Our family has been on a journey, beginning three years ago rather suddenly. It wasn’t a journey we anticipated and planned for, but was more like being suddenly whisked on a train we didn’t seek out and have no idea of the destination. Many questions have abounded, among them – What did we do to get on this train? How can we get off? There have been occasional vistas and sunlight, but it is remarkably fraught with dark tunnels and startling twists and turns. There is much we do not know. What we do know is Who is the Engineer. And we have gotten to know this Engineer even more deeply as He has continuously shared of Himself along the way. He has journeyed with us. And that has made all the difference.
Don’s joy has been to mentor and teach leaders in ministry and the marketplace home and abroad since 1995. On mission through Teaching The Word, he has ministered among the tribal pastors, widows, orphans and lepers multiple times in India, bringing the Word of truth, presence, encouragement, supplies. And, of course, Hope. But in early 2012, he awoke with searing pain in his extremities. It was relentless, causing lack of sleep and sending us on the trek seeking answers and relief from the pain. There have been many times of discouragement, misdiagnosis, feelings of isolation, weariness and unanswered questions as we continue along in the darkness. Many changes were brought about due to this in schedules, needs, outlook, etc. Besides this chronic mystery illness, other crises have arisen. Don and I have journaled the journey it in http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/donriker/journal But also along this journey, God has shown up in lots of ways, bringing to us His truth, His Presence, encouragement, provision – and Hope. Through His word. through His Body. Through His Spirit. Finally, the cause of his physical symptoms was rightly diagnosed late 2013. In the US, it is called Hansen’s Disease. In other places around the world, it is known as leprosy. Yes… you read it right.
However we have discovered today’s leprosy differs much from the kind you read of in the Bible. It is known as the ‘least contagious of all contagious diseases” as 95% of us have a natural immunity to it. Don is among the 5% who can contract it. Good news – It is curable! As a bacilli that invades the nerves and lives there parasitically, it can be eradicated with the use of antibiotics. Because it wasn’t officially diagnosed until almost 2 years since the onset of symptoms, we are praying that the damage will be reversible.
“You are cured. There is no live leprosy in your system. Now you just need to be healed.”
These words were spoken by the top-notch doctor in Baton Rouge, just a month ago. I have pondered her distinction. After three years, Don’s system is no longer being bombarded by the leprosy mycobacterium. His immune system has been reacting to the inactive (dead) remnant of cells, believing them to still be harmful and therefore on full alert. It makes me wonder at how I have been forgiven for sins, yet the enemy of my soul would have me to believe it still has power over me – yet it doesn’t. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who dwells in me. Or how often we suspiciously eye other members in the Body of Christ, often ‘dividing’ itself into various ‘camps’, treating one another as though they were the enemy, and taking our eyes off the true enemy. In my mind I can see many parallels.
But in my heart, I am grateful to hear Don is cured and though we are not ‘out of the woods yet’, we are on a path of healing! The enemy parasite can no longer harm him. He is being healed, made whole.
Luke 17 records another interesting distinction as 10 lepers were healed by Jesus and sent to be verified by the priests.
Verse 14 – “…as they went they were cleansed (to make clean by curing)
Verse 19 – To the one who returned, glorifying God and thanking Jesus, He said, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith (your trust and confidence that spring from your belief in God) has restored you to health.” (from ‘sozo’ – to save, heal, preserve, rescue, make whole) There was something additional that he received besides physical healing. Wholeness!
It is wholeness that we have desired and earnestly pray toward. And we are witnesses of it occurring. As I write, his pain levels have become more bearable. And he is able to sleep through the night so his body can repair and regenerate. So just like the man with leprosy, one among nine, who returned and fell at Jesus’ feet, I offer a heart loaded and overflowing with thanksgiving and glorifying God. As I read Psalm 30, there are many ways I can even more deeply identify with David. “Weeping has endured for the night; shouts of joy come in the morning.” Psalm 30:5. Can you hear it?!
And I am also thankful for many who have not drawn back, but have faithfully traveled along with us – bringing presence, truth, encouragement, provision and hope.
Thank You, Lord, for the honor and glory You receive from this, for those who can benefit from this testimony, for wisely leading your people experientially through difficulties so that many comforts can be shared on a deeper level and many praises can be lifted high up to you.
For the faithfulness You continue to show in the midst of this. For revealing Your goodness through your Body, through circumstances, through the promptings of the Spirit.
We pray You will continue repairing Don’s body. We don’t know to what degree the damage will be reversed, but we praise You, not to get the results we want, but because You are worthy of our praise and adoration.
“I want my every inhale infused with His presence, my every exhale an extension of His love.” Margaret Feinberg, Sacred Echo