Three and a half years ago, Lubbock was shocked to hear that six local girls had been killed in a bus wreck in New Mexico. The girls were returning from a church retreat when an oncoming truck and trailer crossed the median and sideswiped the bus. We've visited with some of their families over the years on how they continue to cope with their loss. This time we sat down with the Johnson's to find out how the Power of Prayer has carried them through this tragedy.
Sarah Nicole Johnson was only 14 years-old when she was taken home, as her parents say, and while they've always felt she's in a better place, they still miss her every single day. "When Sarah's birthday, when we had to experience that first birthday without her we kind of had a melt down and I told Keith, I said I can't do this. I thought I could, I thought I was strong enough but I can not do this, I can't stand to be so unhappy and so we decided then that we would pray to have our joy restored," Lori Johnson said.
Lori and Keith Johnson had no idea where God would lead them but they new they needed his guidance. "I've thought about it many times, about somebody who doesn't know God and suffers a loss like a child and I can't imagine what that would be like," Keith Johnson said.
"So we prayed for our joy to be restored and we honestly thought that happiness would just be brought back to us. We never envisioned Hannah and God laid on our hearts to adopt and that was a struggle for us because we felt that maybe we were a failure to Sarah to even be thinking about bringing another child into our home so we struggled with it," Lori Johnson said.
With the help and support of their family and their son Joshua, God led them to adopt little Hannah Joy from Siberia. "They sent us a picture of Hannah and she had the most vibrant smile on her face the most beautiful smile, and Keith looked at her and said how long so you think she'll keep that smile on her face if someone doesn't go get her. Three months later we were standing there holding her," Lori Johnson said.
"It was definitely a culture shock you know that's why God gives you children, two year-olds and three year-olds when your like 23 because I'll be 45 in January, but she's a blast. She has to be the funniest kid I have ever seen, I mean she does things that you just die laughing. I didn't laugh for about a year and we got her home and I started laughing," Keith said.
"I told somebody they asked me if she was the answer to prayers and I said 'yes' because I said it's so nice to laugh with your heart again and not just my face," Lori said.
"Hannah is a second chance for me. Everybody knew that I was the only person who could mess with Sarah, and I think that's what hurt me the most is that I was the only one who did. Hannah has brought back a second chance for me to reevaluate the role of brother and we've had a lot of fun," Joshua Johnson said.
Hannah has been one of many answered prayers in the Johnson's life. Lori, a registered nurse is now the owner of Sarah Belles Tea Room. She says she's always wanted her own business and it seemed many of their memories of Sarah included food, so the tea room just fit.
"When I walk in there I feel a sense of peace. One day I was having a sad day and I said to one of the customers in there, I wish so much that Sarah were here to see all of this you know because I can envision her flitting all around that place having a ball, probably eating not helping. But I said I wish so much that she was here and could see this, and the very sweet customer said to me, yeah but just think of the feast that she's having and then I thought she's having a much greater time then we could ever have here," Lori said.
"God works in mysterious ways, the death of Sarah destroyed us as a family but at the same time took us to a level that we could've never reached without going through that death. And the role that prayer played in that was helping us make that step and I think that's the only reason we're here today, just waiting to go home," Joshua said.
Lori says their greatest sadness is that Sarah and Hannah can't enjoy each other. You may have noticed a picture of all of them, that's because they superimposed a photo of Sarah in their last family portrait.
Next week on the Power of Prayer we're going to meet some ladies Lori has met through her restaurant that have also lost a child, and learn how they have found comfort in each other.