Documentary filmmaker Frank Panico had often seen a mysterious 57-year-old handicapped man limping into church using his walker. Without knowing anyone was watching, the downtrodden man would quietly take a seat in the back of the Church.
This man's demeanor touched Frank's heart, since it appeared as if he had hit rock bottom. After church, Frank offered the man a ride home. The disheveled stranger gave Mr. Panico a slight smile, and with gratitude, accepted the ride. The stranger introduced himself: "My name is Raymond Matthew Battey, but people sometimes call me Ray."
Raymond appeared to always be in excruciating pain, but this never stopped his faithfulness. He would still walk to church because of his deep love for God. Frank found compassion for Raymond and felt like there must be an interesting story behind his situation—a story that needs to be told. Raymond became a subject for Frank's next film.
Ray spoke slowly and with a slur. Frank knew, if Raymond accepted his proposal to have his life's story told through film, Raymond's impediment would slow down the filming process. Nevertheless, Mr. Panico felt it was worth the challenge. To Frank's delight, Raymond agreed to be part of the film. Little did Frank know, this solitary man with a childlike innocence would have the most interesting life story that Frank had ever heard.
The first day of filming consisted of Raymond explaining the cause of his disability. Raymond's unbelievable story started on Dec. 23, 1970. Eleven-year-old Raymond was riding his bike over a nearby bridge in Stuart, Florida. He was on his way home from Christmas shopping. A fisherman, unaware of Raymond's presence, while casting his pole accidentally hooked Raymond's tire. This unfortunate incident caused the young boy to flip off his bicycle and into an oncoming, speeding burial car.
While telling the story, Raymond jokingly said, "It should have been me in that hearse, but God didn't want that to be—and I'm here for a purpose."
Ray explained that his speech impediment was a result of the accident. That life-changing tragedy left Raymond with several broken bones in his body and a crushed skull, which caused severe brain trauma. And as if that wasn't enough for a kid to handle, a careless doctor had accidentally cut his vocal cords, too. Raymond was in a coma for six months and hung onto life by a thread, but through the grace of God, today he lives.
Strangely enough, Ray's plot thickens. He informed Frank that he had died three times on Dec. 23—once in the street, once in the ambulance, and once in the hospital. This information was told to Raymond by his mother.
However, for some reason, in the deep recesses of Raymond's heart, he already knew about his leaving this earth three times and returning. "I already knew it anyway. I had gone to Heaven," Raymond said.
"I saw Jesus, Mary, God, and Michael the Archangel, too, and my heart was beating faster than you can imagine when I spoke with God. There was a huge golden gate and millions of angels. Heaven is the most beautiful place that I had ever seen."
"You actually saw God?" Mr. Panico asked. Ray answered with certainty: "Yep, and He told me that He had been waiting for me. God told me that I was part of a beautiful plan. God said things are going His way and don't worry."
Frank questioned Ray again, "Did you speak to God or Jesus?" Without missing a beat, Ray held up his index finger and said, "Both as One." This blew Frank away, knowing that scripture basically states the Father and the Son are One. Then Raymond said, "I saw my brother, Michael, too. He was reaching out and taking Jesus's hand."
It turns out that just four months after Raymond's accident, while he was still in a coma, havoc had struck the Battey family again. While his mother and father were visiting him in the hospital, disturbing news came to them about their 14-year-old, epileptic son, Michael. Raymond explained that his brother, Michael, was fishing on the Palm City Bridge, just a couple of miles from the bridge where Raymond's accident took place. Michael had a seizure, fell into the water, and drowned.
Mr. Panico asked Ray, "Who told you the news about your brother's death?" Ray answered: "Nobody told me. I knew before anyone else did. I had a vision while I was in the hospital, and I knew about Michael's death, and how he is in the hands of Jesus, like I told you before."
Frank strongly felt that Raymond was appointed by the Lord to convey a message of strength through God. The Evil One and his spirits did not want Raymond's message to get to people. These evil forces were hell-bent on destroying the strong relationship that Raymond and Frank had cultivated while preparing for the film that they were to make.
Judging by the information that Mr. Panico was gathering, he strongly sensed that Raymond had been the target of demonic attacks that wanted to shut him up and shut him down. Furthermore, these assaults had been occurring ever since he was just a child.
Dark supernatural events occurred while filming. For example, a sinister sound was picked up through a mic connected near Raymond's chest while interviewing. However, this noise was not recorded on another camera, which recorded audio through a built-in external mic.
In another instance, Raymond received an anonymous phone call from someone, or something, pretending to be Frank. Surprisingly enough, the voice was identical to Frank's. The caller told Raymond, "I'm done with you, and our friendship is over!" Raymond, devastated and in tears, stayed up all night and suffered extreme anxiety until Frank arrived at his home the next day.
Frank assured Raymond that the call was not from him. When Mr. Panico checked Raymond's phone records, a phone number listed as "unavailable caller" appeared at the exact time that Ray had stated. Frank, as well as two different phone companies, tried to call the number back. Their attempts were futile. It was as if the number and the caller did not exist.
These two men now referred to each other as brothers-in-Christ and attended church daily. Both knew they needed to be all guarded up to face the spiritual warfare that was unfolding. They also prayed that Raymond would be healed from the disabilities that had plagued him since childhood—if it was in God's will, of course. Their focus on "Our Father in Heaven" paid off. The entities that wanted to thwart their friendship were soon overcome. Moreover, Raymond now walks and speaks better than ever.
Raymond is now a living testimony that Heaven does exist, and God is everywhere, and in everyone. Furthermore, perhaps the purpose of Raymond's story is to be one of encouragement to the downcast. Maybe his story will be a compelling message to the viewer, and will let a viewer think that if this handicapped man, who had been through so much suffering, can maintain a positive attitude and carry on, so can I.
Raymond told Frank to make sure the people know that this story is not about him, but it is meant to give glory to God. The paramount message of the film could be summed up through one simple statement that Ray exclaimed: "I am nothing without God!"
Mr. Panico testifies, "Because of my surprised relationship with Raymond, I'm changed for the better and am deeply inspired, and I know this is the Lord's doing. God is surely using this handicapped man as a tool to bring hope to mankind, and I am immensely honored to have met "My Friend Raymond."
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