Author, Fields of Grace (2013)
Daughter of renowned youth evangelist Ron Luce (Teen Mania Ministries)
Founder of Mirror Tree, a non-profit devoted to re-integrating refugees from the horrors of rape, genocide, civil wars and other means of trauma by funding educational research to improve lives
B.A., Oral Roberts University, 2011, Theological and Historical Studies
Hannah Luce: Fields of Grace
The 700 Club
In May 2012, Hannah was on her way to a Teen Mania ministry event in Iowa with 4 other passengers. All were friends from Oral Roberts University. Stephen Luth had just been recruited as a member of Teen Mania’s marketing team. He brought along another classmate, Luke Sheets, who was the pilot of the Cessna 8-seater plane. Austin Anderson was a former Marine who had returned from his second tour in Iraq and was studying business. Austin was always trying to fix Hannah up with his friend, Garrett Coble. Garrett was a popular guy on campus and studying for his Ph.D. in business administration. Hannah was working on getting closer to her dad, trying to atone for straying from her faith which was the purpose of the flight to the youth event.
Moments before takeoff, Hannah took photos of herself in her big, red sunglasses and the boys in their khakis and golf shirts. About 30 minutes later, Hannah could see from her seat as Luke turned a knob on the control panel. Then there was a terrible burning smell coming from the vents and a blast of hot air shot out. Smoke quickly filled up the cabin, and Garrett popped open the cabin door of the plane to get air. After a few moments, the plane plummetted straight down towards earth. “The strangest things pop into your mind when death intrudes on your life,” says Hannah. “I remember that I’d had Lucky Charms for breakfast.” She began to pray out loud, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Hannah had one moment to decide, “Am I gonna live or am I gonna die?” The wedges she borrowed from her mother had melted to her feet. Then the plane hit the ground and skid across crops in the field. “When I opened my eyes again, the plane was mangled and spitting flames,” she says. Hannah tried to crawl out of the door of the plane but her foot was stuck in the seat belt. After several attempts, she managed to pry herself loose from the burning plane. Once she was outside, Hannah saw Austin who was covered in blood. He started walking at a swift pace out of the corn field and Hannah followed. “He is a Marine, trained for war,” thought Hannah. “And we are in a fight for our lives.” When they got to the main road, Austin and Hannah stopped 2 girls in a mini van who called 911. While waiting for the ambulance, they prayed together. Austin was in bad shape and deteriorating rapidly. By the time the emergency personnel showed up, his condition worsened.
After a few days, Hannah woke up in the hospital. She asked her dad where Austin was. Ron was reluctant to tell her that Austin had been burned over 90% of his body and had died the day after the crash. Ron kept changing the subject. On day 3, Hannah, who was communicating by writing with her left hand, asked how Austin was. Ron told her and Hannah sobbed. Austin lived long enough for his fiancée and family to see him. Hannah was still in bad shape and suffered third degree burns over the whole right side of her body. Her lungs were singed and doctors were surprised that she didn’t suffer any internal injuries or broken bones.
Christians around the world prayed for Hannah’s recovery and soon she was no longer in a life-threating situation. Her road to recovery was long and hard. “For months I went through deep dark pain,” says Hannah. “The kind of pain that makes you want to bargain with the devil just to bring your friends back.” She questioned her survival. “Why was it me and not them?,” Hannah asked God. Hannah endured over 30 hours of skin grafts on her back, right arm and leg. “I was thankful to be alive sometimes and I tried being upbeat for the sake of my family,” says Hannah. “But the pain from the burns and my surgeries, coupled with my emotional agony, made me pretty unpleasant to deal with sometimes.” Three weeks later, Hannah was transported to a rehabilitation hospital in Dallas for a month and released in July. Once home, she began numbing her pain with prescription pills and alcohol. Six months after the crash, Hannah thought visiting the actual crash site would help her. While she felt peace and tranquility from that visit, Hannah continued to numb her pain. One day she asked her parents to find her a place where she could continue to heal her body and soul. Hannah checked into a holistic healing center in Washington and was released on Christmas Eve. That night, Hannah, who hated her skin due to the grafts, asked her family to touch her burns. “That was a momentus time for me,” says Hannah. “I began to forgive myself for the death of my friends and made a commitment to turn my anger over losing them into determination to do something to make them proud of me.”
When she was 13, Hannah began questioning the God she grew up knowing. By the time she was 15, she began “splitting into two Hannahs.” She pretended to be one person for her mom and dad, and another one who was secretly becoming a skeptic and headed for a serious crisis of faith. She starting experimenting with cigarettes, wine and a little bit of marijuana. “My curiousity didn’t mean I had completely lost faith in God,” says Hannah. She kept close ties with Teen Mania and loved being at the center of all the excitement.
She went to ORU reluctantly in 2008 and graduated in May 2011. Then one day while accompanying her father on a trip to Chicago, she challenged her dad and his philosophy. Hannah confessed her struggle. “We were at an impasse,” she says. “We were never going to agree.” The following month, Ron asked Hannah to join his staff as his executive assistant.
“This book is not just about a plane crash,” says Hannah. “ But there’s another aspect that in many ways people are struggling with their faith. Everyone has questions.” She believes that God is not at all what we understand. “Life is full of questions,” says Hannah. “It’s time to fight for the truth that we live for.”
Austin, Garrett and Hannah had planned to start a company to help make a difference in people’s lives. After the accident, Hannah decided to take on Mirror Tree. She is headed to Syria on November 15. All proceeds from her book are going to Mirror Tree.
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