Adventist Community Health Initiative

Meet the Griffin Family

         Randy and Kathy Griffin, with their children Gabe, Nick and Mitch.

Falling from a Roof . . . into Ministry
By Mitchell Griffin

My dad and I were doing yard work a few days before Thanksgiving in 2010. The rest of my family was practicing at our church school for my youngest brother’s Thanksgiving program that was to take place later that evening. We had accomplished everything except removing leaves from the roof. After the most difficult part of the roof was clean, my dad told me, “I can finish this part; go inside and get ready to go.” As I was changing into my dress clothes, my cell phone rang. It was my dad calling, “Mitchell, I fell off the roof! Come and help me!”
Never in my life had I bounded up the stairs and outside as quickly as I did. There, lying on our deck, was my dad.
“What happened?!” I said.
“I don’t know how, but the ladder slid out from under me.”
At this point I could tell my dad was in shock and hadn’t noticed his wrist and all the bones pushing against his skin. It was severely broken. I helped my dad to his feet and we walked inside. That’s when he saw his wrist and all of the broken bones.
My dad is a dentist and sees blood on a regular basis without feeling queasy. On this particular day, however, he found out that he couldn’t handle the sight of his own broken bones, because he started to pass out while we were walking into the house. My dad is 6’1” and 200 pounds. At the time I was 5’10” and 130 pounds. I tried to stop his fall but it turned into a guided path to the floor.
“I'm calling 911,” I said.
“Call your mother. I don’t need an ambulance,” he relayed.
I called her, praying she had her phone with her.
“Hello,” said my mom. “I’m practicing with the choir. What’s up?”
“Mom, Dad fell off the roof,” I responded. “You need to come home right now.”
She didn’t even say “bye.” All I know is she made a six-minute trip in three minutes flat.    
This was a few days before Thanksgiving, and our family was supposed to leave for my grandparents’ house in Maryland the next day. By the time my mom arrived, my dad’s wrist had swollen to the size of a grapefruit. After I got my dad in the car, my mom handed me her credit card and said, “Take care of your brothers.” Then she headed out the door with my dad to the emergency room.
I went out on our deck and realized that my dad had placed the ladder on wet leaves. The only thing I could think was, “Would this have happened if I had been there to hold the ladder?” Breaking a bone is one thing, but completely shattering your wrist is quite another. This really bothered me for a long time.
To break his fall, he stuck his left arm out to protect his head and neck, and that’s what caused his wrist to break. The doctor said if he wouldn’t have done that, he could have broken his neck and died instantly. So, looking back, the worst thing didn’t happen. I still have my dad.
Over the past couple of years, I have seen my dad’s highs and lows. When he arrived at the conclusion he would no longer be able to practice dentistry, he was really low. But when he sold his practice, he was very sad to have to walk away from what he loved doing. He tried to put on a tough face for his family, but I could tell he was hurting. Although healing has occurred, his wrist doesn’t have complete range of motion and his deep tissue is still slightly numb. When using fine motor skills he has a slight tremor, which is what keeps him from practicing full-time dentistry.
After transitioning away from daily dental practice, Ron Whitehead, executive director of Pathfinder Camporee and Lake Union Conference youth director, became aware of my dad’s “free time” and asked him to be the Night Time program director for the 2014 Oshkosh Pathfinder Camporee. This was a stressful but very rewarding job. It took two years of planning and countless meetings to get everything just right. After the last play had finished and the fireworks were exploding, I saw my dad with tears in his eyes. He said, “In spite of the challenges, this went very well! What a good feeling.”
What I've seen happen in my dad’s life is nothing short of a miracle. Many people would have been angry at God and given up. Not once did I hear my dad complain about the situation he was in. Instead, he has told everyone that, “If it was God’s will for me to fall, then I’m glad it happened because I am very happy with where He has taken me. I am able to serve in a whole new way.”
Currently, he is happily working as the Adventist Community Health Initiative director for the Lake Union Conference. He works with churches in the Lake Union and helps to facilitate Health Expos and free dental and eye care clinics with portable equipment. God really does have a strange way of telling us there is another road He wants us to take. Whether it is a sad breakup, a car accident or a severely shattered wrist, he will always be with us and show us his plan for our lives.

Photo credit: Sarah Painter