Recently, Dr. John Raffensperger passed into eternity. Before leaving the States, I got a call from his ex-wife, Carolyn, who informed me. I note this because this is a post from ten years ago which explains Dr. Raffensperger’s connection with Dad’s book Winterflight. At the end, I note the questions surrounding Dr. Raffensperger’s faith. I’m so thankful to God to update the readers by reporting that Carolyn believes her former husband returned to the Lord in the months prior to his death.
That said, here’s the post from Baylyblog.com dated August 21, 2012:
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David Gray, one of Baylyblog’s senior correspondents, is a respiratory therapist… (Actually, David just told me I’m wrong. What he does, I don’t know—but on to the post anyhow…)
When I was a young long-hair, I was regularly in the home of a family friend, John Raffensperger, who at the time was chief surgeon of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
If you’ve read Dad’s books, you know John as the sceptic in I Love to Tell the Story, Dad’s account of twenty-five years co-teaching (with Ken Hansen) the multi-generational Covenant Class at College Church in Wheaton. If you’ve read it, John is also “Price Berkowitz,” the hero of Dad’s apocalyptic novel, Winterflight. John was (and I assume still is) an unbeliever, yet the affection he and Dad had for each other went deep. Thus John was the inspiration for Winterflight’s Berkowitz, the only physician willing to jeopardize his medical practice by helping the little hemophiliac boy.
When Winterflight came out, Dad sent a copy to John. Sadly, since leaving College Church, John had gone down a very dark hole. After reading the book Dad sent him, he was so furious over the novel’s plot and Berkowitz’s role in it that he sent Dad an angry letter and set about writing his own novel attacking Winterflight.
All this as preface to the fact that John did everything he could to discourage me from entering pastoral ministry. When I’d visit the Raffenspergers, John always asked me the same question: “Tim, what are you going to do with your life?”
I’d answer, “I’m going to be a pastor.”
He’d respond, “Why waste your life? Do something useful. You want to help people? Become a respiratory therapist. You can live anywhere you choose—respiratory therapists are needed everywhere! Then you have a captive audience. You can talk to the patients while you treat them. At least you’ll be doing something useful!”
From his kindness John set up an appointment at Children’s for me to meet one of their respiratory therapists. Prior to meeting with the respiratory therapist, I went on rounds with Dr. Raffensperger. I was there watching and listening as he checked on each of his post-op charges in Children’s ICU and…
In the intervening years, I’ve lost track of John, his ex-wife Carolyn, and their children.
Dad loved John. For a time, at least, it’s clear John loved Dad. That’s why they argued. They had to. They were light and darkness on the path to Heaven and Hell. May God have mercy on Dr. Raffensperger’s soul.
And if you are wondering what sort of book would cause the Surgeon in Chief of Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital to sit down and write a novel in opposition, buy a copy of Winterflight.
Seriously—I believe every Christian should read this book as we go into the dark night of President Obama’s evil nationalized health care.
Dad’s Winterflight was amazingly prescient and that’s a good part of the reason John Raffensperger got so angry.