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Minister severely injured in swimming accident

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GRAND RAPIDS — Josh Buck, pastor at Greenhouse Ministries in Grand Rapids, was one hour into a Cancun vacation with his wife and another couple from the church when he decided to go swimming in the ocean.

Lured into the surf by huge, churning waves, Buck porpoised through the water.

Family members believe the 30-year-old struck his head on a submerged rock, broke his neck and nearly drowned.

Now recovering in a Miami hospital, Buck has a 5 percent chance to walk, said his brother-in-law, Jason Grate, who is co-pastor at the Eastown church.

“I whispered in his ear and told him, ‘You need to fight, you need to fight, Bucko.’ He blinked his eyes and shook his head as if to say, ‘You know I will,’ ” Grate said.

It is not the first tragedy to befall Josh Buck and his wife, Shelly. In 2005, the couple’s 3-month-old daughter suffocated when a fan fell from a window on a hot summer day and landed in her crib.

Shelly Buck said the family is “just trying to push through and taking it minute by minute.”

Josh Buck’s prognosis is unclear. His spinal cord was badly bruised, but not severed. He underwent surgery Friday that fused together several Vertebrae. Doctors say it will be two weeks before they know the long term effects of the injury.

Shelly Buck, who is five months pregnant, said her husband was able to move his shoulders and arms, but not his hands. His lungs filled with sea water, but he is slowly being weaned from a Ventilator.

Greenhouse Ministries, which opened its doors at 1513 E. Fulton St. SE a year and a half ago, held a special prayer service Sunday for its 200 members.

The Rev. Phil Struckmeyer, pastor of Impact church in Lowell, led services that included a candle lighting and notes of support written to the family.

“The prayer network that has started has been beyond belief,” Shelly Buck said. “We’re just believing with all our hearts that God is able to heal Josh. We’re waiting for a miracle.”

Grate said Greenhouse Ministries was founded to help those hurt or estranged from church. It is a young, but tight-knit congregation, he said.

“Our idea when we started this was to help people, do things like feed the sick, help the poor,” Grate said. “I had no idea our families were going to be the ones in the need. It’s been a painful year.”

Church members such as Rachel Bush are helping care for the couple’s two other children — both under 5 years old.

Bush said the church has mobilized to help the family by shoveling snow, buying groceries and cleaning the house. A group of church members flew to Miami to be with the family.

Others have shaved their heads in support of Josh Buck, who wears his fiery red hair close cut.

“This has been really amazing to see our church in this situation and come together,” Bush said. “But we are concerned for Shelly. How much more can a family deal with?”

By Rob Kirkbride
The Grand Rapids Press

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