Thursday, January 4, 2007

Meeting Eric

Last May, I spent two weeks in Uganda with a group from my church. During these weeks, we made almost 15 home visits to children we sponsor at CapChurch. My highlight was meeting my sponsored child. At each home we visited, we were greeted with singing, dancing and given wooden chairs or benches to sit on. When I sat down beside Eric, we linked arms and smiled at each other. His grandmother, who volunteers at an orphan’s shelter had walked the many miles to join us for this occasion, hugged me while singing in Lumasaba. Eric’s mother told me what a hard worker Eric is in the garden and at school. A member of our church community also sponsors his sister. Click on the Food For the Hungary link if you are interested in child sponsorship!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Crashing at the Manger

Isn't it amazing how, because of our work and efforts in preparing for Christmas, we ‘crash’ soon after the meal is finished, the presents have been opened and the relatives have left? I don't imagine the wise men doing the same thing. The joys of seeing a new born King probably made sleeping the last idea on their minds.
The gospel of Matthew follows them on their marathon mission, and though they had good reason to be tired, remarkably they show no hint of it. Matthew says they spent two years following the star, hunting Jesus down. I have never followed a star before, let alone for two years, but I can imagine that it may be like trying to find the hypothetical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, next to impossible. So I would probably talk myself out of this on the first day.
However, the wise men had enough energy and motivation, not just to walk for one day, but for seven hundred and thirty days! Their reason? “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” (Matthew 2:10)
How would you react if you saw a star that moved? Would you refuse to follow it? “Not today. Maybe tomorrow. I had a bad night sleep and I have a crick in my neck.” The wise men most definitely had this option during their two year pilgrimage. Or would you be so excited that nothing could keep you from getting to that pot of gold?
What star are you following? Where do you think it will lead you? How long have you been following it? Are you willing to follow it to its end, or are you about to crash? I am sure these are questions the wise men asked themselves repeatedly. They certainly had enough time to discuss their reasons for doing such a crazy thing. But, what was their motivation? Who had told them to do this crazy thing? What would they receive in exchange for their gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Looking through the Eyes of Faith

What is faith? What does it meet to act by faith? In the book of 2nd Corinthians, Paul said, “we live by faith, not by sight” (2nd Corinthians 5:7), but what does this mean? What does the Bible say about it? These questions have been asked for generations by millions as they search for meaning in their lives.
In the many miracles that Jesus performed while He was on this earth, faith was of utmost importance to him. When explaining to His disciples why they were not able to heal somebody, Jesus replied, "You didn't have enough faith. I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed (the smallest seed of any plant), you could say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." (Matthew 17:20 – New Living Translation) This article is not going to explain how to acquire faith, because I am often praying for more. However, I know how to get it. By believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, “who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (James 1:5 – New International Version)
Mark 10 is one of the many examples where faith is shown and Jesus’ heart is moved enough that he healed the person who had asked for a miracle. This particular man is blind, doing the only thing blind men could do in Jesus day, beg. However, Bartimaeus did something that many blind men in Jesus day did not do, he showed faith that Jesus could heal him.
When we read the story, we learn that faith must be active, so Bartimaeus was active, shouting at the top of his voice to get Jesus attention. Even when people scolded him, swore at him, or demeaned him, he did not stop. As a result, Bartimaeus received what he had been waiting for, for years, the attention of someone who could do something about his immediate situation.
As someone with a disability, I can imagine how Bartimaeus might have felt when someone in the crowd said, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Was he excited? Ecstatic? I do not think the English language has the words to express this man’s joy.
In Mark 10:51, Jesus asks him, “’What do you want me to do for you?’ The knowledge that Bartimaeus’ acts of faith had gotten Jesus attention and that his lowly situation mattered to Jesus was certainly enough to make him cheer up quickly. “Jesus wants to do something for me?” How would you feel if Jesus came into your situation and asked that question? What would you say? Would you have the faith that Jesus could do it?
Getting Jesus attention and answering His questions, were the first two steps towards healing for Bartimaeus. And this remains true for many others who have called on the name of Jesus Christ. Believing that Jesus can do what we ask is the third and often the most difficult stage.
So, what is faith? In one of his many songs, Michael Card, a contemporary Christian artist wrote:

To hear with my heart,

To see with my soul,

To be guided by a hand I cannot hold,

To trust in a way that I cannot see,

That's what faith must be.

The details of your answer may be different from mine. However, the primary meaning of faith is just as the song says. To believe in my heart that God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. Do you believe this?

Miracle on Fox Street

Everybody has a testimony. A testimony is a story about a test, which a person has encountered, and how they have dealt with that problem. In a court, the testimony of a witness is expressing what they saw take place. The judge then makes a decision based on their testimony whether a defendant is innocent or guilty of a crime. For a Christian, their testimony is the telling of what God has done in a person’s life. Therefore, you could say, “I caught God doing this thing in a person’s life.” For the next few minutes, I want to tell you my testimony and what I experienced God doing.

My testimony begins at my birth, on November 27, 1978 when I was born with a life-threatening sickness called Hydrocephalus, which means water on the brain. This meant that while still in the womb, my brain was severely deformed. After a CAT scan, the doctors determined that I had approximately two percent living brain tissue. They said I would be, a person who is unable to do anything for himself - a vegetable. This news came as a great shock to my parents, who were looking forward to starting their new family in their new home on Fox Street, West Vancouver.

When my Dad held me as a babe, he saw that I had a head the size of a two-year-old, and also as soft as a sponge, due to the amount of water that was in my head. He sensed God tell him to name me David, (which means ‘beloved of God'), and Joseph, (which means ‘He shall add'). At this, Dad knew, first of all, that God loved me, and he believed that God would add brain cells to my tiny brain.

Mom and Dad then listened to the doctors as they told them why I was this way and how Hydrocephalus takes place. “Before a baby is born,” they explained, “water travels up and down its spinal column several times per day. This fluid makes sure that the vital pathways in the body are clear, so the body's essential organs may continue to work. What happened in David's case is that somehow, the fluid was unable to make it all the way down his spinal column. Through time, water backed up his spinal column and filled his head, crushing his brain.”

The doctors continued. “In order for any child to live an ordinary life, they must be born with at least 48 percent brain.” Brain cells do not multiply; the amount of brain tissue a child is born with is the most brain tissue that he/she will ever have.

I was given no longer than one or two days to live. My parents were told by the doctors that surgery could insert a tube (a shunt) that would drain fluid from my head and take pressure off of my brain. However, at that time the procedure was fairly new, plus they could not be certain that it would work perfectly. Even if it did work, they were unable to guarantee that I would live long because of the lack of living brain tissue.

But, my parents believed that Jesus was able to heal me so that I might be able to live a normal life.

I believe that when Jesus walked this earth two thousand years ago, there was little that impressed him more than faith shown by regular human beings around him. My parents read a story in the Bible from Luke 18 that encouraged them to pray until something happened. “Will not God make the things that are right come to His chosen people who cry day and night to Him? Will He wait a long time to help them? I tell you, He will be quick to help them, but when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7,8. New Life Version)

As my story spread, people started to pray and have faith that Jesus would work a miracle in my life. They prayed that God would multiply my brain cells so that I would be able to live without the help of machines. They prayed that just as Jesus made the lame walk, made the blind see and gave life to those who were dead, that Jesus would give me brain cells so I could become a normal human being.

After six months of continuous prayer, the doctors were amazed to find that I had 25 percent brain. My parents and many others continued to pray for more. Six months later, doctors again were amazed to find 50 percent brain. By this point, I was a year old and was slowly learning how to do simple things. My parents and those who consistently prayed for me were in awe at what God was doing, full of praise and thanksgiving to him. As people continued to pray on my behalf, the Lord heard their prayers and continued to answer them. Prior to my second birthday, their prayers were answered yet again when doctors took a final CAT scan and found 98 percent brain tissue.

By this time, I was able to do most things that a two-year-old child could do. The only problem, which has persisted since my early days of life, is a severe visual impairment. Doctors have determined on many occasions that I have only two and a half percent vision in my left eye and three percent vision in my right. However, this was enough vision to get me through my first nine years of grade school.

In grade nine while I was thirteen, I suffered a stroke, which paralyzed the entire right side of my body. Before I came out of the coma, doctors in San Diego, California performed surgery to place a second shunt down the left side of my body. For years, I had had scars on my stomach which my parents termed scars of courage. By the time the surgery was done in 1991, I now had twice as many scars to boast about!

Soon after the surgery, I awoke from my coma, and went back to school. Though the Special Education Assistants (S.E.A.) at my school now needed to help me overcome memory issues and balance problems in addition to my blindness, they helped me, and I graduated from grade school with my classmates in 1996. That fall, I started a Psychology degree at Trinity Western University and graduated with my second academic certificate in 2003. Two years ago, I completed a certificate in Special Education and now work as an S.E.A. at a private Christian school in North Vancouver. S.E.A.’s had helped me successfully complete each level of grade school. It is now my privilege to help others in the same ways that I had been helped many years ago. Not bad for someone who was supposed to die as an infant?

Though my parent's originally gave me the credit for the courage I had to go through the many hours of surgery I endured, I give all the credit to Jesus Christ as he was the one who healed me. I hope my story will serve as a reminder both to me and anyone else, that God can and does heal us today. I know that he can work the same miracle in the lives of people anywhere. God is willing and able to make your life a testimony of his ability to transform a life. My life was turned around by prayer offered in simple faith. Your new life can begin the same way. All we must do is ask.

"Nobody did anything wrong," said Jesus. "But this happened so that the works of God might be shown in this person's life."

John 9:3