#137. God Is At Hand

 Photo by Pam VanArsdall

I was born with polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disease that slowly progresses and eventually causes the kidneys to shut down. There is no cure except a transplant. I discovered that I was living with the disease about 15 years ago, at around 30 years of age. I was healthy at the time, and for several years after my diagnosis, I kept a busy schedule and lived a normal life. But I felt something bad was coming. My dad also had the disease and died from complications.

In the summer of 2016, I prayed, “I don’t know how this will turn out but I do have one request: I want to be able to see my daughters grow up. I don’t want to miss out on those precious moments in their lives.” I’ve never heard God’s audible voice, but He told me this, “You will have to suffer for a little while but I will raise you up.” 

About a year ago my physical health was deteriorating. I had been feeling really bad but had been hiding it. I have three little girls and I was working full time. I was exhausted all the time. December 10, 2016 was the night everything changed. I serve as associate pastor at our church and was scheduled to preach the next morning, but I came down with horrible diverticulitis. I was the sickest I had ever been. I prayed if God would get me out of bed I would go to the doctor. I was able to get out of bed and I went to see my kidney doctor. He told me things were very bad and wanted me to go into the hospital for dialysis. He said if I had waited another two to three months I likely would have fallen dead in front of my children. I believe God sent the diverticulitis to get me to the doctor. In January, I began dialysis. I was able to work half days and take dialysis at the center nearby several times a week. I transitioned to home dialysis around March, but this was still hard on me and on our family. In April, I went for testing to be placed on the kidney transplant list. We were praying for God’s help. 

Meanwhile, my dad’s younger brother also had polycystic kidney disease. He was also on dialysis and had been on the kidney transplant list for a long time. He was a great support person for me. 

Two close friends volunteered to donate a kidney but they were both declined. This was disappointing. While I was waiting to see if one of my friend’s kidney matched, I got a text message from a lady I knew from high school who played basketball in the late 1980s at a rival high school. I had seen her around at different sporting events but hadn’t talked to her in 25 years. In her text, she asked if I would give her a chance to be a kidney match. My wife and I prayed about it and we were reluctant. As difficult as it is to give the gift of a kidney, it is also difficult to receive, because you know you are asking this person to really do something big. I had told the woman I would get back with her, but I did not. A couple of weeks later she contacted me again and said, “Would you please let me attempt to be your donor. Please give me a chance.” I said, “That’s a lot for me to ask of you.” She said, “God has asked me to do this.” I immediately gave her the phone number to call about testing to see if she was a match for me. 

There are several tests necessary to confirm a match. During this time, the woman kept messaging me as she took each test and telling me she passed. Finally, she sent a message that she had passed all the tests and had an appointment with the surgeon. 

In July, I received a call from the transplant center: “I’ve got good news for you. We have a successful match for a kidney transplant!” 

The surgery was scheduled for July 20. We were so excited! God had answered our prayer. We both met with our surgeon on July 12. When the surgeon saw the results of the match testing he said, “This is a no brainier. This is a 100% match! This is a perfect match.” This was GOD!! 

I asked my pastor to have all the ordained men of the church pray for me before the surgery and my uncle who also needed a kidney transplant was one of the deacons that prayed for me. I remember in particular my uncle’s prayer. He had been dealing with kidney disease and dialysis a lot longer than I had but he never mentioned himself one time. He had every right to mention himself, but he just prayed for me. That really impacted me. 

My surgery was scheduled on a Thursday morning. We were getting ready to leave for the hospital on Wednesday evening when we got a call from my uncle. He had previously told my wife that he would be with her during my surgery. He told her that he could no longer be with her while I was in the hospital because the hospital just called and they had a kidney match for him! 

The next morning, I showed up at hospital at 5:30 a.m. The woman who was donating the kidney was already at the hospital. They prepped us both for surgery and she insisted that the nurses bring her bed to mine so we could pray before our surgeries. My wife and her sister joined hands with us and in front of all of the doctors and nurses we asked Jesus to take care of both of us. 

As soon as the kidney was placed, it began working immediately. The surgery was completely successful for both of us. After they got me in a room, my wife told me that my uncle had gone into kidney transplant surgery at the exact time they took me into surgery and his surgery was successful. God divinely healed both of us at the same time. The story started to spread and even people who are not Christians could see that it was God’s hand. 

I believe in angels and that we encounter them from time to time. When they were moving me to a hospital room after the surgery, the phone in the room was ringing. My wife answered and I could tell she didn’t know who was on the other end. Afterwards, I asked her who it was and she said, “I don’t know, but it was a sweet lady’s voice and she said to tell you and your uncle that you will both be okay. Her name is Anita and she said she is an old acquaintance.” Later I asked my uncle if he knew anybody named Anita. Neither of us know anyone named Anita. 

Later when I was discharged from the hospital it was discovered that my phosphorus levels were dangerously low. I couldn’t go home from the hospital until I had the phosphorus infusion which would last six hours. We were taken to the far back corner of the emergency room, to a room that seemed like no man’s land. My wife and I were tired and really just wanted to go home. We were frustrated and having a really difficult time being patient with the delay—even just one hour into the six-hour infusion. Then there was a knock on the door. I told my wife they must be lost because no one would be back here. The woman said, “I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong room. Is your name Thompson?” We said yes. She said she had a piece of mail for us, which was interesting because we never received any mail when I was staying in the hospital room. She left and my wife opened the card and started to weep. She showed me the front of the card. It simply said, “God is at hand.” It was as if God just walked through the door and sat down with us. I felt His presence so strongly—perhaps more strongly than I ever have. The card was signed, “Many Blessings, Miss Anita!”

After the transplant, I immediately started to feel like a new person. I didn’t know how sick I was until I got the new kidney. We are four months out now and every check-up and every test has been perfect. I have a second chance at life now and my whole outlook on life has changed. I used to borrow tomorrow’s trouble for today, but I have learned to live life one day at a time. I have changed my whole outlook on life. I smile more. I laugh more. 

I have learned from this experience how many people really care for me. God reminded me that it is a truly priceless gift to have people that love you and that this gift comes from Him. Those loved ones come from Him.

God knew every need I had and He met them. I’m a walking miracle. He is truly faithful.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#73. License Plate PS103

 Photo by James Schreiner

About 25 years ago, my best friend, Jennifer, lived in Atlanta, Georgia. She and I were in our twenties and had recently become very excited about the things of God. We would spend hours on the phone talking about the Word, and what He was doing in our lives. 

At the time, I was working in the small town of Berea, Kentucky, and had decided to drive down to Atlanta after work one evening to spend the weekend with her. I set off on my journey at about 6 p.m.—which put me just north of Atlanta at around midnight. This was before cell phones and CD players, so I remember passing the time listening to my only “Hosanna Worship” cassette tape and praising God the whole trip down. 

Now, this section of I-75 can be a very desolate place at that time of the night. The road is long and straight and there are no exits and no street lights—just miles and miles of flat highway. I never really acknowledged this until I felt that my life was in danger. As I was driving along, worshiping God, I noticed a car start to slowly pass me to my left. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a car full of guys waving at me and trying to get my attention. I was a little annoyed and just sped up to give them the hint that I wasn’t interested. 

What followed was about 20 minutes of terror for me. No matter what I did, I could not escape them. I would intermittently slam on my brakes or drive as fast as I could to try and elude them. Nothing was working. I was constantly looking ahead for an exit or in my rear view mirror for other cars, but there was nothing. I was on my own, with no cell phone, and no way of outrunning them. The situation grew worse when they started swerving into my car to force me off the road. At times, I would have to get in the emergency lane to avoid being hit. They were hanging out the windows, yelling and taunting me. I was terrified. My eyes were frantically scanning the road ahead and my rear view mirror for a sign of help. Nothing. 

Then—instantly—there were headlights right on my bumper. Instantly. They literally appeared out of nowhere. All I knew was that someone else was out there on the highway and I was not alone. As soon as I saw the lights, I pressed the gas as hard as I could to give myself space between me and the car full of guys. Much to my surprise, I watched from my rear view mirror as the car behind me swerved into the car of guys, forcing them off the road. I’m not sure exactly what happened because it was so dark. All I could see was the path of both cars’ headlights, and all I cared about was that I NEVER saw the car with my pursuers again. 

After about 15–20 minutes, I was relieved to see a group of cars ahead of me and I settled in among them and tried to calm down. Then, all of a sudden, I felt a car slowly approaching to my left. I thought, “Oh, no!! They’re back!” When the car was exactly beside me, the driver slowed down as if to get my attention. I glanced over, expecting the worse. I will never forget what I saw. It was a white Saab with red interior. The inside of the car seemed to be lit up so that I could see the driver. She was an old woman with short, bushy white hair and looked to be wearing all white. She glanced over at me, gave me a knowing grin, and waved as she pulled away. I was stunned. Then I saw her personalized license plate—“PS103.” I screamed! I had no idea what Psalm 103 said, but I reached for my bible and tried to see. I later read the entire passage. Psalm 103:20 reads, “Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” God is good.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#65 A Nebraska Blizzard

 Photo by Chelsea Jo Photography

The snow was blowing sideways and the wind was howling. It was becoming dusk and hard to see. The car’s engine was starting to miss. Being in the middle of this snowstorm was no fun, and we were in the middle of Nebraska heading toward Omaha. And…I was six months pregnant. What were we to do? Lord, help us.

My husband and I have family and friends in Gothenburg, Nebraska, and decided to visit for New Year’s weekend. Friends were going to be there from other cities and it sounded fun. So we went, not knowing that a big storm was on its way to the Plains.

Saturday night, it began lightly snowing and when we went to bed, the wind picked up. The next morning was Sunday. Normally, we would relax, go to church, have lunch, and head home for the three to five hour trip. But when we looked outside, bright sunlight was shining on 10 inches of snow. It was beautiful, like diamonds glistening in the sunlight. Ten inches is a lot of snow and we didn’t know how the highway would be, so we decided to leave right after breakfast. We were driving a rear-wheel, Chevy Caprice and had taken only the minimum amount of clothes, none of which were helpful in storms. We did have coats and gloves, but we hadn’t taken any boots or hats. No extra blankets, flashlights, or food. We had no tire chains and in 1971, no cell phones.

We headed out to the interstate highway. It was smooth sailing from Gothenburg through Kearney. But as we arrived near Grand Island, the snow started falling. We had caught up to the storm. It started out very light but within 30 miles had increased to where we slowed down to 30 mph and started using the windshield wipers. We continued and started seeing cars in the ditches. The roads were snow-packed. The snow blew sideways, hindering our vision. It looked like a transparent veil. We slowed our speed to a crawl.

It was late in the afternoon and starting to get dark. Semi-trucks were disappearing off the road to stay at truck stops. Traffic trickled down to very few cars. It was at this time that our car’s engine started to miss and sounded terrible. My husband said, “Start looking for a hotel or place we can stay, because we are not going to make it home today.”

As we approached exit after exit, we looked for a hotel sign. There was none. I said to my husband, “I think there is a Stuckey’s gas station and quick shop at the Seward/York exit. Maybe we should get off there.”

As we approached the exit, we could see that the exit ramp was completely full of cars and semi-trucks, and with the snow, we couldn’t pass them. The ground blizzard was creating two-to-three-foot drifts. My husband brought our car under the overpass and parked it there. “We’ll just have to walk to Stuckey’s on a direct path because the frontage road will be all drifted in,” he said.

We got out of the car, buttoned up our coats, put on our gloves, and climbed up the hill next to the overpass. Keep in mind that I was six months pregnant and wearing slacks, a loose maternity shirt, a dress coat, and penny-loafer shoes. My husband was wearing slacks, a shirt, a man’s dress coat, and dress shoes. Fortunately they were tie shoes. Not exactly blizzard-worthy outfits.

How did we feel that dark, snowy, windy, and cold night? Anxious. Were we doing the right thing by getting out of the car and walking a half mile to the Stuckey’s? Would we get caught in the snow? Would anyone find us? As we made our way across the field separating the frontage road and Stuckey’s, we abruptly came upon a chicken wire fence. We hadn’t seen it as we walked, due to the snow and wind in our faces. We had to climb the fence!

My husband went over first and helped me over. One shoe dropped off and promptly filled with snow. It was found and we continued walking. Snow filled both shoes as I attempted to plow through the drifts. I said to my husband, “I can’t make it.” He said, “You have to.” I said, “My shoes keep falling off and I have to find them. I’m getting too tired.”

We looked up to see two men walking from the Stuckey’s store toward us. When they got to us, one picked me up. I’m not a little girl, but 5’8” and pregnant with child. The other gentleman took my shoes and my husband, and led us to the store. When we got there, we stepped into the entry, shook the snow off our coats, and turned to thank the gentlemen.

THEY WERE NOT THERE.

We asked those around us if they had seen the men that were with us and had brought us in. NO ONE HAD SEEN THESE MEN!

Had God sent angels to rescue us? We believe He did. Our fears had been in vain. God’s merciful hand had provided help…and He promised He would never leave or forsake us. In God’s love and kindness He provided His precious Son, Jesus Christ, not only to save us in a snowstorm, but to die for our sins, be resurrected in power so that we might have a relationship with Him, and live with Him eternally in Heaven.

Our time here on earth was not finished. God had other plans for us. Our times are in His hands. As believers, we know we are in His hands and He is molding and perfecting us to be more like Him until He takes us home.

We have gone through many “God sightings” since then and have recognized His hand and are thankful. These trials have grown our faith that He will never leave or forsake us and will be with us always—for which we praise His Name.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.