and Melody Newberry had elbowed her husband Bill (Physicians Assistant) to let them know of the emergency. Somehow Tim Cooper (Paramedic), Randy Milliron (nurse) and Dr. Bob Bauder (dentist) were at Dale’s aid as well. Our church was likely the safest place to be in Alaska, other than at a hospital.

Though Janet St. Clair said the visiting nurse practitioner was probably an angel from the Lord, and though I still don’t know her name, I have received reliable reports that she is indeed a real person. She commenced with CPR. Bill did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Tim was relaying information to the enroute CES personnel. Keith Randall sent Jim Webb out to K-Beach road to direct the ambulance to the correct building and entrance.

The offering having ended, my Dad led the congregation in prayer for Dale, an elderly man who had collapsed and was receiving medical attention. This was now the only thing that much of the congregation knew about what had caused the “commotion” in the back. I had been playing in the brass quintet and all I knew was that it sure seemed to be taking the ushers a long time to take the offering and I had to somehow communicate to Sam, Allan, Aleks and Stephanie that we needed to play “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” one more time.

Dale’s eyes came back to life, his heart resumed beating and the “angel nurse” stopped doing CPR. It wasn’t long before Dale asked why he was on the floor and those helping him needed to convince him to stay still and that he did indeed need to go to the hospital. I stood to preach and then dismissed the children to go to the Youth Center for Children’s Worship. Before they reached the doors, the ambulance had arrived. Justin Franchino and Jeannie corralled the children to make way for the paramedics with their pack board, medical kits and oxygen bottles.

I chose to pray for Dale again, then, not quite sure what else to do, started preaching. I did my best to keep everyone’s attention, though the activity and noises from the back still drew many looks and questioning expressions. About 10 minutes into the message the ambulance was on its way to the hospital.

During the closing song, Keith Hamilton walked up to the front row where I was standing and gave me the report. He said, “Well, it’s resurrection Sunday” and then let me know that Dale had indeed been dead for a short time, but now he was alive again. I interrupted the song and told the congregation, giving one more reason to praise God on Easter morning.

Dale was transferred Sunday to Anchorage hospital where he remained under observation. His heart stopped again this morning, leading the physicians to schedule a pacemaker implant for 9:00 AM tomorrow. We praise God that both times Dale was with people who had wisdom and skill to help him in his time of need.