Liberty Family Shares Their Story Of Hope In The Midst Of Suffering
In an instant, a night of sweet celebration turned to sustained sorrow for the Barrick family after a drunk driver hit them head on as they headed home after a Wednesday night church service.
Jen Barrick, who was 15 at the time, had performed at the Thomas Road Baptist Church evening service with her high school choir that evening Nov. 5, 2006. Her mother had invited guests from out of town and friends in their community to come over to their home afterwards to celebrate the milestone. Honor turned to horror quickly, though, as the Barricks never made it home that night.
Andy, Linda, Jen and Josh Barrick were traveling on Waterlick Road on their way back to their house after the concert when their van was struck head on by a drunk driver going 80 mph down the road without his lights on. The impact of the accident left the drunk driver’s engine in the middle of the road and the Barrick family in critical condition.
Linda Barrick and her son Josh were taken to Lynchburg General Hospital for treatment of their injuries. Andy Barrick, who was working as the alumni director at Liberty at the time, and his daughter Jen were in life-threatening condition. Andy Barrick was flown to Roanoke for his injuries. Jen was mistakenly identified as an adult and was taken to Lynchburg General. There, she was given a shot that kept her brain fluid from leaking down her spine. They realized she was a minor and was then flown to University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.
“Jen was a Glasgow three (coma, the deepest level) at the car wreck, and dead people are a three, and no one thought she would live through the night,” Linda said.
By the end of the night, all four members of the family had been taken by helicopter to three different hospitals. The worries for their family members only added to the fear of the night.
Jen’s grandfather Ed Hindson, dean emeritus in the School of Divinity at Liberty, remembers Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. calling the Hindsons personally to ask if they were already at the scene of the accident and informed them that Linda and Jen were being taken to a hospital in Lynchburg.
“My wife took the call, and she couldn’t talk to him. As soon as she heard his voice, she knew it wasn’t good, so she handed me the phone,” Hindson said.
Falwell Sr. prayed with 11-year-old Josh and Linda that night and even prayed over Jen for healing and a miracle. Hindson remembered an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness as he saw Jen lying in her hospital bed that first night.
“I felt helpless. I think that was the first initial response. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t touch her. You can’t help her. You have to leave her in the hands of the doctors,” he said.
As impossible as it felt to live through at times, Hindson recalls Linda rallying people even from her hospital bed to pray for Jen and their family. Through holidays spent in the hospital and weeks without hearing her daughter’s voice, Linda had hope.
The Liberty community and their church family at Thomas Road wrapped around the Barricks and did anything they could to make the family’s recovery easier. People drove friends and family to the University of Virginia every day to see Jen when both Andy and Linda were in wheelchairs and helped care for the family.
Jen remained in a coma for five weeks, having sustained a fractured skull and a severe brain injury in the accident. Linda remembered watching Jen struggle one night to fight against her feeding tube as pained moans left her mouth. The Barricks tried to calm her to no avail until suddenly, Jen spoke.
“One day, she starts talking to Jesus, and it is this uninjured voice, we can understand her. It sounds like the old Jen, and the only time we could understand her is when she was talking to God,” Linda said.
The Barricks described Jen as being “in God’s throne room” at that time because it was as if she was awake and wasn’t awake. Jen rolled in her hospital bed talking to God, asking for words to describe him to other people. She often quoted Bible verses and sung worship songs, remembering every word, even when she couldn’t do simple math.
As the entire family healed both physically and emotionally over the years that followed, they found a way to share Jen’s desire to describe God to other people. It is the heart of their ministry. Jen prays over congregations and lives every day as a testimony to the power of prayer and hope that if God can do that for her, he can do anything for anyone.
To get through each day after the horrific accident, Linda told herself that her earthly life was just a blip, over in a blink.
“When the reality really hits, when nothing is normal and everything’s hard … this life is just a dot,” Linda said. “What I meant was it’s just a dot on the timeline compared to living for all of eternity in Heaven one day. And that’s how I would make it through moment by moment. And then Jen started calling me ‘polka dot’.
“We have seen how God uses Jen to do things for eternity. They’re not really earthly things, like she just has a whole different focus and she has a great sense of humor. She has a lot of fun, it’s hard to explain her.”
Now 15 years after the accident, Jen and the entire family are leaps and bounds from where they were that first time. While Jen’s brain injury will always be a physical part of her life, Jen speaks to crowds about the hope she has in God and her family finds immense comfort in seeing the vibrant, joyous person she is now.
“What we have seen, is in her brokenness, the Holy Spirit is not disabled, and the Holy Spirit helps her do things every day that she is not capable of,” Linda said.
The family reaches countless people through their non-profit organization Hope Out Loud. Hope Out Loud focusses on sharing the miracles God has done for the Barricks and so many others. The family travels all over the country and plans to speak in Romania and Bolivia.
Another way the Barricks showcase just how integral God has been in Jen’s healing is through a book Linda wrote in 2013 called “Miracle for Jen: A Tragic Accident, a Mother’s Desperate Prayer, and Heaven’s Extraordinary Answer.” The book details the true horror of the night of the accident and the weeks following but also explains how much healing and hope exists in their story.
“A big part of her story is that she had a totally different personality and she had journals. She would write to the Lord all the time and write her prayers and her dreams, and she was begging God for boldness because she wanted to make a difference in the world,” Linda said.
Having now served in full-time ministry for 10 years, the family has released Jen’s personal prayer journal, which has been translated into six languages and devotionals for young women written by Jen and Linda.
Jen’s devotionals, “Priceless” and “Beyond Priceless” walk young women through the journey of allowing God to use both your physical and emotional scars to honor his beauty.
According to Linda Barrick, over 21,000 people have made a salvation decision since Hope Out Loud began in August 2012. Linda encourages anyone interested in hearing about the miracles God is doing through their ministry to check out their website hopeoutloud.com or their YouTube channel of the same name.
VIRES is a feature writer. Follow her on Twitter