When Jason Derfuss stepped outside the library on Florida State University’s campus, he had no idea his life was about to change forever.
“I walked out the front doors and heard a gunshot go off behind me,” Jason said. “I turned around, and the gunman was running at another student and shot the student in front of me. I realized I was in danger, and I turned and ran.”
Jason had just checked out a couple of books for a research paper about John Wycliffe — the man credited with translating the Bible into English for the first time in the 14th century, and whose work inspired the name Wycliffe Bible Translators. Hours after the shooting, when Jason opened up his backpack, he discovered that both books had bullet holes through them.
He and his roommate dumped out the contents of the backpack and a bullet dropped on top of the pile. Jason was overcome with emotion, suddenly realizing that he had been the shooter’s first target.
“The books were so incredibly thin; they shouldn’t have even slowed [the bullet] down,” Jason said. “For somebody to be at point-blank range like that, and for those two books to stop it — it is absolutely incredible.”
It’s been one year since Jason survived that shooting. After the ordeal, he and his family learned about Wycliffe’s headquarters in Orlando. Jason knew he had to see it. He visited the Wycliffe Discovery Center this week, touring the exhibits and sharing his story with a group there.
“It was very eye-opening to see the work that’s been going on here, and to see how John Wycliffe inspired it to be done. One of the reasons we can study the Bible today in our heart language is because of his work,” Jason said. “He met with the probable reality that he’d be excommunicated and even killed for his actions, and still pressed on and dedicated his time to translating the Bible. He made it more accessible for the common person to enter into a relationship with Jesus. I admire that quite a bit.”
Now Jason views the past year since the shooting as a gift from God, and believes God saved him for a greater purpose. He keeps those library books on his desk, right next to his workspace, as a constant reminder of God’s call to share his story with others. Jason gives God the glory for saving his life.
“As disciples we’re called to pick up our cross daily,” he said. “Seeing [the books] on a daily basis is just that — picking up my cross. It’s a daily reminder that God has done so much for me. And if I’m feeling any negative emotions, I can look at them and instantly be grateful again.”