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Father Dies Saving His Daughter in Rockslide

On September 30, 2013 Dwayne and Dawna Johnson of Buena Vista, Colorado had the perfect day planned. The electrician and high school football coach and his wife took their two teenage daughters on a day hike up a popular mountain trail. But then the unthinkable happened: a rockslide barreled down at them at a vantage point looking up on Agnes Vaille Falls.

Just before the cascading dirt and boulders swept Dwayne, his wife, and their oldest daughter to their deaths, Dwayne made a decision that saved the life of his 13-year-old daughter, Gracie. A few weeks after the tragedy, Gracie said, "I did cover myself, but I was just standing in the open. [My dad] pushed me to a rock that was bigger than I was, and he just saved me." Sheriff's Deputy Nick Tolsma added, "[Gracie] said her dad jumped on top of her to protect her right at the last moment when the rocks were coming down."

Immediately after the rockslide, as rescue workers began to search the area, they heard Gracie's voice coming from beneath the pile of rocks that covered her. Deputy Tolsma eventually spotted Gracie's hand sticking out from the rocks. No one in the town was surprised by Dwayne's act of sacrificial love. As a family friend said, "He would have done the same for any of our children, absolutely."

Just two days before the accident, Dwayne wrote to his 18-year-old daughter Kiowa-Rain, and encouraged her to "dream big," "develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," and remember that "deep, meaningful relationships bring happiness." Dwayne lived out those words and the words of his Savior— "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Human Love—Obviously this story shows an extreme but powerful example of human sacrificial love. (2) Christ's Love, The Cross, Substitution—It also provides a picture of the substitutionary, sacrificial love that Christ displayed on the cross (although, unlike the father in this story, Christ's sacrifice was planned from the foundations of the earth).

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