by Chip Hutcheson, KBC president 2013-2014. Hutcheson is publisher of the Princeton Times-Leader and The Eagle Post in Oak Grove.
PRINCETON–A “miracle” moment came last Sunday morning for Richard P’Pool. The story of the well-known Princetonian regaining his eyesight is, by no exaggeration, an amazing miracle.
Richard, well known in Princeton for his historical preservation efforts, suffered a stroke to his optic nerve in 2009. That took away his sight in that eye, and resulted in him wearing a black eye patch over that eye most of the time since then.
But then last August he had another optic nerve stroke, and this time he lost sight in his right eye. Now he was blind — he could see shapes, but no details. Wearing dark glasses was required all the time, and low light level was the norm in his home. “Everything was a blur — it was like you had Vaseline coated on your glasses.”
Last Sunday he followed his regular routine of going to church with family members at Lebanon Baptist Church. During Sunday School the topic of “hope” was discussed, and Richard told how doctors (ophthalmologists and neurologists) had told him not to get his hopes up in regard to ever seeing again.
“I said there’s always hope,” he told those in the class. He added that one of the doctors told him that he “didn’t know of anyone who had a stroke to the optic nerve to ever regain their sight.” But Richard realized “the Great Physician knows more than he (doctor) does.”
During the morning worship service, Richard was seated on the fourth row from the front as pastor Mike Boyd was preaching. Richard said that Mike was standing by the attendance board posted on the wall, and suddenly Richard could see the numbers on the board. He could see Mike’s image clearing up — “it was just as though I was looking through binoculars as they would come into focus.” Then he saw Mike’s tie and could tell that it had diagonal stripes, and he could see the colors in the tie.
“I began shaking all over and crying like a baby,” Richard recalls.
Richard began to look around and recognized other church members and the colors in their clothing — something he had not been able to do for the past eight months.
Mike was still preaching as he noticed Richard take off his “Ray Charles glasses” and begin crying, but he kept preaching, thinking that Richard might be “under conviction.”
“It was all I could do to keep from interrupting the service,” Richard said.
When the sermon ended and invitation was about to begin, Richard raised his hand and exclaimed, “Mike, I can see you … for the first time since August, I can see you, and I can see your tie.”
Needless to say, there was incredible excitement among the congregation. “People were crying and hugging me — I’m not a hugger, it’s all I can do to shake hands, but I was hugging everybody. It’s a miracle — give God the glory.”
Word of the miracle traveled fast. After church he and family members headed to Majestic House for lunch, but his phone was already ringing with people wanting to talk to him about what had happened.
“I always believed in miracles for other people,” he said, but now revels in the miracle that came his way. That night he moved his membership to Lebanon, the church where he attended when he grew up, and where his mother is now the oldest member.
He notes that his eyesight is not perfect, but “I can see 100 percent better than I could. My sight is still not good enough to read the newspaper, but I do use an enlarger to read things like my Sunday School lesson. The enlarger doesn’t work well with a newspaper because it tries to read both sides of the newsprint. One thing I really miss is reading the Wednesday and Saturday Times Leader.”
Richard served as as a specialist in the White House Communications Agency during Gerald Ford’s tenure as both vice president under Richard Nixon and then as president. Richard was accepted into the agency in September 1973, and as a 19-year-old soldier just one year out of graduation from Caldwell County High School he became a member of an elite group responsible for handling the private communications of the leader of the free world.
As remarkable as Richard’s eyesight miracle is, there’s even more to the story. The event has had a profound effect on the pastor as well as the church body.
On March 16, Mike Boyd resigned as the church’s pastor, saying he believed that even though things were going well at Lebanon, he believed God was through with him there. But in recent weeks, he had concerns about his decision and prayed, “God, if this is not what you want me to do, if I’m not doing the right thing, show me a miracle.”
That miracle came Sunday morning. “How could you deny it was?” he asked.
“I’ve never seen a miracle like that before,” he said, and had this advice for his congregation. “We are responsible to tell people what was done. I told some our young guys, ‘If you live to be 90, don’t ever forget what happened here April 13, 2014. Tell your children and your grandchildren and their children about this.’”
That evening, a deacon at Lebanon told Mike that he didn’t understand why he was leaving the church and asked if he would rescind his resignation and encouraged him by saying, “God’s not through with you here.”
But Mike still said “No.”
Then came the evening service, and a long-time pastor in this area, Wayne Glass, was in the service and said that would ask the church not to accept Mike’s resignation, and he commended Mike for his work there.
Mike’s decision came down to one requirement, which he voiced to the church. “Are you ready to make changes and commit to serving God? If you’re not concerned with reaching the lost, then you don’t need me. I’m not interested in the status quo.”
The entire church stood up to show its support for that direction. And now Lebanon has its pastor back — without him ever really leaving.