A Christian message for Halloween

Published 8:01 am Friday, October 29, 2010

A man attempts to help a boy injured in a car accident in one of the scenes of "Shadow of Death," a Halloween walk organized by Oakland Baptist Church based on local resident Bob Freitag's experiences. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Bob Freitag was six inches from death one night more than a decade ago. He was in a van with several friends going up north to Minocqua, Wis. for a party, when a car in the other lane swerved over the center line. What happened next is the basis for Oakland Baptist Church’s Halloween walk,  the “Shadow of Death.”

Freitag, a member of the church for only three months, helped write scripts and design five scenes loosely based off a near death experience he had when he was younger.

“Really, it was Bob, whose life it was about. He had just told us a few of these stories and we were like, ‘Man,’” said Pastor Bernie Boldt, who presides over the church.

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The “Shadow of Death,” takes about 15-20 minutes to walk through, according to Boldt. It focuses on five scenes: a party, a car crash, a death, a depiction of hell, and a crossroads. While Freitag may not have experienced death or hell, his story is just as spectacular.

The car in the other lane that fateful night had swerved over the center line and showed no signs of stopping, according to Freitag. The van he was riding in tried to move as far right on the shoulder as it could, but it still couldn’t avoid the other car.

The other car clipped the van, hitting it hard enough to crumple and remove the side of the van. Freitag said he remembers the other car was sparking, with blown speakers flying everywhere. The other car skidded 250 feet after it hit the van, losing its tires, before it ended up underneath a viaduct.

Freitag remembers everyone in the van landing in a field on the side of the road. When Freitag got up, he couldn’t see where the cars and everyone else were, so he had to walk around shouting to see if the other driver was okay.

“Everything was pitch black,” Freitag said.

The driver was in bad shape when Freitag found him. He was trapped in his car, head laying on the air bag, and Freitag could hear blood gurgling in his throat. After clearing the passageway in the driver’s throat, Freitag tried shouting for help, as loud as he could. A truck driver passing by the side of the road radioed a call for help, and within a half hour several ambulances and fire trucks lit up the scene.

Freitag and his friends were fine, aside from a few bumps, cuts and bruises. The other driver wasn’t so lucky. He had to be taken to the hospital, injuring his back, his hips — basically everything on him. Freitag said he heard the driver had overdosed on drugs several months later, leaving behind a wife and children.

Freitag remembers one moment from the accident very clearly. A firefighter had gone over to talk to Freitag and his friends.

“He said, ‘You guys must have a guardian angel watching over you. If that car had gone six inches more to the left, it would’ve gone over the top of your van, decapitating all of you and tore the roof off,’”

It took a long time for Freitag to come to terms with the fact that he was six inches away from death. He said it weighed heavily on him for years after, why he’d been spared.

“At the time of the accident, (I felt) devastated,” Freitag said. “For a long time it kind of left me feeling awkward after surviving such a scene.”

Eventually he realized he’d survived for a greater purpose, that there were choices to make in life that sometimes people don’t get to make over again, but that people should at least be aware of. That’s why Freitag stands at the end of the “Shadow of Death,” walk so he can share his story with others.

“(The Shadow of Death) shows people that God is in control,” Boldt said. “That we don’t have to find happiness in alcohol and other things in this world, that we can surrender our life to Christ.”

“Shadow of Death” runs Friday, Oct. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 30 from 7-11 p.m. in Oakland off County Road 46. There are signs on the road. It’s for ages 12 and up. A $5 donation is welcome, as it will help the church’s ministry.

As for Freitag, he’s still here and glad to share his story.

“I guess I feel good and excited about being able to share this story,” Freitag said. “People out there that hear it, it may touch their lives, it may give them an opportunity to make the choice that I almost couldn’t make.”