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Back in the Saddle of Life

Jasmine Daniels discovers God’s joy, despite paraplegia and amputation.

In the 11 races in which Sunken Road had competed, the 3-year-old dark bay thoroughbred had never finished lower than fourth place. Assistant horse trainer Jasmine Daniels oversaw barns of thoroughbreds while also serving as an exercise rider. She had worked with Sunken Road at tracks in several states.

But in New Orleans on Dec. 23, 2014, she was galloping Sunken Road when the horse lost control of one of his legs and rolled over on her. The mishap left her paralyzed from the chest down.

The incident plunged Daniels, then 33, into deep depression. She struggled to accept what had happened to her, a particular shock as she had been trying to turn her life around following years of hard-knocks living and a tough exterior she proudly wore. She had stopped dating, focused on her work, and adopted a boxer dog named Rocky, which helped her leave alcohol behind. Her new set of friends eschewed sinful lifestyles.

But now confined to a wheelchair, she grew angry at God. Darkness enveloped her. She contemplated suicide.

Some months after the accident, she began attending church services at the racetrack.

“I started praying, saying if this was my life now, the only way to get through it was to have deep faith, that kind of presence I had seen in others,” Daniels recalls. “I knew the life I had led was sinful. If God was there, He would show me and help through this.” She prayed to receive Christ.

The Lord showed up, though struggles remained. Daniels returned to work, Rocky her constant companion. She crafted herself a paraplegic saddle, empowering her to continue to ride.

But saddle sores began to plague her. Her depression grew worse. She moved to San Antonio to work in a horse barn near the Retama Park racetrack. Assemblies of God chaplain  Michael Bingaman serves there. A friend invited Daniels to attend chapel.

She found instant affinity with Bingaman’s messages and went to every service. With dogs welcome, Rocky attended with her.

“I loved the way he held the services,” Daniels says. “The way he communicated things was eye-opening. It started turning me around.” For a time, Bible studies replaced church services at the racetrack, which grounded her faith in the Word.

Additionally, throughout the week, the two met for pastoral counseling. At Bingaman’s suggestion, Daniels attended Walk to Emmaus, a Christian spiritual renewal retreat and formation program. As that deepened her faith, her suicidal thoughts vanished. She became filled with the Holy Spirit and found a new love for God’s Word. Monthly meetings maintained her fellowship with other attendees. Sharing her testimony strengthened her faith.

But 2020 hit hard. Daniels developed a pressure ulcer. Meanwhile, Rocky developed heart disease. In August last year, her beloved dog died. She moved to Tennessee to be near her sister and nieces, while remaining part of Bingaman’s congregation remotely via Zoom.

She began attending services of a faith healer near Nashville who claimed God showed him a vision that she would walk again, building her hopes. She became disillusioned and depressed when healing didn’t happen.

Soon after, her doctor detected an elevated white blood cell count in her body. Overwhelmed with infection, her body went septic. To save her life, on Nov. 24, 2020, her left leg was amputated at the hip. More despair followed.

Daniels continued to receive pastoral counseling from the AG chaplain. In time, once more she became profoundly aware of God’s love for her.

“I don’t know if I would have ever come to Jesus if all this hadn’t happened,” Daniels says. “Even losing the leg.”

Her heart became grateful for His providence. Joy displaced her despair. She bought a house from an amputee, with a big yard and wonderful neighbors in a great neighborhood. She adopted a rescue boxer dog named Boo.

Like the man in Luke 8:39 grateful for the transformation Jesus brought about in his life, Daniels began telling others what the Lord had done for her. She discovered that her testimony sometimes brings listeners to tears. She shares her story with most anyone willing to hear.

“At first I get the sad, how-sorry-they-feel-for-me looks,” Daniels says. “But I tell them how great my life is, and they’re blown away. I love seeing that in their eyes.”

The then-versus-now contrast particularly impacts those who knew her before.

“I can go to the racetracks now, and they remember who I was,” Daniels says. “People can’t get over the mind frame I’m in, how happy I actually am with everything they’ve heard has happened. It shows what God can do when you bring Him into your life.”

“She’s a miracle,” says the 64-year-old Bingaman, who remains her pastor. “I’ve watched the wonderful flower who’d been stomped in the ground and left for dead, and I’ve seen her blossom and grow and be able to see a positive result from these negative circumstances.”

Daniels still connects remotely to the services and fellowships Bingaman leads.

“She wants to testify to people that God is good, no matter the circumstances,” Bingaman says.

Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.