April 13, 2014
Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Letter #326: When I Was Sick …
What a crazy roller-coaster ride of emotions this week brought! No matter how difficult or stressful prison life can get, nothing in here compares to the utter feeling of helplessness when trauma or tragedy strikes someone you love.
My cellie, Joe, came to prison soon after his father died of liver failure seven years ago. Joe’s mom, grandma, sister, and daughter are the closest family he has left, and ever since he surrendered his life to God, Joe has been increasingly concerned about his family’s physical and spiritual well-being.
When calling his mom, Karen, Joe could tell that she wasn’t doing well physically, and she seemed especially down and discouraged. I’d sit right next to Joe while he was on the phone, praying for him and lending encouragement wherever I could. But the greatest blessing was hearing Joe telling his mom that she needed to get help medically and she needed to trust God again. She told him that she was still mad at God for taking her husband away, that she’d turned her back on God since then.
Joe kept telling his mom how God was changing his life, and she could hear the change in him, even over the phone. He told his mom not to blame God, since his dad’s heavy drinking accelerated his health problems. On subsequent calls, Joe would encourage his mom to trust God and pray.
Then, on one of his calls, Karen told Joe she’d finally been in so much pain that she called 911 and was now in the hospital. Worried, but grateful for God’s goodness to watch over his mom, Joe’s daily prayers for his mom intensified. Tests showed blood clots, heart trouble, and a spleen that needed to be removed, among other issues, doctors told us when we called.
Joe kept encouraging his mom to trust God, and when blood pressure problems delayed the spleen removal surgery, Karen said the delay gave her time to get her life right with God. What a breakthrough! This was our first indicator that she’d begun to seriously apply the truths Joe and I had been sharing with her—and proof that God answers prayers!
We prayed her through the eventual surgery, which, though successful, soon landed her in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. Joe’s sister, Amanda, has emotional scars that prevent her from many normal functions, but she moved to the hospital and stayed by her mom’s side.
As we were calling the hospital for answers, my dad, who facilitates my calls, could tell that Joe was distressed about his mom’s worsening condition. When I called my dad’s phone to have him transfer a call to the hospital, he asked which hospital she was in and where it was. I knew what he was thinking even before I heard my dad get choked up.
I started sobbing on the phone with my dad, so grateful for compassionate parents. The next day, my mom drove more than six hours to be with Joe’s mom. Joe was floored, telling me that he’d never had anyone do anything that nice for his family, especially for people they don’t even know.
I reminded Joe that he is in God’s family, and I’d had nothing to do with my mom visiting his mom—God used my dad and mom to extend HIS hand to her. While my mom spent two days at the hospital, Joe got to spend several precious minutes with her on the phone, making both moms laugh and cry. Besides telling Joe that he was her heart, she told Joe that now she loves God with all her heart. Then, she said, “Joe, because of you, I got closer to God.” Gone was the pain and bitterness she’d held against God, replaced with God’s grace and peace.
We are praying for Karen’s complete recovery, but best of all, Joe has given his mom completely into God’s hands. The tough guy who used to stress about any bad news from home has changed, now replaced by a man seeking nothing but God’s will, and resting in whatever outcome may be.
Please rejoice and pray with us!