“Mistaken Identity” by Don and Susie Van Ryn and Newell, Colleen and Whitney Cerek with Mark Tabb
I must have been in hiding in 2006 because I don’t remember this story from the news at all. However, it is so bizarre, the fact that it is true boggles the mind. I think you’ll race through this memoir of two families (despite the fact that the writing isn’t great) because your disbelief will keep you turning the pages.
Whitney Cerak and Laura Van Ryan were students at Taylor University, a small, Christian college with campuses in Michigan and Indiana. Both are victims of an accident that killed five of the six students in a school van. One girl, who lived, was thrown 50 feet from the accident and sustained traumatic brain injuries. She was identified as Laura Van Ryn by someone from the university. For five weeks, the Van Ryn family stayed with their daughter round the clock, helping her to recover. Until she wasn’t their daughter anymore. She was actually Whitney Cerek. Laura had died in the accident. Whitney had lived. Imagine the pain for both families—Whitney’s family had already had a funeral and was grieving, believing she was dead. Laura’s family was posting a regular blog on her progress. Now they needed to understand that she had never made it through the accident.
What sustains both families is their faith. In a world where such a situation just sings LAWSUIT, the families don’t lay blame and look to God to sustain them. The book includes many examples of others who are so moved by the families’ faith, that their own faith is renewed. You’ll enjoy this on many levels—the strangeness of the story, the dedication of both families. And if stories of faith inspire you, these families will renew your belief in the goodness that is possible in the worst of times.