TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
On Sunday night, ESPN aired a seven-minute feature on its popular SportsCenter series entitled “Miracle In Manhattan.”
The poignant video recounted the story of University of South Carolina Gamecocks men’s basketball coach Frank Martin and a near-death experience he had while an assistant coach at Kansas State in 2006. It is a profoundly moving story of faith.
In the feature, based on a 2010 newspaper article in the Kansas City Star, Coach Martin, his wife Anya and his uncle Joe Perez-Jones are all visibly emotional as they recall the so-called “miracle” at Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, Kansas. Martin had been admitted with life-threatening symptoms, which suggested to doctors that he might be suffering from pancreatic cancer.
After three days, Coach Martin’s organs began to fail, and in the ESPN feature, he confessed that he was preparing to face death.
“I started feeling like I was going to the other side,” Martin said. “That was an angel that was sent to make me right.”
On Martin’s fourth night in the hospital, his Uncle Joe was standing in the hallway when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face a person he described as “an Asian woman” who invited Perez-Jones to go back into Coach Martin’s room and pray. The original Kansas City Star article states that the woman knelt and prayed at Martin’s bed while Uncle Joe laid hands on Coach Martin’s trembling body.
In the ESPN feature, Perez-Jones said he felt warmth moving through his body and “there was peace.” Coach Martin’s wife Anya said she too encountered the Asian woman, assumed to be a nurse, as she was leaving the room.
The woman said, “God bless you and your family. You’re going to be just fine,” Anya Martin told ESPN. By the next morning, Coach Martin’s 105-degree fever had broken, and his symptoms had begun to abate.
When Uncle Joe and Anya Martin asked the hospital staff to identify the Asian nurse so they could express their gratitude, they were told that no such person worked at Via Christi Hospital. In that moment, they both wondered: Had they just experienced a miracle?
Coach Martin left the hospital after 12 days in treatment and went on to become the head coach of the Kansas State men’s basketball program one year later in April 2007. He coached the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournament appearances before coming to the University of South Carolina in 2012.
Last year, under Coach Martin’s leadership, the Gamecocks men’s team advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history.
Known in basketball circles to be an animated and at times prickly coach on the sidelines, Frank Martin revealed in the ESPN feature that he is, in fact, a man of deep faith.
“It’s hard to believe that there’s not a higher power out there that’s actually in control of what takes place. That lady, that angel triggered that in me,” he told ESPN.
On Monday, Coach Martin spoke to a roomful of jaded sports reporters in Columbia to discuss reaction to Sunday night’s airing of the SportsCenter feature. Repeatedly during the media availability, he alluded to his belief that the 2006 experience was wholly a spiritual experience that magnified his personal faith.
Whatever your opinion of medical miracles, Coach Martin’s story is a compelling one that raises the question: Was the Asian woman who prayed at his bedside 12 years ago an actual angel sent from God? Or was she simply a concerned medical professional calling on the power of prayer with loving family during a time of profound need?
Either way, Frank Martin’s healing seems to defy any logical explanation. Having been close to death myself almost two years ago now with my brain surgery, I happen to believe that God works miracles, and He chooses to keep people around awhile after life-threatening injury or illness to serve His higher purpose.
Frank Martin is a high-profile sports figure, and ESPN is an international network watched by millions. This story told at this time is no accident; it is an opportunity that God is using to share His unwavering love, His grace, His healing power with a wider audience.
Of course, there will be skeptics who dismiss Frank Martin’s story as sentimentality, who will try to explain away what happened to him in that hospital room a dozen years ago. Even if the mysterious Asian woman who prayed over Coach Martin’s weakened body happens to come forward and even if she proves to be a flesh-and-blood human being of uncommon compassion, the “Miracle in Manhattan” is no less a testament to the healing power of God.
The fact that this powerful testimony is coming from a nationally-recognized sports celebrity who has access to the hearts and minds of thousands of people who might never sit and listen to a sermon delivered by a pastor is no less amazing. God heals, and He also creates incredible opportunities for His truth to be revealed and known to the masses.
As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
No doubt there are thousands who today are comforted by the transparency Coach Frank Martin and his family offered in sharing their inspirational story. May God be given all the glory and honor, and may His love and power be magnified to those who are seeking hope and who now will find some measure of hope and inspiration in Coach Frank Martin’s courage in sharing his deeply personal story.
May God continue to bless Coach Martin and his family. Praise God for using them and their testimony to His greater purpose!