Monday, September 22, 2014

From scars to spiritual life coach

A 2011 car accident caused one international student to realize God’s unfailing control and guidance in his life

friendship — Taran Kerr (second from the right) said he realized God’s plan for his life was to be a neuropsychologist after his accident in the Bahamas . Photo provided

Friendship — Taran Kerr (second from the right) said he realized God’s plan for his life was to be a neuropsychologist after his accident in the Bahamas . Photo provided

Taran Kerr wandered into a convenience store, jarred by the car accident that sent his car rolling three times and left him with multiple broken fingers and a concussion just minutes beforehand.

“Where are your gauze and your wraps?” he calmly asked the cashier, who was alarmed at the sight of Kerr’s injuries. After locating the supplies and wrapping his injured hand, he sat down in the store as the cashier called his mother.

Kerr explained how the accident happened in a tone that conveys to listeners just how lucky he was to come away with only the minimal amount of injuries that he did. According to Kerr, he was on his way to school after dropping off his grandmother at work. While attempting to enter the highway, a car moving at 75 mph hit the back of his car, forcing it to roll multiple times. Kerr had to climb out of the passenger window because the car had come to rest on its side, with the driver’s side window facing the pavement.

“I broke my index finger in like three or four different places,” Kerr said. “My middle finger, my doctor said that if my middle finger was out of 100 percent, I had like 35 percent of the bone left … My ring finger was just broken in one place, straight across, like it just came off the hinge. It was just a long and hard process after that — six months of recovery.”

The accident affected Kerr, now a senior at Liberty University, so much that he said he could not stop speaking in Spanish, one of the two languages he speaks, for a few hours after the incident. Apart from the physical injuries, which would eventually heal, the incident had a more lasting effect on both his psyche and his future.

“I would start to get upset when people talked about it, and I totally just wanted to avoid it,” Kerr said. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I tried to totally relieve myself of that whole incident. But I just realized that God had it happen for a reason. He allowed me to live for a purpose and a reason, so why avoid it?”
Kerr said that following the accident, he was afraid to drive for a while, but as time passed, he discovered a way that he could use his interest in a career in neuropsychology to help people suffering from similar injuries that he endured.

“I have a love for biology and psychology at the same time,” Kerr said. “So, by doing neuropsychology, I have the best of both worlds in it. So, I’m like the neurologist without cutting people, and I’m like the psychologist without having the office setting. So, I’m still in the hospital, but I’m up and down. There are a few aspects of neuropsychology, but one of the greatest ones is rehabilitation, like what I went through.”

Kerr, who goes by the name of Teekay, because most of his American friends place the emphasis on the wrong syllable of his first name (pronounced “Ta-RAN”), traveled a long way, both figuratively and geographically, to get to the place in life that he occupies now. He grew up in the city of Nassau in the Bahamas before attending Valor Christian College in Ohio and, later, the College of the Bahamas.

According to Kerr, he considered many professions before his car accident in the Bahamas cleared up his career plans — which happened in the spring of 2011 during a semester at the College of the Bahamas.

“I wanted to be an archaeologist, then an Egyptologist, then a nanotechnologist, and then a lawyer, then a Christian counselor, and God finally put a stamp on it and said, ‘It stops right here at neuropsychology.’”

Now one of more than 900 international students at Liberty, Kerr has noticed a few differences between Bahamian and American culture.

“The cold air burns,” Kerr said with a shudder. “This right now, how it’s constant heat, this is my island every day, and it only gets hotter. When you step into a place that’s cold, your body’s not used to it.”

He also said that Bahamian food uses more spices, which gives it a better taste, and getting used to the increased hospitality of the American South was also an adjustment.

However, Kerr said that despite these differences, most of his American friends are not aware that the Bahamas are more similar to the United States than they might think.

“I’ve had people come up to me and ask me if we still live in thatch houses and ‘Do we have roads?’” Kerr said. “Or, ‘Do we have horses instead of cars?’ … A lot of people think that we’re like a third-world country.”

Worldwide welcome — Kerr is one of more than 900 international students at Liberty University. Photo provided

Worldwide welcome — Kerr is one of more than 900 international students at Liberty University. Photo provided

Another incorrect assumption that sometimes gets under Kerr’s skin is when people mistake his accent for a Jamaican accent, even though he is half Bahamian and half Colombian.

“I went to a school that had probably 86 percent Jamaicans in it, so we had our little rivalry — a friendly rivalry, but a rivalry nonetheless,” Kerr said. “It gets me when people don’t call me by what I really am. It’s kind of different. There’s no real bad blood.”

Kerr has experienced many things in his 22 years of life that most of his peers have not, for better or for worse. Kerr has endured an abusive stepfather, a barracuda attack that he suffered while swimming, as well as his car accident, but he has also enjoyed studying multiple different kinds of martial arts, swam at the CARIFTA Games, which serve as a preparation for Olympic swimming, and worked as the worship leader for his church’s youth group in the Bahamas.

He said that despite the bad things that have happened to him, ending up in a hospital bed might have been the best thing for him.

“I grew up around the religious factor, where if I did these things, I’m a Christian,” Kerr said. “But I didn’t have the relationship with God. It was really after my accident when God really made it known that I could be dead right now, but he saved me. That’s when I really took my Christianity super seriously.”

Now living at the Liberty Residential Annex off campus, Kerr uses his life experience and faith in God to help other students as a spiritual life coach.

Liberty senior Colby Tallafuss served as the resident assistant (RA) for East Campus dorm 53 when Kerr was a prayer leader for the dorm in the spring of 2012.

“He showed a natural maturity,” Tallafuss said of Kerr. “He took ownership of those around him and was really able to guide them into maturity.”

As a dorm that has functioned as a second home to international students from Korea to Africa to Haiti during Tallafuss’ time as an RA, he said that Kerr was a positive spiritual influence on the dorm.

Kerr said that he is still unsure where he will end up after he completes his undergraduate degree in May of 2015 and pursuing his master’s degree, but whether he lives in the Bahamas, America or some other country, he will always take with him a reminder of God’s guidance in his life.

The scars on his hands from the accident that changed his life serve as a reminder of his belief that no matter what happens, God is in control.

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