Guest: Allen Buchanek
I hope that you were all challenged and encouraged by Allen Buchanek’s story of how God is so mighty to save. In reality it is our story as well. Each of us tells it a bit differently, but the Hero in all of them is Jesus! Below is a newspaper report which retells Allen’s conversion story – enjoy! If you would like to find out more about Allen & his ministry visit his website.
Fire ignites spark of faith in Allen Buchanek which becomes a blaze of evangelism (by Stella Prather)
A 1962 fire should have taken Allen Buchanek’s life. Instead, the deadly blaze ignited a ministry of evangelism, now spanning more than four decades.
Miraculously healed from burns and complications he experienced in a freak explosion when he was 19 years old, the Texarkana evangelist has spent the last 42 years sharing how God not only saved him from the fiery flames, which burned nearly 60 percent of his body, but also from an eternal inferno. Buchanek’s life-changing experience has taken him to venues and churches all over the world where countless have come to know Christ.
“I praise God for it (fire) and for every place He has allowed me to preach, ” said Buchanek, staff evangelist at Faith Church of Texarkana. “He’s seen me through some difficult trials, … but He has taught me something through every situation.”
Quoting Romans 8:28, Buchanek said, “l am convinced that we have such a great God that He can use anything. I don’t care if it is from the devil himself; He can use anything and everything and work it together for our good and His glory if we will just give Him the opportunity to do so.
“And basically that is what He has been doing in my life for 42 years. It has been quite a journey; quite a ride.”
Buchanek’s unimaginable trek began late April 24, 1962, while traveling on a Houston, Texas, highway to take a coworker home following a baseball game at the former Colt Stadium. A college freshman with a promising baseball career ahead of him, Buchanek had big dreams of one day playing in the pros.
His dreams would vanish late that spring evening as he drove to his friend Judy Taylor’s Pasadena home. Around 11 p.m., the duo came upon what they believed to be a thick fog or smoke, both normal occurrences in the humid south Texas city surrounded by massive oil refineries. On any other night, Buchanek, who lived in another area of Houston, would not have traveled that route home.
Unsuspecting of any danger, Buchanek drove his car into the haze ahead, which turned out to be gasoline fumes from a road side refinery that had unexplainably overflowed leaking fumes into the night air. Within seconds, a tremendous explosion occurred, engulfing his car in flames.
In shock, Buchanek, who knew his car’s gasoline tank could explode at any moment, yelled for Taylor to “get out of the car and run for your life.” Unaware of exacdy what was going on around them, they raced through the flames and found their way out of the inferno .
With flames shooting 300 feet in the night air, Buchanek ended up in a ditch where he rolled around in muck and filth attempting to extinguish flames scorching his body. Not far away, Taylor, a college beauty queen, lay lifeless and close to death. Burned over 95 percent of her body, her long, blond hair had been burned away. Her dazzling blue eyes had been charred.
Making his way to his friend’s side, Buchanek said, “She begged me to let her alone and let her die, but I knew I had to get her out of there.” Still in shock, pain from his own second and third degree burns had not yet set in.
Trying to determine what to do next, Buchanek said a motorist who had been less severely burned came to his aid. The two men carried Taylor to a near-by highway intersection where another motorist transported them to Pasadena Hospital. Taylor soon died on her 21st birthday.
“On the way to the hospital, I watched as my flesh fall off my arms. I could see the bones exposed in my hands,” he recalls. “I began thinking, ‘this is not happening. This is just a bad dream. This happens to everybody else. You read about it in the newspaper, but it doesn’t happen around your house.’
“All the way to the hospital I kept thinking that my mother was going to come and tap me on the shoulder and say ‘get up, you’ve got an 8 o’ clock class, you are going to be late.’ I thought it was a bad dream.”
Buchanek remained conscious for about 45 minutes, long enough to inform physicians of his identity and how to contact his family. Shortly after his parenťs arrival at the hospital, Buchanek fell into a coma. His entire back, head, arms, hands, feet and face sustained second and third degree burns. His face was burned beyond recognition. Pneumonia soon developed in his lungs, and infection set in his wounds, likely caused from the toxic poison and foreign matter he was exposed to when he fell in the ditch.
Doctors gave Buchanek’s family little hope he would survive. They only promised to do their best to keep him as comfortable as possible. “Doctors told my parents that if ‘God does not intervene, … the best we can give you is three days,'” he recounted.
Two days came and went. And on the third day, as easily as he had slipped into the coma, Buchanek came out of it. Doctors were baffled. There was no medical explanation for Buchanek’s survival.
The explosion, the death of Taylor and another man and Buchanek’s fight to survive would make daily headlines across the Houston area. After hearing the news, countless church members and Christians all across Texas went to their knees in prayer, Buchanek later learned.
“People saw on TV what happened and began to pray,” he recalls. “My parents soon received hundreds of letters, cards and calls from people from all over the area and state, telling them, ‘We care. We are praying for you. Our church is interceding for you.’
“I didn’t deserve prayers. I was so unworthy,” he recalls as tears fill his eyes. “But God doesn’t give us what we deserve, He gives us what we need. He was merciful. And He gave me life.”
Buchanek would spend the next three and a half months in the hospital, enduring agonizing pain, multiple surgeries, some of which he underwent without anesthesia, two battles with cardiac arrest, addiction to pain killers and multiple other set backs.
For the first two months, he couldn’t even lift his arms. His head swelled to twice its normal size, and his fingers began growing together. His own brother didn’t even recognize him. On several occasions, doctors feared for his life.
In an attempt to keep his room as sterile as possible, Buchanek was allowed few visitors. One was his friend, Sharron Grammer, a young Christian college student who he had met only one week prior to the accident. Doctors felt she would boost Buchanek’s morale.
She did. Nearly every day, she would travel to the hospital for a visit after her classes ended. Guided by her Lord to reach out to Buchanek, her visits often included praying and encouraging him, reading the Bible and reminding him that he was loved by many that were praying for him. Her church set up a prayer vigil for him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the days passed, Buchanek became very angry and bitter. He knew his days of playing baseball were over. He often cursed the people around him and even begged God to let him die.
Everything said that I wasn’t going to live. My chart said I wasn’t going to live. All the things medically indicated that I wasn’t going to live. But God wasn’t going to let me die.”
And live he did. In June 1962, Buchanek, after learning again to walk, feed himself and take care of basic needs, was allowed to go home. “People prayed, and God was merciful. I don’t know why others died, but I know that God had a plan for my life.”
His home life was less than perfect. His father was an abusive alcoholic, and his three brothers didn’t know how to handle his condition. Only his “godly,” Christian mother and a few others seemed to care.
It didn’t take long for depression to consume him, and in hopes of ending his pain and suffering, Buchanek decided he would take his own life.
As he made plans on how to end his life, Buchanek received a call from Grammer, asking him to accompany her to a youth service at her church. Prior to the accident, Buchanek only attended church on occasion at his mother’s request. “At that time, I was really out there in the world. I was into some bad stuff. … I was just a terrible person.”
Initially, Buchanek balked at Grammer’s invitation, but agreed after reminding himself how she had reached out to him in his time of need. “I felt like I owed her that much,” he said, adding he agreed to attend only one time and instructed her to never ask again.
During the service, led by then young preacher-boy, James Robison, Buchanek made a profession of faith in Christ and felt Goďs call into full-time Christian ministry. At the same time, Grammer felt Goďs call to marry a preacher. They tied the knot the following year.
After his profession of faith, Buchanek said he immediately began receiving calls from churches and individuals asking him to share his story. During one of his first preaching services, his dad made a profession of faith in Christ.
Buchanek went on to attend Houston Christian University where he lettered in basketball and baseball and led the team in batting average, Later, he and his wife transferred to East Texas College (now University), where Buchanek served as class president. Both graduated with honors.
Over the years, many of Buchanek’s scars have miraculously disappeared, and there is now nothing that he can’t physically do. His face looks perfectly normal. His hands remain somewhat disfigured, a reminder he says of how God saved him from a life headed down a road of destruction.
‘I‘m reminded of how lost I really was,” he says. “I tell people that the way you live your life now is gonna show up later on down the road. And if you sew the seeds of the flesh, you are going reap corruption, and if you sew the seeds of the Spirit, you will reap life everlasting.”
Buchanek has shared his testimony more than 1,000 times, across the country and in at least five different countries. He also has pastored several churches in Texas and Oklahoma. Most recently, he was one of the pastors of First Church of Fouke, near Texarkana. He and his wife have four adult children, two who are pastors, and five grandchildren.
He returned to full-time evangelism ministry last fall, and says he feels God calling him to minister to pastors, many who are discouraged in their ministry. When he is not on the road, he teaches a men’s Bible class at Faith Church and often serves as a supply preacher.
“Brother Allen has a great testimony and loves the Lord with all his heart,” notes Faith pastor James Ross.
Sharron says God continues to use her husband to share the good news. ‘I‘ve seen how the Lord has used Allen in many ways,” she notes. “l have received letters through the years telling me how Allen’s testimony blessed them and gave them hope and assurance.
„I have met people long after he quit evangelism that had heard him maybe years before and remembered his testimony and how it had changed their lives.”
“I thank God for what He allowed me to go through, although it was difficult,” Buchanek says of his journey from his near death experience to now. “He cared enough that He didn’t let me die… and be separated eternally from Him.”