Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 29, 2003

Pastor Swedberg is set to return to pulpit Oct. 5

By Lynda Jensen

"Always be ready to die."

That's the advice that Pastor Joel Swedberg gives when asked about nearly being killed for the second time recently.

Swedberg survived a plane crash in July at Winsted Airport, and also withstood a head-on car accident about 10 years ago.

He plans to return to the pulpit Sunday, Oct. 5 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Howard Lake.

In both accidents, God was with him, although his family and friends went through a fright each time, he said.

He missed most of the extreme pain that doctors said he was in, Swedberg said.

"I have no memory of tremendous pain," he said. "It was harder on my family than me."

Swedberg has no recollection of the first two weeks since the accident, he said. He remembers waking up, confused, in a hospital bed at the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was in intensive care for five days.

Swedberg broke both his legs, fractured a heel, knocked out a tooth, broke his jaw, sustained a deep cut to his hand, laceration on his chin, and several cuts to his face during the accident. The flight instructor aboard was killed.

Since Swedberg's hospital stay, he's been recuperating at the "Swedberg Luxury Suite" at St. John's ­ which is a special room set up for him at the church for easier wheelchair access, rather than the parsonage.

He can put weight on his right foot, and should be able to sustain weight on his other foot in a month or so, Swedberg said.

Recently, he was excited to be able to roll over in his sleep without rearranging several pillows, he said.

He will be going through therapy to walk again soon.

What Bible passage applies to his situation? Romans 8:28, he said. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose."

Swedberg believes that God used his predicaments to empower and strengthen many people, to help them understand that they themselves can be instruments of God's purpose.

A prayer vigil for Swedberg conducted soon after the accident was very successful. In fact, a number of parishioners told him later that they were reassured by God that Swedberg would be OK during that time.

A friend joked with Swedberg that if a meteor was hurtling toward the earth, he wouldn't stand next to the pastor, since Swedberg wouldn't be the guy the meteor would hit. ­ it would hit someone else close by.

Swedberg attracted statewide attention over the accident, and was interviewed by two television channels, Channel 4 and Channel 11.

Channel 4 edited out all references to God, he noted, although they left in subtle images, such as a cross on the wall, Marylou said.

"Channel 11 let me talk about God," Joel said.

The church web site, hlchurch.org, which features a link with medical updates for Swedberg.

Those interested in visiting Swedberg may do so at the church daily from 1 to 3 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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