#181 Blessings from China

Photo by Jeff Rogers 

I have had it on my heart to adopt since I was a young child. After having two biological children, my husband and I began to prayerfully explore adoption options. Our idea was to adopt a healthy baby because we felt like we couldn’t handle special needs, and didn’t think we could do foster care. We started the international adoption process but faced one closed door after another. After becoming pregnant with our third child, we just assumed the adoption idea was over.

A few years later my husband told me about studying John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” My husband said, “we don’t have to die for someone to lay down our lives. I think we should look into adoption again.” I was all in! That very day I got an email from Rainbow Kids who helps to find families for kids all over world who are hard to place. There was a little girl from China who caught my eye. When I looked deeper I realized we fit every adoption qualification for China at the time, though we didn’t those few years back. We started the process and there were lots of details that can only be explained as God’s work. Although we had said we couldn’t handle an older child or a child with special needs, we realized those were false barriers. It didn’t have to be a healthy baby. We could do anything with God’s help! Our beautiful daughter was revealed to us in September 2015, and when we saw her date of birth, we knew she was ours despite her special needs. She was born the very week my husband and I had the first conversation about moving forward with adoption again. God was in this!

When we traveled to China to adopt our daughter, we were privileged to visit the foster home she had lived in for the past 6 months. What a blessing that was! But my heart went out for the children still there. One little boy with the same special needs as our daughter specifically tugged at my heart. After we left, I begged my husband with no avail to let us go back and get him. I continued to pray for him, and he was eventually placed with a good family. But it was still in my heart that we needed to go back to China.

The following year, our adoption agency began looking for volunteers to help with a camp for harder to place children in a Chinese orphanage. The idea was to get to know the children beyond their picture and information on a paper and advocate for them. The agency asked me to go. I went and spent two days in the orphanage with these precious children. One of these was a sweet 10 year old girl with Down Syndrome. My best friend (who is a special education teacher) had seen this little girl’s picture before I left and told me to pay special attention to her because it had always been her dream to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. She was the first child I met…and I knew she was special! I knew my friend would love her but I couldn’t tell her to adopt the child. I didn’t want to force or seem pushy. When I got home I told my friend, “you would love her but I’m not telling you what to do.” Adoption is difficult and expensive. But with the support of our community, my friend went to China and brought her home! She is truly a blessing to so many. Also during that time, I had another friend who adopted another little boy from our camp. He is now my little girl’s best friend and is an amazing child!

Months after my trip, my heart was still breaking for one particular boy in our camp. He was about to become ineligible for adoption because he would “age-out” at age 14, and we were having no luck finding him a family. He was fun, smart, and super brave. He didn’t talk much, but he smiled a lot. He was a great kid—but who was going to adopt him? I read the story of Moses telling God that he wasn’t good enough to go face Pharaoh in Egypt but how God promised to be with him to help him. And I realized something. God wanted me to go back for this boy. I wasn’t equipped for this job, but God would be with me. After having major conversations with our children because we didn’t know what to expect about adopting an older boy, they simply said, “he needs a family. He will be our brother.” We raced to get him home with us before time ran out. That was in 2017, and he has now been home with us a year and a half. It is evident God is blessing us with this young man. I am unbelievably thankful God wanted me to be his mother.

When looking back over this story, I realize it is far from over. I really feel like I’m in the middle of it. God continues to teach me important lessons. I have learned that sometimes we simply limit ourselves and God helps us go beyond what we think we can do. Sometimes you just have to step out and let Him work. I have also seen God shapes us through the difficult times, and we can help other people because of our own struggles. I have also learned to be patient and trust God. God delays our requests for reasons we don’t know or understand until later. Most of all, I’m thankful for my children and that God protected them while they were in China and protected us in all of our travels. The children bring us much joy! They have a hope and a future and they are loved.

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.

#159 Posture of Dependency

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My wife and I married in December of 1996. Having a family was very important to us and we both desired to have multiple children. I got a new job around the time we got married. Toward the end of 1997 we started trying to have a child. We tried for seven to eight months but couldn’t get pregnant. After several tests the doctor told my wife, “I think you are infertile and won’t be able to get pregnant without some help.” We weren’t sure how we felt about that. We decided to pray and seek the Lord’s counsel. We had received this news from the doctor on Friday, and on Sunday the church elders prayed for us. We prayed and fasted our first meal of the day for a week. The next Sunday the elders prayed with us again. Monday morning my wife took a pregnancy test and it was positive. We got another pregnancy test and it was positive! We called the doctor and he said, “You all need to come in. This is strange.” He pulled out her chart and said in his 20-plus years in practice, my wife was the first person he had not given a pregnancy test to. He did a pregnancy test then and she was seven weeks pregnant! She had actually been pregnant at our last visit with him when he told us he thought she was infertile and needed help getting pregnant! We didn’t see this as the doctor’s error. We saw this as God taking us through a journey of faith. He wanted us to decide if we could trust Him with our decisions.

Around this time, I was starting my work as a minister and we had little funds. During the summer when my wife was pregnant, we had two cars and one broke down. It was not fixable and my job required travel. We knew having just one car was not going to work but we didn’t have the money to buy a car. My mom had access to the Federal Credit Union and we secured a loan there. We had 30 days to get the car. But I was uneasy about it. I felt like we needed to trust God. I asked, “Lord, is this another opportunity to trust you?” On the last day for us to buy the car under the terms of the loan, my mom called and asked if we were going to get the loan. I told her no. This was August.

Our baby was born November 13 and still no car. Three days after she was born, I received a phone call saying there was a car available if I wanted it. The only stipulation was that I had to drive to Birmingham, Alabama and play a round of golf with the man who was donating the car. It was a Ford Taurus, and we had it for years. That was in 1998. We moved in 2003, and one day when I was driving home from work I had a wreck and totaled the car. That car had been used by missionaries and had been used to lead several guys to Christ. I sent a message letting people know the car was totaled and telling the story of the car—how we got it and how the car had been used for ministry. Within 30 minutes we had two offers to replace the car!

Getting the car was another way for us to see God and trust Him. We were starting a new ministry and I think God was fostering in those early experiences a posture of dependency of being able to trust Him. This has helped us to trust Him in other things over the years. Those experiences were foundational for us. We know that God is trustworthy and we are so thankful for His continued care throughout the years.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

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.

#113. The Toilet Complex School

 Photo by Erin E Photography

I am a Christian in India, a country where only 3 percent of the population is Christian. I was raised by Christian parents in Tamil Nadu in Southern India. In 1981, my husband and I moved with our three children to Delhi in northern India. There I was a professor at the university. After this, I began to pray that God would show me how to serve Him. In December of 1989, it began. At the time, I was living in an apartment not far from a large slum of 25,000 people. One day a little boy knocked on my door and told me he was hungry. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to give him food. But I felt God urging me to not only feed him but also to love and teach him. Every day he came to our apartment and I would love him and give him something to eat.

One day he brought nearly 25 children with him. I asked them why they had come and a little girl said, “We are hungry.” I thought perhaps I was making all of them beggars and I wasn’t sure I should give them food. I shut the door and walked inside. Then God started speaking to me. “We are hungry.” It grew in volume. Louder and louder, the words were banging in my brain. I began to cry and fell on my knees asking the Lord what I should do. And then I waited for the children to come back. After some time, the little boy came again. I took him in and told him he should not be a beggar. I told him he would learn with me for half an hour in return for a hot breakfast. A week later, several mothers from the slums came to our apartment with their children to admit their children into my school! I was very hesitant at first. I lived in an apartment complex, and I thought I had no right to bring the children into the complex because of the other people living there. But the children pleaded with me, so I agreed to teach them for some time.

One day one little boy was absent for two days; when he came back he didn’t know anything. He had forgotten everything I had taught him. I made him stay back with his sister after the other children left. I asked his sister what happened and she lifted his pants and I could see the marks around his legs. His sister told me that their father suspected he had stolen something and tied both legs with a rope and hung him upside down in their hut for a whole day. That really shook me. This was a real turning point for me. I told the Lord I would not leave the children. I felt like God could use me to help them.

A few months later I was teaching 100 students from the slum in my garage. I realized this wasn’t safe when one of the children was hit by a car waiting to get into my garage for school. He was unconscious and not breathing. I instructed the children to gather around him and we prayed that God would heal him and give him life. Praise God, his eyes opened and he stood up.

I went to the slum commissioner and asked if I could have a place in the slum to teach the children. He said I could use the room in the toilet complex which was meant as a night shelter for the homeless. I was shocked he would say this because it was not a decent place for a school. The man was asking me to do something I could not do. But then as I was looking at him, I didn’t see him anymore, but instead the manger scene came to my mind. I felt God asking me, “If I could come down into this place to save you to give you a hope and a future, will you now refuse to go inside this dirty place to give these children new life and a new hope?”

I said YES to teaching in the toilet complex. The stench was horrible but the children had a place to learn. By and by we used not only the toilet compound but also put tents there to accommodate 600 children in morning and afternoon shifts of school. The volunteer teachers taught them the Word of God and to pray. We also taught English, Math and Science, and Hindi.

More and more children came to the school and we desperately needed a new building. God sent help. In the early ‘90s, a man from the U.S. came to visit me. He was interested to see the work I was doing. When he went back to the U.S. he shared the story of our school at an elementary school in Kentucky. He asked the third graders to pray that God would give the children in the toilet school a new school building. The third graders prayed faithfully at school and also at home with their families. And God answered their prayers.

A father of one of the third graders came with a group to India and the day they were scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal, he said he would rather go to the slum school to see the children his son had been praying for. The whole group went with him. They wanted to help and provided the funds for us to buy the land for a school. Then we needed money for the building. On Saturdays, the teachers, students, and I fasted and prayed for a building.

Meanwhile, another third grader back in the U.S. was praying for our building too. His mother sent a check for $800 from a fundraiser at their church. This was the first money we had received towards the building. We thanked the Lord and asked Him to multiply it. Then other people provided help. A college student came from Kentucky to teach at our school. I asked him to help me write letters to people. His family got involved in funding, and in 2004, with the help of his family, we established a non-profit. Between the help from this family and other ministries, we started building the school. It was completed in 2005.  Shortly thereafter, the government gave approval for graduates of our school to apply to any college or institution. In 2016, 1,500 children were enrolled. To date, hundreds of our students have graduated to become change makers in India.

I was praying to serve the Lord, and He guided me in mysterious ways and showed me the part I should take. He showed me how to help thousands of children who otherwise would not have had a future. The Lord calls but He doesn’t end at a call. He walks alongside or in front of us. He never leaves us alone. And when He calls, His provision is sure. At times, I did not leave matters in the Lord’s hands, but whenever I did, He resolved it in a beautiful manner, in a way in which I couldn’t even have dared to imagine or think of.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:9  

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.

#103. Missionaries in the Mountains: Surrender and Abundance

 

Photo by Amy Wallen Photography

My wife and I had both worked at a stable in Mississippi, and then God led me to attend seminary. I attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina and I can remember some of the faculty asking me what I wanted to do after I graduated. I told them I wanted to use horses to share God’s love with kids! This was met with some raised eyebrows and “not sure about that” expressions on their faces. I have to admit this was a non-conventional path for a seminary graduate. In fact, I had no idea of how this might come to fruition. It was September, with graduation approaching in December, and I didn’t even know where to begin looking for this kind of ministry opportunity.

Shortly after this I was able to attend the Equestrian Ministries International conference where I met the man that led this ministry. His insights were very helpful to me. This was followed by my attending a conference at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, where I learned of an equine ministry in the mountains of Kentucky that was looking for a director. My wife and I spent a week in the mountains meeting the founders of this ministry. It was wonderful and I felt drawn to take the job. 

But after I returned home I began to doubt…it was 2008 in the middle of the financial crisis and this job did not offer any pay. I had a wife and a child to take care of. I sent the founder of the ministry a very long email about my concerns, but essentially my question to him was, “How can I take this job with no pay?” He emailed me back with only one sentence:

“If this is where God wants you, then God will take care of the rest.” 

A simple but profound answer that spoke powerfully to me. My wife and I agreed to pray separately that night about what the Lord would have us to do. At this point, I was ready to lay it all down and give up my idea of ministry through horses. I wanted what God wanted, and I prayed earnestly for God to reveal His will to me. It was then, through my complete surrender to God, that I received clarity and direction. By midnight, I knew the mountains of Kentucky was where we were to go.

My wife felt the same direction from her prayers that night. I accepted the position of director and we moved to the mountains of Kentucky.

God has continued to bless our family and the ministry since we moved here eight years ago. We now have four children and God has provided in every way, including financially. He has provided a beautiful place for the ministry with 25 acres, 3 stables, 24 stalls, an arena, trails, and a classroom. God has given us the opportunity to share the love of Jesus while on horseback. At our Lil Buckaroo Boot Camp, kids learn how to care for and ride horses while also singing songs and participating in scripture reading. We also work with a local elementary school to love, encourage, and teach children who have autism about riding and caring for horses. 

I was on a journey to find out God’s will for my life. I had to step outside of my comfort zone to do so. His ways were much different than mine. I received the call and was a bit resistant initially. As a man, I was looking for security, as I had a family to provide for. But God was looking for me to surrender to Him and all He had for me. When I did, He showed up and has provided for us abundantly.

I appeal to you therefore, brother by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

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.

#101. Missionaries in the Mountains: Multiplying of Food

 

Photo by Amy Wallen Photography

Two-and-a-half years ago my wife and I left good jobs, a nice home, and our friends and family to become full-time missionaries in the mountains of Kentucky. The first six months were so hard. We moved to a small house in a rural community with approximately 100 homes. I remember looking around our house and there were buckets everywhere—our roof leaked badly. I wondered if we had made a mistake. My wife and I were feeling so discouraged and not sure if we had made the right decision to leave everything behind. 

Shortly after this, in January, my wife and I were at the grocery, and I felt God urging me to buy water. We bought 60 gallons of water that day not knowing what God had in mind, but trusting He had a plan for the water. For a month, this water was stacked on our living room floor and we had no idea what we would do with it. Then in February it got down to 17 degrees below zero. We opened up our community center as a warming center for the people of our town. Water pipes in the town were freezing and busting from the cold. Everyone wanted water and the stores were all out. There were families who did not have water to make formula to feed their babies. This was the reason for the water! We gave the water away to our neighbors and witnessed to and prayed with them.

Then God did something else amazing. During this same time, we had 15 families that came to us needing food. They told us they had nothing to eat in their house. We had a pantry of emergency food, but after we had given the third family food from the pantry, I told my wife we weren’t going to have enough for all of the families in need. There wasn’t enough food for five families, much less fifteen, but God multiplied the food like He did in the story of the loaves and the fishes in the Bible (John 6). We just kept filling boxes with food, and in the end, we had filled enough boxes for all 15 families!

Not only did God miraculously provide food and water for the people of our community, but He also used this experience to show my wife and I that He was with us and He was guiding us. This was affirmation that we did NOT make a mistake in leaving everything behind to become full-time missionaries. God encouraged us and showed us that we could depend on Him and that He would use us to help the people of our community. Over and over we have seen His faithful provision for us and the people in our community. God is a faithful, loving Provider, and we put our trust in Him.

 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 

Philippians 4:13

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.

#85 When We Become Dependent On God, Our Real Adventure Begins

 

Photo by Renee Toole

I grew up in Chile attending a church started by US missionaries where I was baptized. One of my main connections with Jesus at an early age was to experience Him as a restorer through the prayer of my mother. When I was five years old, an older kid tricked me to do sexual activities without mentioning it to my parents. I didn’t know what I was doing, but after a while when I was nine years old I began to have nightmares about it. I felt much shame and pain. I remember feeling the voice of the enemy whispering that this episode defined who I was. 

My mother took me to psychiatrists, but none could help. She gave up on the doctors and began praying out loud for me every night, and speaking the truth about who I was and how God felt about me. God worked through my mom’s prayers and I was restored and healed completely. I learned that experiences don’t define us—only God does. 

In the midst of this crisis, the US missionaries left Chile and my parents got divorced. God became sidelined in my life and tennis became my main priority. At 18 I set in my heart that I was to become a professional tennis player, but just as I was about to begin traveling, I received a full scholarship to play tennis at a US college. I didn’t want to go but my parents wanted me to go, so I went. I didn’t know anyone and was very lonely. I joined a fraternity to be accepted and have friends. But after much drinking and partying, I was ready for a change in my life. I didn’t speak the language well and this made it hard to go to church. However, even though I didn’t go to church, I remember praying, “God, help me to change the world with You.” 

During my sophomore year, another Chilean student came to the same small college I was attending. He was from my hometown but I didn’t know him. I felt like I needed to be his friend. There was something different about him that I wanted. I took him to parties and tried to get him into my world but I knew he was uncomfortable. So we stopped the parties and just hung out. He always talked to me about God and this was in my own language, which really helped me. He told me about miracles and encountering God. This challenged me because I had never heard about this. His faith was more of a relationship than a religion. 

One morning at 3 a.m. we were studying for a Chemistry test and he asked me, “Is Jesus the center of your life?” When I heard this I was convicted of my lifestyle. I could not lie. I asked him, “Does God want to be the center of my life? Is this possible?” He said, “Yes, it is the only way.” So I turned completely to God that night. I felt God inviting me to a great adventure. I felt God’s love, God’s power. 

I became a new person and little by little started to make radical changes in my life. I knew God was calling me to something greater. I started to read the Bible like crazy and tell everybody about how amazing Jesus was. I began worshiping by playing guitar and singing (as I had done as a kid). I remember riding a skateboard and praying, “I want to change the nations with You, Lord.” The Lord spoke back and said, “Why don’t you begin with that homeless man in the street?” He narrowed down my view from the world to the right here, right now. “What are you going to do about that man who is right in front of you?” 

That summer instead of going home, I went to live in a homeless shelter. After two weeks, I was burned out and regretted coming. Their problems were bigger than my faith. I had been preaching the gospel but it wasn’t working and no one had been saved. I was operating on my own efforts, wanting to be the Christian superhero, but the Lord invited me to the real journey. The journey was about Him. I heard Him say the John 15:5 verse, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Two days later a friend texted me that same verse. I stopped what I had been doing at the shelter and instead got up early every morning to abide in God and get to know Him. I prayed, sang, and fasted. I was filled with joy but no one knew why I was so happy. After a week, a homeless man asked me, “What are you doing in the morning?” Then the homeless men asked me to come outside and play for them what I was doing in the morning. So I worshipped outside with them. The first time I worshipped outside with them, God came and encountered all of us. Most every day we did this, and as we worshipped, many would repent and surrender to Jesus. There was deliverance from addictions, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love for one another. We became a family because God’s presence was there. 

We must make God the center of our lives. When we do, we will experience God’s love and presence more deeply and find the place we really belong, a place of intimacy with our Father. When we become dependent on God and surrender, God’s power is unleashed in amazing ways, and our real life adventure begins.

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.

#77 I’d Never Experienced Such Direct Divine Intervention

 

Photo by Trevor Rapp

“I’m sorry, Gary, but you can’t stay. You need a fourth of your tuition. That’s just school policy.”

The business manager had given me this same message three days earlier. Throughout the weekend I had gone through the small community of Grayson, Kentucky, knocking on doors offering to do odd jobs—painting, mowing, clearing brush—anything to raise $160 dollars, which (remarkably in those days) was a fourth of the tuition for my first semester at Kentucky Christian University.

I’d left home with $50 and a suitcase, selling the only thing of value that I owned—my saxophone—to raise the money. I believed God wanted me to go into ministry. My parent’s marriage had ended two years prior. I’d been in a serious accident (without insurance). My father was sued, filed for bankruptcy, and we had to sell our house and move into a small apartment. My mother was distraught, talking frequently about suicide. Life was difficult. But I wanted to go to college.

“Surely there’s a way,” I said to the business manager. “I’m willing to work. I just haven’t found a job yet. I know I can do this.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I really am.”

At that very moment, his secretary entered the office. She said, “Mr. Parrish, I just received a check in the mail payable to this young man’s account. It’s from a church in Louisville. It’s for one-fourth of Mr. Black’s tuition!”

I still remember how surreal that felt. I had done everything I could do and had come up with nothing. Nothing. And then, suddenly, God stepped in.

“You’re in,” Mr. Parrish said. “But there’s a long road to travel. Are you up for this?”

“I’m willing to work.” That’s all I could think to say. I was still stunned by the whole scene. I’d never before experienced such direct, divine intervention.

We talked for a few minutes, and as I got up to leave, his secretary came back. “Mr. Parrish, I’m still going through the mail, and I just opened another envelope with a check inside, payable to Mr. Black’s account. The donor wishes to remain anonymous. It’s for the remainder of his first semester’s tuition, and part of next semester!”

I sat back down. I felt so unworthy. So broken. So confused. “I came here to work my way through college and I reached a dead-end after one week,” I said. “I’ve never felt so desperate and defeated as when I walked in here today. It’s all so humbling.”

“Sometimes God waits until you’re desperate,” he replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because we need to come to the end of ourselves, and that’s a good thing,” he replied.

I’ll never forget that. That moment. Those words. That experience. And that’s how I went to college.

Every semester, for the next four years, I got another check from “anonymous” for more than half my tuition. To this day, years later, I don’t know who sent it. Obviously God sent it…through someone He prompted. Sometimes He works that way. Especially when we’re desperate.

I sometimes held three jobs at a time over the next six years (including graduate school). I occasionally hitchhiked back to Louisville when my mother was in her darkest places. Looking back, it was all a blur. An inexplicable God-venture that sometimes seemed to breathlessly move at the speed of light…and I was carried along, often exhausted, sometimes emotionally drained.

As I look back on it all, here’s my conclusion: God did it. All of it. I was merely a pawn in His divine game of chess. A willing pawn, to be sure. But He’s the King and He makes all the moves. 

You know something? It still works that way today. But sometimes you only learn that…when you’re desperate.

Dearest Heavenly Father, please…keep me desperate. 

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.

#26 God’s Healing And Peace

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 This story is about my friend, Bob (name changed for privacy). Bob worked hard all of his life, graduating as his high school valedictorian, then working to pay his way through college, pharmacy school, and dental school. And his hard work paid off. By his early 50s, Bob  was doing well financially, had a busy dental practice, a loving wife, good kids in college, and had suffered no major health issues throughout his lifetime.

That all changed in 2003, when his wife noticed a place on his back that didn’t look right. It turned out to be malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can be life-threatening. A surgeon removed the melanoma along with some lymph nodes. Afterwards, the doctor told Bob that the lymph nodes were not cancerous and that he had removed all of the cancer. The chance of recurrence of the cancer was only about 25 percent.

But Bob didn’t feel very relieved. He felt like up to that point in life, he had been in control, but after his cancer diagnosis he felt God was telling him, “You are not really in control.” Bob was baptized when he was 14 years old, but he was a worrier, and had always struggled with leaving things in God’s hands. As a man, he wanted to take care of himself and his family. The diagnosis of cancer was a wake-up call. He felt his dependence on God more strongly than ever before. 

He also found himself asking, “What is really important?” He had always wanted to teach, so he sold his dental practice and was hired as a full-time faculty member at a nearby dental school. Eight years later, against the odds, the melanoma recurred on Bob’s left lung. The surgery to remove the cancer from his lung was successful but it was very painful, as was his 10-week recovery.

In 2013, the doctor found another melanoma on Bob’s right lung. He went through the same painful surgery to remove the cancer from his right lung, but this time he went into renal failure in the hospital. Bob’s wife is a pharmacist and she noticed that the medications they were giving Bob could be causing the renal failure and demanded that the medications be changed. The medications were changed and his renal failure reversed. This time the recovery was even longer. But because Bob was a full-time university employee, he was able to take a three-month fully paid medical leave. Bob feels that God gave him the foresight to sell his dental practice and begin working at the university, as he would need the good benefits the university provided during his illness.

Two years later, in 2015, the cancer recurred in both lungs and his chest wall. Surgery was no longer an option and his oncologist suggested that he seek care at a cancer center. Bob’s daughter had gone to school with a fellow who was doing melanoma research at Duke. He had been Bob’s dental patient and his parents were good friends of Bob’s in high school. This fellow recommended a cancer doctor at Vanderbilt and Bob was able to get an appointment. The Vanderbilt doctor told Bob that they had discovered a treatment for advanced melanoma—immunotherapy—and that worked in 40 percent of the patients. The treatment cost $150,000 to $200,000 and Bob was the first patient whose insurance agreed to pay for it.

After the first three months of treatment, Bob’s cancer was shrinking; three months later it was shrinking further. Now the PET scan shows that Bob is cancer-free. When I hear Bob tell this story, I think of all of things that had to fall into place for Bob to now be cancer-free. 1) His wife noticed the place on his back and suggested he see a doctor. 2) His surgeries were successful and lymph nodes weren’t involved. 3) He sold his dental practice at a time when dental practices are hard to sell. 4) He got a full-time job at a dental school when that, too, was challenging without a specialty like orthodontics. 5) The job at the university provided Bob good insurance, paying for very expensive treatment, and provided paid sick leave that he wouldn’t have had as the owner of his own dental practice. 6) Bob’s wife, a pharmacist, noticed the medication problem causing the renal failure and demanded that it be changed. 7) Bob’s former dental patient was a melanoma researcher at Duke and knew the best physician in the nation to deal with advanced melanoma. 8) If Bob had presented at Vanderbilt only two years earlier with advanced melanoma they wouldn’t have discovered the treatment yet. 9) There was a 60 percent chance the immunotherapy wouldn’t work, but it did.

My friend Bob has been through a lot in the last 13 years, but he says he feels blessed. Bob is now at peace with whatever happens. He feels content and prepared for whatever God has planned for him. 

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.

#20. His Power Through My Weakness

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

This is the story of how a Father gave me courage, and how He connected the hearts of two of his daughters.

It was late one Wednesday evening in Penang, Malaysia. Every Wednesday, a small group of four or five women and myself would go out onto the dark (in every aspect of the word) streets near our small apartment with the intention of piercing through that darkness with the illuminating hope of Jesus.

Evangelism is not a natural task for me. I feel timid, awkward, and afraid of saying the wrong thing—especially in this strictly Muslim country where it is illegal to share the Word of Christ. Wednesday night street evangelism was always an evening that filled me with dread. Fear would creep its debilitating words inside of me and tell me that I couldn’t do it. It would make me wonder, “What if I get caught?” or “What if someone asks me a question that I don’t have the answer to and I look like a fool?” I knew in my head that Jesus was above this fear, but I didn’t know it in my heart enough to step out in faith. I preferred to stay in the background of the group—or try to mask my fear by saying something like, “I’m not going to talk to anyone tonight; I’ll just pray over the city as we walk.” This wasn’t honorable; it was cowardice.

This Wednesday night in particular was especially dark. The sky was black and the moon and stars were nowhere to be found. The urge felt stronger than ever to back out. But that night was different. I knew that this was an area where I lacked faith as well as courage, but this time I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul begs the Lord for the thorn in his side to be removed, but each time he makes his plea, the Lord responds with: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Yes, Lord! I am so weak, but I don’t have to give in.

“Allow Your power to work through my weakness” was my prayer as we were preparing to leave. As we left our apartment, the sky was rumbling in protest. My small group huddled together to pray to allow the Holy Spirit space to reveal what direction He wanted us to go. After a few moments of prayer, none of us felt a specific urge from Him so we decided to just start walking. We walked and we walked and we walked. We bought water for a homeless lady. We tried to approach a sketchy-looking group outside of a hostel. But it all just made me feel awkward again. Before long, the rumbling sky released its hostage.

The rain was soft, but we ducked into an indoor/outdoor café for refuge. As we sat down and ordered some drinks, I felt downtrodden and defeated. “Lord, I thought that this was the night!” About that time, I looked to my left and saw a Chinese woman in her mid-twenties, sitting alone at a table. I instantly felt a pull toward her. I knew I needed to speak with her—but of course I argued with God instead. She’s going to think I am crazy. What do I even say?!

After a few moments of wrestling inside my head, the young woman got her check and stood up to leave. I was admittedly relieved when I saw her standing up. I missed my chance, but also avoided an awkward encounter. As she neared the exit, that’s when the skies really opened. I have never seen so much rain in my life. In that moment I knew that God had trapped her…and me! I wasn’t getting out of this one.

When she saw that it was raining too hard to go outside, she resumed sitting at a bar facing the street. Without giving myself enough time to talk myself out of it, I stood up and plopped down beside her.

“Hello!” I nervously chirped.

She looked at me, very confused, but courteously nodded my way. Then I was frozen…now what?! I simply asked her if she spoke English, and she replied that she did but very poorly. I then asked if she was planning on staying at the restaurant until it stopped raining, and when she said yes, I asked if I could sit with her. She hesitantly consented, clearly still confused about my intentions.

However, after only moments of speaking and asking questions, it was clear that she was not only at ease, but that we were natural friends. She went on to tell me that she was studying in Singapore, but on vacation by herself in Penang. I kept trying to inquire why she was alone, but she always cleverly avoided the question. Eventually, there was a lull in conversation and we both became quiet. It wasn’t an awkward silence—more of a pensive one.

Before long, she broke the silence. “Megan, I am here alone because my heart is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.” She then began to open her heart and her tears flowed as unrelenting as the rain. As she revealed her hurts and struggles and fears with me, God was able to use me to speak words of hope, truth, and life into her. I told her that He wants to fix her broken heart, and that He will never hurt her. She told me that growing up in China she had never heard the truth of the gospel spoken to her before. The life and the hope that Jesus offers was a whole new phenomenon to her.

We cried together and she let me pray over her. I told her that we have the same Father, and that makes us sisters! We exchanged emails and to this day we chat about life and struggles and hope. She hasn’t made the step to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior, but I know that she will. Because I acted on the courage that God had given me, I was able to plant a seed in her heart that other people and the Lord will continue to water.

Every day we pass people on the street. Every day we make small talk with someone behind a cash register. Our purpose is to bring God’s kingdom on earth, and we have the opportunity to do that every single day. Step out in faith. I was afraid of feeling awkward, of saying the wrong thing, of me looking like a fool. How selfish is that, when eternity is on the line? As someone once said, “The Holy Spirit doesn’t lead us into ease.” Once we accept that, and get over ourselves, we can literally save lives. 

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.