Chaffee minister returns to pulpit after accident

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- After nearly three weeks in a St. Louis hospital, the Chaffee pastor who was critically injured and lost his wife in a February traffic accident returned home last week and to the pulpit Sunday.

The Rev. Darren Larkin, pastor of the First Assembly of God Church in Chaffee, remembers nothing of the Feb. 13 accident that killed his wife, Rebecca, and landed him in St. Louis University Hospital with a broken left arm, femur, pelvis and crushed right arm and foot.

While he lay in a hospital bed, Rebecca Larkin was buried Feb. 20 in Dyersburg, Tenn. After 20 days in the hospital, he re-turned home Wednesday, just two days before his wife would have celebrated her 37th birthday.

Darren and Rebecca Larkin were 19 and 16, respectively, when they married 21 years ago.

"It nearly killed me," the 39-year-old Larkin said Monday of his return home. "Rebecca and I were just kids when we got married. We weren't supposed to make it. To have a lifetime partner and then ... . That's the tough part."

'I belong in the pulpit'

Wheelchair-bound and grieving, Larkin still found the strength to preach Sunday at his packed church.

"I feel like I belong in the pulpit," he said. "At least ministering gives me something to work on."

The Larkins' vehicle was struck head-on Feb. 13 on Highway 25 south of Gordonville by a vehicle attempting to pass an 18-wheel truck. The occupants of that vehicle -- 25-year-old Michael Berry of Sedgewick-ville, Mo., and 20-year-old Michael Howe of Cape Girar-deau -- were seriously injured.

Berry, the driver, has been released from St. Francis Medical Center and was charged Friday with the class C felony of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Rebecca Larkin. Howe was released from St. Louis University Hospital on Saturday and has not been charged.

The criminal charge against Berry is of little comfort to Darren Larkin.

"These broken bones will mend, but I don't know that my heart will," he said.

Packed services

Larkin said he plans to continue preaching for as long as he has the strength. He has been told it will be at least 90 days before he's able to walk again.

Billie Minor, a member of Larkin's congregation, said the church was full for both the morning and evening services Sunday. People who weren't normally there every Sunday showed up.

"It has had a big impact on a lot of people," Minor said.

Neither Darren nor Rebecca Larkin had life or medical insurance at the time of the accident. The church has set up a trust fund in Darren Larkin's name at First Commercial Bank in Chaffee for donations.

For Larkin, the road to recovery leads in only one direction.

"I don't have any idea what tomorrow holds, even more so than most people, but I know my faith in God will carry me through," he said.

cclark@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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