Special guest coming to First Baptist Church
Rev. Johnny McCoy has a gruesome story to share, but his message is nothing but positive.
McCoy, 60, pastor of North Pole Baptist Church in Alaska, is an avid hunter who survived a near-fatal grizzly bear attack while hunting near the Little Delta River Sept. 4, 2001.
A sow grizzly protecting her two cubs first attacked Gary Corle, McCoy's longtime hunting companion, and then turned her attention to McCoy, who suffered such severe injuries to his face, head and arms that his doctors predicted his recovery would take two to four years.
But McCoy returned to the pulpit just over a year later, and now speaks several times per year at various hunting dinners and churches across the country to spread his message of faith.
"I remember every detail of the attack, and there's no scale for the pain – it's beyond 10 when you're laying on the ground and a grizzly is chewing on your head and arms," said McCoy, who has been traipsing the Alaskan landscape for meat for nearly 30 years. "To this day, it's very difficult to share the story because it's as though it happened yesterday. It's just unfortunate, and I don't fault (the bear) for doing what she did because she was protecting her cubs.
"I had an encounter with the bear but also with the Lord. I believe he allowed it to happen for a reason, and I think that reason was to touch people's lives."
The indomitable preacher will be the guest speaker at a banquet hosted by First Baptist Church in Russellville Friday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m., and he will also share his testimonial at the 10:30 a.m. worship service at FBC on Sunday, March 1. The Outdoor Life Network filmed a re-enactment of McCoy's encounter with the grizzly, and the 20-minute DVD will be shown at the banquet.
"It's not a sci-fi thing (with graphic images), but everything is exactly the way it happened that day, and it's tough to see it to this day because you can anticipate everything that's going to happen," said McCoy, who met First Baptist's pastor, Barry Halcomb, through the Southern Baptist Convention and has visited Alabama once before when he spoke at Holcomb's former church in Andalusia.
In addition to the bear attack, McCoy has also underwent bypass heart surgery and his home burned to the ground last December. Despite these trials, his faith in God remains strong and he maintains his belief in the importance of not giving up.
"People ask me why I didn't curse God, or why I didn't quit preaching after the attack," said McCoy, who is also a past councilman and mayor for North Pole, a town of 1,500 residents about 11 miles east of Fairbanks. "But I believe things happen for a reason, and the message I give is that it's worth it to hang in there when times are tough because the right circumstances will eventually come and you can honor the Lord.
"God has a plan for your life, and it's how we respond to situations that matters the most. And you never know who's watching you and learning from your example."
For more information about the banquet, contact FBC at 332-2065.