SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?

Jeff Sanderson is the happy pastor of the Federated Church of Bondurant, Iowa. The pastor is no stranger to the power of prayer, the existence of miracles, and the greatness of God. When any symptoms of an illness appear, go to the Great Physician above before you schedule an appointment with a physician down here.

That was Pastor Jeff’s motto, so when he experienced a sharp pain on the right side of his lower back, that’s what he did. But when the pain persisted, he knew that God had another plan. So, he went to see his PCP, who noticed his enlarged prostate and elevated PSA levels. But it didn’t seem like an emergency, so the doctor prescribed medicine intended to help shrink the prostate and suggested the pastor follow up with a urologist.

An appointment with a urologist was made, and upon examination, the doctor found nothing suspicious and explained that an enlarged prostate was fairly common for a man in his early fifties. Pastor Jeff thought he was out of the woods, so to speak, but when the pain grew unbearable over the next few days, he called to have a CT scan. Upon reading the results, the doctor suggested that he needed to be biopsied for potential prostate cancer. The pastor was an otherwise healthy middle-aged man so these things are to be expected.

A week after the biopsy, Pastor Jeff got a call from the urologist. And the words that followed were terrifying, even for a man of great faith: “I have some bad news. You have prostate cancer and it’s the most aggressive form.”

The pastor was immediately referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for more evaluation and testing. There, they injected his body with a radioactive dye. The doctors explained that this would allow them to scan for cancer. With the radioactive dye, the parts of Pastor Jeff’s body affected by cancer would show up as fluorescent green.

Before showing the scans to Pastor Jeff, his wife, and two sons, the doctors spent some time alone in the room with the pastor, giving him a total physical. They repeatedly asked him, “Does this hurt?” Each time, the pastor replied no. The pastor’s family returned to the room, and the doctors did their best to delicately break the news. But nothing could have prepared him and his family for what the scan showed.

When the doctors turned the computer screen towards the family, Pastor Jeff’s name and birthdate were at the top of the screen. Beneath it was the outline of his body. Everybody’s eyes widened at what they saw. The pastor said, “My body was lit up like a Christmas tree. I was absolutely filled with cancer, from my knees to the top of my shoulder blades,”

The dye revealed tumors in Pastor Jeff’s abdomen and urethra, the bones in his femurs, hip bones, tailbone, his ribs, vertebra and collar bones. The tests estimated he had over 100 cancerous lymph nodes. Doctors officially diagnosed him with progressive Stage 4 Cancer. The doctors offered him no guesses on his life expectancy. After he got home, he did a Google search and found he had 12 to 14 months to live. . . at best.

“My family and I were devastated, but not without faith and hope,” said Pastor Jeff. The pastor’s two older sons joined him and his wife, Kathy, on the trip to Minnesota. But they had two younger children — Josh (10) and Lydia (8). He didn’t want to worry them, so he shared only the basics of his condition.

Then, because he didn’t want to scare his family, he turned to God with a somewhat unusual request: “For some reason, I didn’t ask Him to heal me at the time. I simply asked Him, ‘Lord, if I’m not going to die right away, could you please keep me looking normal during my chemo treatment so my kids don’t have to worry?’”

As Senior Pastor at his church, Jeff next shared the disheartening news with his congregation. And his church family did what a church family does best — they prayed! The congregation immediately gathered around their beloved Pastor and prayed. As they left the church that day, and they kept praying. Word traveled, and soon other churches and members of the Bondurant community were praying for the pastor. He says he even received multiple calls from complete strangers — Christians who were calling to let him know they were praying for divine healing.

But then, the cancer treatments began. Doctors and nurses gave Pastor Jeff a list of things to expect. They said, “You will lose your hair and your skin will turn pale. You’ll start retaining fluid in your face and ankles. Your red and white blood cell count drops dramatically, so you’ll often be fatigued. You’ll lose muscle and body tone. Your immune system will deteriorate, so don’t be surprised if you get sick a lot.”

If that were not enough, they warned him that the particular type of cancer he had was a complex and aggressive form that was self-sustaining. This meant that, while the chemo would help slow the advance of cancer, it would not be able to cure him. In other words, you are going to die slowly and it will be a rough and bumpy ride to the end. As of that moment, there was no cure for his type of cancer. If anything was going to stop it, it would have to be a miracle from God.

Despite the long list of negative side effects Pastor Jeff received from medical staff, God was faithful in answering the pastor’s special prayer for his chemo treatments. The only place he lost any hair was on his arms and legs, He never lost a hair on his head. As a matter of fact, Pastor needed three haircuts during the 18-week treatment, and the hair on his arms and legs actually grew longer! His skin never lost its tan, nor did he experience any swelling. His blood cell count — both red and white — never dipped below normal. The red count even ran on the high side! He never got sick, nor fatigued. He and his wife spent every day waking up at 5 a.m. to walk three miles, and Pastor Jeff stayed active at the gym. Through it all, he never lost any muscle tone.

In fact, the typical telltale signs of chemo were so absent that the nurses regularly assumed Pastor Jeff was just starting treatment. When he’d correct them, they were always curious as to how he was faring so well. To which the pastor always told them it was by the power of God! But his healthy outward appearance didn’t change the fact that cancer riddled his insides. And the tumors were growing to the point that he could physically feel them.

A week before Pastor Jeff and Kathy returned to the Mayo Clinic for a new round of body scans, he woke Kathy up at 4 in the morning. The pastor could feel the tumor in his abdomen, and it had grown so large that it was starting to expand under his rib cage. He shared the news with Kathy, and the two held each other as they cried together. The two returned to the Mayo Clinic and the pastor continued to feel the tumors growing. He could trace the outlines with his hands.

The results wouldn’t be ready for them to review until later in the afternoon, so Pastor Jeff and Kathy decided to grab lunch at a nearby restaurant. They walked hand in hand with heavy hearts, when something on the ground, near the curb, caught the Pastor’s eye. It was a rubber bracelet with the message: FAITH Rx. “At that very moment, we knew that God was reminding us to put our faith in Him. And as I put the bracelet on my wrist, I knew that however things went, the Lord would make a way for my family and me to get through the storm,”

Pastor Jeff and Kathy both dreaded the inevitable news as it came time to review his scans. They felt certain his cancer must be worse. They met first with the doctor’s proctor. The pastor and his wife could not see the computer screen displaying his scan from where they sat. So, when the proctor said, “They look pretty good,” Pastor Jeff assumed he meant this relatively speaking in regards to his Stage 4 condition. “Actually, they look really good. To be honest, the scans look as good as they possibly could.”

It was then that Pastor Jeff stood up to see the computer screen with his results. Like before, the top had his name and birthdate. But the picture beneath was completely different than before. In the original scan, the pastor’s body had lit up like a Christmas tree. But in this scan, there wasn’t so much as a speck of fluorescent green. “Where’s my cancer?” Pastor Jeff asked. The proctor replied, “You don’t have any!”

Pastor Jeff fell to his knees before God. As tears of joy and amazement streamed down his face, he praised the Great Physician who had healed him. Excitedly, he told the proctor all about the Lord of miracles and the power of prayer. The proctor confirmed that all of the pastor’s vitals — his kidney functions and blood worked — checked out perfectly. And there was no earthly explanation for it!

The proctor left the room to go share the scans with the doctor. And for the first time, Pastor Jeff thought to check for the tumors he’d been able to feel in his body just that morning before the scans. He’d actually been able to trace the outline of the one in his abdomen, which had grown so much in size that it was putting pressure on his rib cage. Yet, checking now, it was completely gone, as was the pressure under his rib cage! The scans were so good that the proctor came back explaining there was no need for the doctor to see him. Pastor Jeff had literally walked in with Stage 4 cancer, and through God’s divine healing, walked out the same day cancer free!

An elated Pastor Jeff and Kathy left the Mayo Clinic. Their next stop was at the John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines. Part of this checkup included checking his weight, where he received indisputable proof of the miracle that had transpired. The Pastor came in a full 12-pounds lighter only two days after doctors weighed him at the Mayo Clinic. He’s remained the same “lighter” weight ever since. In fact, his smaller waist finally forced him into buying new jeans. “The Lord had removed 12 pounds of cancer from my body,” Pastor Jeff exclaimed!

Nearly a year after his miraculous healing, Pastor Jeff continues to be in great health. All of his routine blood work checks remain excellent, as do his PSA levels. His story is so incredible that folks have started giving him superhero apparel to wear. He says he loves to tell them that the only true superhero is JESUS!

This is precisely what the Apostle Paul meant when he says, “We walk by faith, not by sight!” As Pastor Jeff reflected over his cancer journey and the blessing of divine healing, he thought of the beautiful picture that had formed in his mind of the miracle that waits for all of those who believe:

“One day we will stand before the Lord and He will scan our lives. While we are fully aware of the cancer of sin within us, the Lord will choose, by His grace and forgiveness, to declare all who put their faith and trust in Him to be SIN CANCER FREE! Now that will be the greatest miracle of all!”

This type of faith that Pastor Jeff exhibited is not new. The prophet Jeremiah said, “O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved.” (Jeremiah 17:14). If you believe the Lord can save you, can you not also believe He can heal you? And the Apostle Peter reminds us that “He Himself carried our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds, we are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). Now, if He absorbed the effects of sin in His body, can it not also be that if He is in union with us and we are in union with Him the healing power He carries is there for us? Pastor Jeff was right, it starts and ends with faith. That’s what Jesus told the woman who touched the hem of His garment, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. God in peace and be free from your suffering.” (Mark 5:34) – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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