My wife’s astounding response to her cancer diagnosos

13 02 2016

Talking about what it looks like to sacrifice, let me give you this personal story…

The skills provided in this trail guide have been learned through following after Christ over arduous paths. Though these truths rest in plain sight on the pages of scripture, they may be invisible when sitting in the comforts of an easy life. Only as I have been plunged into harsh canyons have I seen these scriptures in their true light. Or shall I say I have seen them only in the shadows? I can trace my own journey into these truths back to a time when my wife became terribly ill.
We had lived in Kenya for the better part of ten years – my wife Lyn, and two daughters Lauren and Heather. When people would ask us what that decade was like I would often reply, “Good… and hard.” Sometimes the lifestyle and work was difficult, but our lives were tremendously enriched by the wonderful Kenyan people, our daughter’s school experience, and the fruitfulness of our ministry. But toward the end of our time there, my wife began to feel weaker and weaker. She began to get various stomach ailments more often than she felt well. To give you the short version, we agreed with the leaders of our mission organization that we should move back to the U.S. Lyn barely survived the long, arduous flight. After hospitalization and tests, Lyn was finally diagnose with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. During the ensuing months of treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, our family endured the most demanding testing of our lives. While she lay in the hospital, and as I lay in bed alone, the thought emerged in my mind, “this seems like a death.” I was not referring to my wife’s death, for she recovered from leukemia. By “death” I meant that God seemed to be asking us to lay down every plan, every assumption, and in a sense, every happiness. Our pain was excruciating – a sacrifice as demanding as we could imagine.
In this instance, the demand of sacrifice preceded our call to surrender. The diagnosis of cancer (our sacrifice) placed us in our Gethsemane, where we had the choice to get angry at God or surrender to Him. After the doctor gave us the diagnosis and left the room, my wife and I hugged each other, weeping, and she said to me, “We must never forget to praise God.” And she meant it, and she lived it. There could be no more powerful way to surrender and say: nevertheless, not as we will it, but as you, God, will it. Do we blame God for cancer? Do we say He is the source of it? Not at all. But sitting in a hospital room with a diagnosis, we knew what was required of us –to please, and even praise Him by walking the trail of the Jesus way.

My wife glimpsed heaven

13 11 2015

Fifteen years ago our family of four returned to the USA after serving in Kenya as missionaries for 10 years. Toward the end of our time in Africa, Lyn got very sick, such that we had to get a special approval from the doctor to travel. After the eight hour flight from Nairobi to Gatwick, Lyn was completely spent and I delayed our onward flight to San Francisco by 24 hours to give Lyn a chance to sleep in the airport annex hotel.

During the night, Lyn slept fitfully. When she woke, she shared with me and our daughters that she had experienced a glimpse of a softly lit passageway beyond which she saw warmth, peace and safety. She was so weak and tired that she asked God to go through the door, but He told her it was not time. We were amazed by this, and thankful to God. We continued our journey, making it to SF on a mere thread of life remaining.

There is a lot to share about what God did in the upcoming months, but suffice it to say for now that Lyn was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and for two years fought the cancer with the help of a bone marrow transplant from her sister Cindy.

I give this as a tribute to God’s kindness, for this experience often encouraged us during Lyn’s final fight for life. She was never afraid of what lay beyond death; her only concern was what it would be like to get there! Her vision was also an encouragement to others, as she assured those who were dying or fearful of it, that in the Lord there is only joy in His presence.

I share this also as background for something that happened today. I am currently tending to my mother who seems to be a short while away from going through that portal of glory for herself. As a part of the hospice service, a chaplain contacted me by phone to get acquainted and learn some of mom’s background. I was pleased to tell him that my mother has known Jesus personally since a teen, that she served alongside my dad as a missionary in Japan and Nigeria, that she was a supportive pastor’s wife through all the highs and the lows.

As we began to finish the call, the chaplain, out of the blue, said, “Robert, are you an author?” I replied that I was. He asked if I had spoken at a conference of the Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association some years back. I affirmed that I had. Then he said this: I remember meeting you and your wife. We sat at a dinner table together and your wife shared the story of when you came back from Africa and she got a glimpse of heaven. (Yes, I said, that was us. I mentioned that we had come at the invitation of Jeff Funk, the HCMA president, whom we have known for years; Lyn and his wife Kathy have been dear friends for 40 years.) Then, the chaplain, named Wayne Yee, touched my heart: “I have often shared your wife’s story in my ministry and it has encouraged many, many people.” I hung up the phone and let the tear flow again.

The connections in the family of God are amazing because God is amazing. The threads of encouragement from Lyn’s life continue even now that she is with the Lord she loves.