Not all change is tidy and inspiring. Sometimes change is the result of a difficult, frightening experience. The Rev. Jeff Jones of Liberty Grove UMC (firstname.lastname@example.org) explores his experience with a recent illness and how he found God, and the church, present in the details.
“The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you. So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
— Matthew 6: 33-34, New Century Version
I never did feel bad. My old doctor stopped using our medical plan and I had to find another doctor. The new doctor saw something she didn’t like in the blood work and had me go to a kidney specialist. He did not like the blood numbers either and had me go to a urologist and ordered many tests.
After going through MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and lots more blood drawn, they determined that I had a tumor growing on my right kidney along with a cyst there too. The urologist suggested that I go to the hospital as soon as could be arranged and have the kidney removed to prevent the continued growth of the tumor. It was 5 centimeters at the time and they felt that it was malignant. About 95 percent of kidney tumors are.
My dad e-mailed Bishop Schol for prayer and it turned out the week after my diagnosis was annual conference weekend. At the conclusion of the clergy executive session, Bishop Schol invited me up to be prayed for. Prayers play an absolutely powerful roll in this story, one answer to prayer after another. Following the prayer time, several of my clergy friends came up to me to offer their support, and Debbie Scott said I should talk to NIH and her doctor, for she had the same condition and through laparoscopic surgery, they didn’t remove her whole kidney, only the part that had the tumor on it.
I spent several days e-mailing her doctor and each of my first six emails came back as not deliverable. But somehow, God works in the efforts that even computers don’t understand and I got an email back from her doctor inviting me to come and be examined for a possible inclusion in their cancer study of kidneys at NIH. The week after conference, I was seeing a kidney specialist and was being welcomed into the program. I was now scheduled for surgery on Monday July 6th. I was to report to NIH on Sunday July 5th for the preliminary preparations for the surgery.
I invited my congregation, Liberty Grove UMC in Burtonsville, to come for a prayer service for strength and healing on Wed. June 24th. Seventy five people responded to the invitation, some of them coming from former parishes to lay hands on me and pray for me. Prayers are truly answered.
I had the surgery, it took five-and-a-half hours. They were able to remove the cyst and the tumor and leave 75 percent of my right kidney in me. I spent the week on the oncology ward at NIH. Prayers were said for me constantly and probably from around the world, thanks to my father’s connections. The Caring Bridge organization helped me create a website to gather prayers and well wishes and to allow us to share our story.
On Elaine’s birthday, the 16th of July, the doctor called to tell me the tumor was an oncocytoma tumor, BENIGN! I would not have to go through the chemo or radiation treatments. I would be watched because I have a very tiny cyst on the left kidney but if it’s the same, I’ll have that cared for down the road, NIH will keep track of me and prayers will be continually offered on my behalf.
Now the timing for all of this is amazing. It’s the kind of timing the passage of Scripture reports on. I could spend the summer recovering because the schedule is scaled back. I have a crew of excellent certified lay speakers who preached for me and covered the needs at the church. The prayers of numerous people helped restore my strength.
Now that Labor Day has come I’m back to work at about 75 to 80 percent. My follow up visits show my blood work and urine are right where they are supposed to be. My doctor reminded me to take it easy for four to six months, because of the major surgery, even though the small holes for the robot surgical team have healed up very well. My family and congregation are supporting the recovery process.
I share all of this because God is able to do far more than we can even imagine. Ephesians 3:20 promises us that. So whenever you are faced with challenges and are thinking about being stressed or worried or anxious, just pray and let God’s plan work for you, as you seek first the kingdom.
Thank you. Lord, for providing what we need. Thank you Lord, for the prayers of others who walk along beside us during such challenges. Thank you, Lord, for answered prayer. All this we pray with grateful hearts for your incredible love for us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. AMEN.
Today we pray for the churches and people of the Washington Region.