Story Told by WavenDean Fernandes
Transcribed by Julie-Ann Burkhart
I grew up in Hawaii on the Big Island where I felt a yearning to leave the island as a young boy. I had an itch to make my mark on the world and felt that the island limited me. I wanted to break free!
Growing up, my mother was a practicing Catholic and taught in the Catholic school where I attended school. Like a lot of teenagers, I did not connect with religion and didn’t feel like Jesus was relevant to me. I was much more interested in ‘metaphysics’ and things like Native American and Tribal Hawaiian spiritual practices. In the ancient Hawaiian culture, there is a word, Mana, which represents this divine, supernatural presence and spiritual energy that activates and animates the physical world. I went on different sojourns and retreats to find peace and spiritual meaning for what this earthly journey was all about. While searching, I learned that I wanted to be a good person and to always put people’s best interest at heart. This also came I think from growing up in the cultural influence of Hawaii where one is encouraged to show ‘aloha’ and ‘mahalo’. When you live on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean you are really alone and isolated from the rest of the world…so the concept of ‘kokua’, sharing and helping out your neighbors is just something everyone is encouraged to practice.
As a young person, I had two profound ‘near death’ type of experiences. They may not fit the current definition but close enough. The first one was when I was seven or eight years old. I was on a boat with a classmate friend in Hilo Bay. My friend was a great swimmer and decided to jump over board to go diving. I figured I could do the same thing so I automatically followed him, jumped into the water, but I didn’t know how to swim! I immediately felt myself sinking down to the bottom which was probably about 40-50 feet or more deep and possibly drowning, but then I felt a “hand” pick me up and bring me to the surface. Everyone on the boat was hanging over the side looking at me with a look of “Oh my God, he is going to drown!” They expected that the body that popped up not to be alive. I remember this happening, put it away in my memory and didn’t really think about it for a long time.
My second near death experience was in my middle twenties when I moved to California. I had an Italian convertible sports car that I really loved. I have always loved the physical design of things…especially vehicles and cars. At this time, I was living in Silicon Valley working at Apple. After work one day, during rush hour traffic, I was driving onto 280 near Cupertino at rush hour. While I was merging onto the highway, I felt a huge impact from behind me. At that moment, the car spun several times across four lanes of oncoming traffic. When this happened, time slowed down and I remember looking at the oncoming traffic and just waiting for another car to crash into me. I knew that if I were to get hit it would be my demise. As I was spinning across the highway, I remember feeling two big hands, similar to the hand that picked me up out of the water as a boy, protecting my car as I spun. Luckily, these hand’s protected me and I did not get hit once while I spun across the highway. The only impact I had was hitting the middle concrete barrier with the car facing the oncoming traffic which had miraculously slowed down. The convertible did not turn over because it surely would have been the end of me. I got out of my car injury free. I walked away from the accident across those lanes of the freeway to the shoulder where several police cars and an ambulance had already arrived.
After the accident, I found out that the driver that initially hit me from behind was intoxicated and distracted. His pick-up truck flipped over and the camper shell he had on it came apart from the truck, but my small sports convertible did not flip or roll over. When I gave the police report, I recall seeing the policemen’s wondering faces of “how did he not get hit once, roll his sports car and no injury?” Once again, I walked away from the accident acknowledging and thanking the “hands” that protected me, but didn’t think too deeply about it. I always felt like I was in relationship with a spirit, energy or higher power that was in charge. I did believe in God the creator of everything seen and unseen but I never read the Bible or did that “Christian” stuff. My sense was that if I just tried to be a ‘good person’ and not to deliberately harm anything with evil intent either animal or human.
In my early thirties, I met my wife while we were both pursuing our career goals. We decided to get married and eventually had 3 young boys. Around early 2005, I was being prompted for a few months that a big change was about to occur. I knew it would involve returning back to Hawaii where I initially left at 17 to come to what we call the ‘mainland’ for college. At that time, my mother’s health was rapidly declining due to Parkinson and Alzheimer’s. The year before she was started falling for no reason. She also hit a telephone poll while she was driving and couldn’t remember how it had happened. So, her license was taken away reducing her ability to be independently mobile. I really didn’t want to go back, but coming into the summer of 2005, I was getting a very clear message from God that I was going to go to Hawaii and not just for a vacation, but to be there for my mother (and her sister my aunt) in whatever capacity that she/they needed me. I fought it because I thought, “What are we go to do for a living? How will my boys transition? I left when I was 17 and now I am 45, how do I make this type of life change? What will happen to my wife’s career and her success? What will happen to my career and my success?”
For awhile I wrestled with God. I realized I could refuse because of free will, but eventually I needed to go for my mother and aunt. These two ladies were the last of my personal lineage of ‘kupuna’ or elders and since my sons were the only grandchildren my mom had, my wife was really supportive and encouraging of this move for our family. It might be the last chance for our boys to really know and spend time with their grandmother and great aunt in Hawaii.
The longer it would take me, the harder it would be to go through the transition of moving my family to Hawaii. During June of 2005, both my wife and my jobs wrapped up. My wife finally said, “we need to do this and be there for your mother.” We literally sold everything we had, packed a 40 foot container and shipped it to Hawaii. My young boys were 5, 7 and 9 years old. They were up for a new adventure. My family arrived back in Hilo, Hawaii on July 4th, 2005.
During this transition, a lot of things were very hard such as work, financial issues, raising 3 young boys and my mother’s deteriorating health. Six months after we moved back she eventually went into a nursing home in Hilo and stayed there until she passed away four plus years later. Because of all these different trials and hardships, I decided to go back to church. This time I found a nondenominational Christian church that was focused on Jesus. I was trying to find peace, energy to endure and sense of direction through all the trials I was facing. I wasn’t necessarily ‘all in’ because it was more out of desperation that I was seeking relief from the struggles, stress and pressures and not because I wanted a relationship with Jesus.
When we moved to Hawaii, I had also shipped over a white Land Rover Discovery Series II SUV. I loved this car and poured all my extra time, money and energy into it. It was the one thing I owned that said ‘this guy is still a success’.
About a year after we arrived in Hawaii on a Sunday afternoon in early June 2006, my family including my auntie and elderly cousin were all packed up in the 7 seater Land Rover on our way to a friend’s house for a BBQ. It was a beautiful day while driving on a two lane country road. I was driving my family along and all of a sudden my wife said to me, “Look at what is coming at us!” In an instant, I looked down and saw a piece of silver metal. I didn’t know what it was, but it ended up being a trailer hitch. The trailer hitch was bouncing towards the car. At that point, time slowed down for me and I knew that the next bounce of this trailer hitch would hit the car. In that short moment, I was shown three different virtual screens of the scenario and its potential outcome. The images were like watching a high definition, full color movie or video.
First scenario: The trailer hitch taking out the windshield, seriously impacting my wife who was in the front passenger seat and I and crashing the vehicle.
Second scenario: I would swerve the vehicle to the right to dodge the trailer hitch. I would take the hit on my side of the vehicle and it might potentially take me out too, but it would deflect the trailer hitch away from the wind shield.
Third scenario: The trailer hitch coming through the windshield like a missile, impaling and instantly killing my oldest son who was sitting in the middle of the vehicle in the second row between my auntie and elderly cousin.
Of those three scenarios, I thought that the second scenario…swerving the vehicle as hard as I could to the right would make the most sense. Within nanoseconds, I wrenched the Land Rover to the right. As soon as I did that, I didn’t know what happened and lost track of the trailer hitch. All of a sudden, I was looking at hitting a telephone pole at full speed on the side of the road and I instantly wrenched the wheel the other way to the left to dodge the telephone pole back onto the road with oncoming traffic. The vehicle then went up an embankment and buried itself facing down into a dense grove of ohi’a trees.
When the Land Rover crossed the oncoming traffic, I didn’t realize it, but I had hit a little pickup truck which helped keep the Land Rover upright instead of laying down on its side or even rolling which was a real potential hazard with top heavy SUV’s like this.
Once the Land Rover stopped moving, I opened my eyes and was thinking, “OK, there is no way I survived this. I guess this answers the question of how I’m going to die but I sure hope I am in the lobby of Heaven.” But, instead, I got a message from a voice, “Oh, Waven, you are so melodramatic, don’t you know how this works…you don’t call us, we call you. This is not your time. Don’t worry…this third time is not going to be your charm, but the fourth one will be.” When I heard this voice, it sounded like the funny, sarcastic type banter that I have with my close friends all the time. I thought it was odd that they would talk to me like that. I expected something more ‘official’ like the way they talk in the Old Testament or something but at that moment they said this…”why would we talk to you any differently than in a manner in which you yourself do and would therefore appreciate and understand” And it was said in the same tone as before…
Then I fully opened my eyes, and I was still alive!
All I could see was that the windshield had imploded and the sunroof had popped out of the roof. I was also starring into a sharp point piece of plastic that had broken off the A pillar. If my head had hit this upon impact it would have gone right between my eyes and into my skull like a knife. The passenger door had been peeled back and ripped more than half way off. All I could see around me were dense trees. Once I realized I was in the car, I yelled out, “Is everybody ok?” Everyone called back to me and said, “We are all ok. We are fine.” After I made sure everyone was ok, I had an urgency to get everyone out of the car because I wasn’t sure if the gas tank had been punctured and didn’t know if the car would explode. I was not exactly sure how to get everyone out of the car because we were deep in the dense trees. I was given guidance to look up and realized that I should climb out through the hole where the sunroof had previously been. I climbed up and out and across the roof to get to my wife’s door and ripped it back even further with what must have been ‘superhuman’ adrenalin infused strength at the time so I could get it fully open so she could get out. While I did that, an off-duty paramedic just happened to be going by on that same road, saw the accident and stopped to help get the rest of my family out from behind the Land Rover since the trees were so thick and dense on the sides of the vehicle.
The only injury that occurred was a small, deep cut on my right hand. It was bleeding like crazy so there was blood all over the place, inside and outside the vehicle. It looked super dramatic, but I had a sense that is was going to be nothing major…especially compared to what could have been the outcome from an accident like this. The Land Rover was basically crumpled like a tin can and shredded from the passenger doors to the front end.
A friend was traveling behind us with his family since they were going to the same BBQ party with us and saw the whole accident unfold in front of them. Our friend stopped and we decided that everyone but my wife and I would go onward to the BBQ. We didn’t want the kids and my auntie and elderly cousin to have to wait while the police got the report. We figured that after the police were done and the Land Rover would be towed away, then she would take me to the emergency room to get my hand looked at and addressed.
The police arrived and wanted to get my story about what happened. They also took my wife away alone to the side to get her story about the accident too. I told them about the trailer hitch and my whole story. But, the police officer looked at me like I wasn’t telling him the truth. I felt that the police officer thought I was just “distracted” playing with the radio or talking to someone in the vehicle. The police officer told me that they could not find the metal object that I had mentioned. At that point, I didn’t know that I had hit a little pickup truck. I looked up, and a quarter mile up the road and I saw a little pickup truck and more police officers. I asked the police officer that was getting my statements what was going on with those people up the road. The police officer responded, “Those are the people that you hit.” As soon as the police officer said that, I bolted up the road to see if they were ok. When I got there, I saw an older woman with her husband. The woman had the trailer hitch in her hand and gave it to me because she thought that it had fallen off my Land Rover. It was the tangible evidence that the police were looking for to validate and make my story true!
While the police were getting my story, a tow truck was working on getting the Land Rover out of the trees.
While the tow truck was trying to attach to the car, I frantically grabbed my personal belongings that flew to the front of the car because of the force of the impact and sudden deceleration during the accident. I knew I wouldn’t get access to the Land Rover again because it was sure to be considered a total loss by the insurance company. Maybe they could recycle parts off it but there was no way it was going to be fixed that’s for sure.
As the tow truck was still trying to get the Land Rover up the embankment and out from being stuck solid in the forest, I started reflecting, “How did I drive like that and take that type of evasive and aggressive action with such skill?” I couldn’t figure it out. I thought to himself, “There is no way I could have driven like that. I’ve never had professional race car type driving lessons” Then, I heard a voice standing next to me say, “You are right, you didn’t, I drove for you…I was driving.” It was a different tone and tenor of voice from the other voices I had heard before when the Land Rover came to a stop before and just after I opened my eyes. I knew who it was. There was no question in my mind who this presence and the voice coming from it was. There was an energy and presence of love, compassion, kindness and understanding that I had not experienced before. I looked over to my side where I could feel this presence and I said to him, “You are really real…you actually exist?…I kind of thought so but this is so cool…” The voice said, “I am.” I proclaimed, “You are the dude, you really are ‘THE DUDE’! You are HIM!” Jesus replied and said, “Yes.” My mind had a question of “Why? What’s the deal with this accident and this crazy outcome?” And he said, “You know Waven, I could have taken you, any one of your family in this vehicle or all of them. But, it is not your time nor is it theirs.” In that moment while I was conversing with Jesus, I didn’t really know what to say, but replied, “I know, thank you for this and now you have my attention.”
While this exchange with Jesus was happening, a new tow truck came because the other one was too small and not powerful enough to bring out the 5,000 pound Land Rover. Jesus said to me, “I can’t believe you didn’t take the most important thing out of your vehicle.” I replied, “What are you talking about? I have taken everything..all my personal possessions of value out of the vehicle.” Jesus replied, “There is one item left. I can’t believe you would leave it behind…just look its staring you right in the face.” As he said this I could feel a loving smile on his face like he was enjoying giving me a hard time. I frantically looked through the peeled back passenger door which was connect to the vehicle by a few stands of wires, like tendons holding a limb on. Then, I finally saw the little card that was stuck into the dashboard that was given to me by my brother-in-law.
On one side of the card, there was a picture of Jesus embracing a person under the Holy Spirit’s shining energy. On the other side of this card it said, “Let go, Let God” and the rest of a passage. I had this in my dashboard because while I would be driving around the island I would repeat this phrase to myself because of all the trails and challenges I was going through. I would repeat the saying ‘let go, let God’ like a mantra to calm my anxious energy. I didn’t think that the picture was nearly as important as the saying because I resonated with the words. As soon as I focused back into the interior of the Land Rover and saw the card on the dashboard, I reached in, pulled it off the dash and right when my arm came out of the Land Rover, the tow truck driver finally pulled the vehicle out from the forest. When I retrieved the card, I could feel Jesus smile again…a smile of satisfaction and then his presence was gone. After the conversation with Jesus, I realized that this whole accident and the scenario that unfolded was divinely orchestrated.
After this I was left standing on the side of the road alone. Traffic was flowing normally again and it was as if no potentially tragic accident had just happened on this road. The only clue was skid marks, some debris and a big square hole the Land Rover had carved in the dense ohi’a tree forest. After everyone was gone, my wife took me to the emergency room to address the cut on my hand.
Weeks later, I kept reflecting upon, “Why, why, why did this happen? Why did Jesus come see me in person? Who was I that he would come see me? I’m sure he has plenty of other folks to visit and things to do. What do you want me to do? Should I quit my job and go back to school to become a nurse, a veterinarian, a missionary? A job that was clearly more of service to others than what I was currently doing. You clearly exist and are real and now I get it. You have revealed yourself in a very dramatic but personal way to me. What do I do from here going forward? What do you want me to do?”
While I was reflecting, I heard the bantering voices which I now called “guardian angels” come to me and say, “Waven, come on. Take a break…it’s been weeks, give it up! But, we know you aren’t going to give it up until you get a crystal clear answer. So we are going to break it down for you. You really like what you do, your design work, branding work, right? Do you think you are serving people? Giving Value? Is this your gift?”
I answered, “Ya…I have been doing this type of work for 25 plus years and I really enjoy my work and profession and helping people that I get work with. It’s a blessing. But still, I am willing to become anything Jesus wants me to be. I just don’t know what that is…”
The voice answered back, “Well, here is what HE wants. HE wants you to do what you are doing the best way you know how to do it and the best way your gift from HIM allows you to do it. But, do it with the most love you can do it with. HE wants you to be the best example of HIS light and love to others as you possible can be. HE wants you to shine this light in everything you do. It is not WHAT you do that HE cares about, but HOW you do it is what HE is most concerned about. This sounds simple, but it is actually not easy to do each and every day.”
When I received the message, I thought, “You have got to be kidding me, that is it?” I know that Jesus said, “love your neighbor as I have loved you” but I was waiting for a major epiphany…something really big! I thought I needed to do a total 180 to fulfill Jesus’ mission. I was ready to change my career path and radically change my professional career direction in life. But, after I got the message, I finally felt settled about why Jesus appeared to me during the horrific accident.
A couple months later, I went to the nursing home to visit my mom during the day which was very rare. I would often visit at night after work or on the weekend. While, I was walking down the hall to my mother’s room, I saw an elderly lady in a caregivers outfit and didn’t think anything of it. As I walked past her, she asked, “How are you doing?” I hesitantly replied, “OK?” She responded and said, “You don’t remember me do you? My husband and I were the ones in that little pickup truck that you hit in the accident many months back.” “I gave you that trailer hitch I thought had come from your SUV” Oh my gosh I said then I asked her, “What are you doing here?” She said, “I work here. I am the one that takes care of your mom during the day shift. I told your mom that she has a really great son because you came up after the accident to make sure we were ok.” I hugged her, she smiled and kept walking down the hallway. In that moment, I realized that all these things that appear to be random are not. Everything is very connected and divinely ordered and orchestrated. After that encounter, I never saw her again.
Because things aren’t random, I also had an encounter with a gentleman that my auntie had told me about. My auntie mentioned to me that during the accident a very nice big muscularly built gentleman wrenched open the rear hatch door on the Land Rover. He was the one that got everyone out from the back the car, my auntie, my elderly cousin and my three sons. She really wanted to thank him and thought we could find him at the kid’s charter school because he was the school’s security guard. I never saw him during the accident because I was at the front end of the Land Rover focused and concerned about getting my wife out from the front passenger side of the vehicle. I tried to track him down, but when I got to the school they said he did not work there anymore. The school had no information on him. About 6-8 months later, I was at a Target on the other side of the island from Hilo and then I saw a gentleman that fit the description my auntie had told me. I just had ‘a feeling’ or prompting from the Holy Spirit if you will that this was the guy that had selflessly helped out my family during the accident. I went up to him and said, “I know this is going to sound strange, but did you work as a security guard at this certain Charter School in Hilo?” He replied, “Yes, I worked there for a short period of time.” I continued to question him and asked, “Do you remember helping people during an accident awhile back on the road to Puna?” He said he remembered. At that moment, I ran to the small Starbucks in that Target store and bought him a gift card and said “This is a little Mahalo gift from my family, specifically my auntie, for helping us during the accident.” I think I also gave him a hug too since we hug a lot in Hawaii. After that encounter, I never saw him again anywhere on the island.
In July 2010, my family returned back to California and settled in Pacifica. In early September of that year, I visited New Life Christian Fellowship for the first time and never left New Life’s church family. I felt like this church was where I was supposed to be. I know the Holy Spirit prompted me to turn into the parking lot on an afternoon one weekday and then on Sunday of that week I attended services for the first time.
Before the Land Rover accident in Hawaii, I realized that I was on the sidelines of the spiritual playing field. I was on the “team” and had a team jersey but I wasn’t an active and conscious player in my Christian faith for team Jesus. From the course of the vehicle accident and my previous ‘near death’ experiences, I now knew that Jesus had a plan for my life and my service…he wanted me to ‘step up and out’ and play an active, conscious, participatory role in God’s Kingdom. I could not be content to be on the sidelines of the real and only game that mattered anymore and only jump in and out when it was convenient or I felt like it. I realized that the Land Rover, other material belongings and even the construct of things I thought were previously important which had defined me had actually become a distraction and had become my idols above God. I was more attached to what I wanted, when I wanted it and what I wanted to do and accomplish than to focusing on, paying attention to and discerning what God’s plan for my life was. I realized that my material things were taken away from me to really get my attention. It was to save my life and recalibrate me to look at eternity versus just this current lifetime.
I realized, “up to this point, I’ve been mostly asleep…living from a unconscious self-focused construct but since that accident, Jesus reminds me daily of what is really important and I am forever appreciative and grateful.”
Mahalo Nui Loa,