I’m so honored to feature my husband, Jeff Manning, as this month’s author of the month. He, of course, is my favorite author showcased so far! This story is one that will cause you to grab the kleenex but in a good way.
At the request of my beloved wife and best friend, I would like to share a walk down memory lane with you. It’s one of those memories that’s like a tapestry, our heavenly Father weaving a beautiful quilt and me honored to be a part of it. As I start this second sentence, there are already tears in my eyes just thinking about the goodness of our Abba Father and how intricate His details are. I hope this message blesses you.
About a week ago, my Father, Danny Manning, called me and asked how long it had been since an article had been published in the Metro section of the newspaper featuring a little boy named Colby and me. Colby was a cancer patient at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. As we talked, it was hard for us to believe that it had been over fifteen years since the publication. Weeks prior, my wife had gone through some of my old pictures and plaques to place in our office, and she had pulled the framed article out to hang above my desk.
As dad and I continued to talk, he let me know that the Kosair Children’s Hospital Foundation had called and wanted him to come and take a tour. He wanted to see if I would accompany him. The hospital wanted to show my dad all the updates they had made since he had been faithfully giving monthly for all these years. What a blessing to have parents that are such givers!
About a week before this phone conversation with my father, some friends of my wife and I, Shawn & Anna Dolphin, were over to the house for a Shabbat when this article on the office wall initiated the testimony I’m about to share with you. Again, tears were shed.
It all started months after I decided to rededicate my life in the mid-1990’s. Following a service at church, a lady came up to me and told me that she had a word for me from the Father. She went on to say to me that God had a plan for me to head up a ministry. She said I would be ministering to many men and for me to get spiritually prepared. I thanked her and then thought, “This lady is crazy! I am trying to get my own life straight, and now I am going to be involved in ministry? Yea, right lady!”
Well, our Father does work in mysterious ways, and I came to realize that the lady in question wasn’t crazy. Within a year, me and two other brothers in Christ, Donnie Chambers, and Todd Brimm, started the Shield of Faith Christian Police Officers Association. This is an entire testimony in itself and would take another article or two to write about. However, one facet of the ministry started about a year later when we received a call from a Crimes Against Children Detective about a young child at Kosair Children’s Hospital that would forever change our lives.
To our astonishment, a seven-year-old boy who, along with his mother, had been traveling with the circus had grabbed a live wire that burned off three of his little fingers. The shocking part was that his mother abandoned him at the hospital with only the clothes on his back and left with the circus, never to return. We were asked to step in. What could we do? A group of us nervously went and befriended this child, seeing him daily and bringing him clothes and toys. We could tell he hadn’t had the best of upbringings due to his choice of language at times. We did about all we could do and tried to shower him with our Father’s love and prayers of protection.
I will never forget the day I received the call from the hospital asking me to come down and be with this child as they took his bandages off completely. He was going to see his hand for the first time after the surgeries. They were worried about this being traumatic and wanted his new friends to be there with him for support. I grabbed a co-worker, Tony Denham, who was also a member of the Shield of Faith, and we headed down to the hospital. I will never forget holding this child down as he screamed while they took off the bandages. Boy, was this kid resilient! In a couple of minutes, he was fine and ready to play. Tony and I drove back to headquarters in silence with the previous events being replayed in our heads. Simultaneously, we both started talking about how in the world a mother could leave their child to go through something like that all by themselves. I am thankful that this story ended well. The little boy who was abandoned ended up being adopted by a good family and moving on to a new life. Praise the Lord Adonai!
Soon after this, Dr. Steve Wright, the Medical Director of Kosair Children’s Hospital, approached us about the possibility of visiting some of the children on a regular basis. I remember our first meeting, where we were instructed about the do’s and don’ts of what to say and not to say. How fragile some of the situations were. We began to realize that the primary place we were going was to the children’s unit in the cancer ward. Talk about having second thoughts! Fear began to rear its ugly head. I was nervous but felt like this was of God, and so did my brothers and sisters of the Shield of Faith.
I remember being nervous as anything as we went into the first room of the cancer unit. There was this chubby little boy introduced to us as Colby. He had no hair from the chemo treatments but a smile that lit up the room. This little fellow sat up in his bed and spoke with a country twang I will never forget. I remember thinking about all the do’s and don’ts and thought, “What would be a safe question for Colby?” So I asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He thought for a split second and said, “I want to be a Preacher.” At that very moment, I knew that the Father himself had sent us to do this work. I didn’t know that Colby indeed would preach a message to me and others that no spiritual leader ever has.
Over the next couple of years, Colby and I developed a God-ordained relationship that I will forever cherish. We began to visit the Hospital once a week on Wednesdays, and very seldom did we miss. The children always looked forward to the Police showing up in their uniforms and coming to see them. All the kids had a soft spot in our hearts, but Colby was super special. No matter how much he was hurting, he always made it a point to make our day more special than we ever made his.
He lived at the hospital due to his condition. During Christmas in 1999, Colby was allowed to go home to Casey County, KY, to be with family. They contacted me and asked if I could usher him back to the hospital after his visit due to the family having some problems. This was a two-hour drive, and Donnie Chambers and a couple of others accompanied me. We couldn’t pass up the chance to surprise Colby with some presents. I bring this point up due to the attached article that was in the newspaper. In this article’s photo, there is a picture of me and Colby where I am cracking up. He had just reminded me of how bad a driver I was because he got car sick on the drive back to the hospital. Ha! Yes, he was a character.
In reference to the attached article, we were approached by the Hospital and the Courier-Journal requesting to join us during one of our visits. Out of all the rooms and all the children, they chose Colby to share in the article. Yes, He was that special.
From that article alone, we started getting a plethora of donations. Not just money, but toys, including police wagons to carry everything around on. Another article was done in the Southeast Outlook about Colby getting baptized in the hospital’s burn unit. Yes, he was spreading the gospel and becoming more of a preacher than I ever dreamed of being. He continued to touch everybody he came in contact with, and especially me.
One day I got the call nobody ever wants to hear. Colby didn’t have long, and he wanted to see me. During the visit, I couldn’t get over how brave he was. He asked me if he could be buried with my police handcuffs. What an honor. I remember handcuffing him and me together and letting his family take a picture of us. Two days later, I was called to his bedside, where he took his last breath minutes before I arrived.
I’m proud to say that the Chief at the time, Gene Sherrard, of the Louisville Police Department, allowed us to take a brand new police car to escort Colby home to Casey County, KY. Along with that, he allowed the Shield of Faith Officers to be his Pallbearers and to play taps with the bugle. I had the honor and privilege of speaking at Colby’s funeral and placing my cuffs into his casket. This kind soul wanted to preach the gospel, and he did it better than any man I’ve seen yet.
One thing I will never forget was when we arrived at the cemetery, and we got out of our cars and were close to starting the service. A Donkey came over to the fence, made the loudest noises, and carried on for a couple of minutes. I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I remember thinking at that very moment that braying was for Colby. After the service, two other officers that were with us said the exact same thing; the same thought had come to them. The donkey was brought up several times on our ride home, and it also reminded me of the humble donkey Jesus-Yeshua rode in on and the fact that our Father used a donkey to speak.
For five years, I had the honor of meeting and making many friends at Kosair. Again, several of these children went on to be with the Lord Adonai, and others received miracles. The toys continued to pour in due to Colby, and I am proud to say that off and on for the past sixteen years, officers of the Shield of Faith have continued to make these visits, as well as my faithful dad.
Yes, I believe Colby was a Preacher and ministered to many unknowingly. I also know that only God could have taken the broken man I was, who was just trying to get my life back on track and place my feet on a path that would connect me with a little ole country boy that would forever change my life.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the ones that indeed are the angels at these children’s hospitals. I want to commend the doctors and especially the nurses who are there every day, caring for and comforting not only the children but the families also. I pray many blessings and much comfort over these angels as they deal day in and day out with some of their new friends suffering and some passing away.
:The picture above shows Colby and I handcuffed. It was taken two days before he passed away.