Mike Skupin, a second-year contestant on the CBS television series Survivor, shared his inspirational story last Thursday with approximately 120 En-Gedi Youth Center students (6th grade through high school) and parents at Red Hawk Elementary.
Many remember him as the man who passed out and fell into the fire on live TV and was medivaced by helicopter to a hospital in Australia.
Those who watch Survivor know that Skupin didn’t win the show’s $1 million prize. Instead, he learned during his time on the show that God had other plans for his life.
Students were fascinated by Skupin’s stories of sleep deprivation, eating inspects, extreme temperatures, snakebites, and the emotional challenges of living away from family and friends.
Skupin told the students what it was like for him to walk five hours with only the clothes on his back to the little stretch of dirt in the Australian outback that he and the other contestants would call home for two months. The temperature was 120 degrees, so as soon as they arrived at their campsite, they jumped into the river—and watched in horror as dozens of fresh water crocodiles came thrashing out of the water. Other dangers they encountered were ten types of poisonous snakes, thousands of bats, Dingo dogs that lunged for an animal or human’s throat, and six- to seven-foot-long lizards that tried to use their razor-sharp claws to climb humans like trees.
Because Survivor is all about winning, Skupin said that he couldn’t become friends with or trust any of the contestants. He felt lonely and started talking to God. He said that in the beginning, he was mostly “whining and strategizing to God,” but it was the start of him forming a solid relationship and friendship with someone he could trust.
While trying to survive the weeks in the outback, Skupin learned that “you have to spend time together in order to form a friendship,” so he included God in his entire day. He also learned that “prayers are not wasted” and felt his relationship with God growing in his heart during the show.
On the 18th day of the show, Skupin passed out and fell hands and face first directly into the fire. According to Skupin’s bio, “Five different burn surgeons told Mike he’d have to have skin graft surgery to repair his hands. After 10 days in the intensive care unit, as Mike was being wheeled to surgery, the chief of surgery removed his bandages and said, ‘I’ve been the Chief of Surgery in the number one burn center in Australia for 35 years and what’s happened to your hands is medically inexplainable.’” Skupin’s hands had been miraculously healed.
“When a doctor with 35 years of experience tells me what has happened to my hands is medically inexplainable, I knew God had healed me for a purpose,” said Skupin.
His goal is to empower kids to make the best choices with whatever is thrown at them. Following his presentation in the cafeteria, Skupin graciously signed autographs, visited with the students, and posed for photographs. “En-Gedi is an amazing gift to this community and a wonderful opportunity to reach out to young people. I can see great potential with this organization,” said Skupin.
Skupin has spoken almost 2,000 times to over 8 million people at live events all over the world. He is co-authoring a book with Steven Covey, Ken Blanchard, and Brian Tracy called “Discovering Your Inner Strength” due to come out this summer.
Originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan, Skupin currently lives in White Lake, Michigan with his wife Karen and their seven children.