Trinity Sunday, 2018: A Journey of Faith and Healing
Greetings and blessings from God, Son and Holy Spirit to each one who reads this update, and with love from Meryl and me.
Our last formal update was on December 7 last, although we have written some shorter updates since then to specific friends for particular reasons, for example, the Welcome Home Initiative© ministry team at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center, Greenwich, NY 12834.
Last year was a great year but had its fair share of difficulties, mainly focusing on relationships, partnerships and cooperation between two ministries we know. But now we are in another year and focus on the future as we seek to follow Christ daily as His disciples, seeking to encourage others day by day.
January was cold and snowy in the North Country of New York State and we were busy making preparations for the first WHI©of the year in early April. It was specifically for traumatised female Veterans: the second in successive years and third overall. Preparation mainly involves gathering a ministry team, obtaining quilts and relevant books, preparing programs, an order of service, encouraging prayer and donors, securing several speakers, overall coordination including music; and making sure everyone is well briefed, well prayed for knowing and understanding the role s/he has. We are so blessed that all these things involve a most experienced and mature ministry and admin team. We have to be as the “devil prowls around seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8) and we, the team have experienced active spiritual warfare within the ministry and in individual lives in the first quarter of 2018. But fixing our focus on the aim of this inner healing ministry – helping Veterans findsoul healing – our wonderful team of 20 plus pulled together, resisted the evil and saw the Holy Spirit move most powerfully into the lives of the eight women who attended the very successful retreat. It is a beautiful experience to see broken and damaged souls begin to find God’s Peace and to hear them say it!
Although retreat preparations continued, February and March became very difficult and painful months for Noel, with care being so lovingly given, as always, by Meryl. Noel had highly successful cataract removal operations in the first half of February, but within 3 days of the first one, the mouth sores he experiences from chronic Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) returned with great vengeance. Additionally, the swallowing difficulties he had in 2016 came back too. Incredibly painful, and mentally and emotionally undermining. Thank God for the prayers and ministry of many who prayed for us especially those living locally who minister to us very personally. After 9 weeks of suffering, eating only blended food and liquid, losing 10 lbs in weight, Noel began to feel very slightly better – well enough to lead the team on the female Veterans team, mentioned already. The improvement continued through April and Noel restarted regular exercise after doing very little for nearly 4 months.
As April became May, we focused on preparing for our almost annual trip to England to see family and friends. We are here now, 20 days into a 30 day visit. It has been excellent, including the weather (mostly). Highlights have been to celebrate Noel’s sister’s 70th birthday with all siblings and most spouses getting together on THE day for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant of Joycelin’s choice; seeing many family members young and older, most in blooming health, some not so strong; focusing a little more on Meryl’ family than on some previous visits; two interesting Cathedral visits; and now, with our son, daughter-in-law, g/daughter and g/son in northeast England at the seaside enjoying a lovely sandy beach today in warm enough sunshine.It will be emotionally tough in some ways to leave everyone behind again in 10 days time. This vacation has been so enjoyable!
However, it has been one of the most challenging visits we have ever made to England. Why?
After the healing progress of recent weeks, soon after arriving in London the mouth sores and swallowing gradually got worse. We don’t understand or know why. Noel’s immune system seems to be strong and he feels healthy. By the 11th day Noel was eating soup and drinking liquids again. After a few more days his mouth was so sore he could speak only in mono-syllablesand mostly not at all. The pain was even greater than two months previously.
When we arrived in the north east we decided to seek medical treatment. And, unknowingly, we started on a God-led journey, although it didn’t feel like it until we were able to look back two days ago, on day 18. Our son, advised us to go to an Urgent Care Center at Hexham Hospital because there were likely to be fewer people than elsewhere and waiting time would be less. A very helpful and caring doctor felt my condition was beyond his experience and out of a choice of two specialised hospitals within about 20 miles, strongly advised us go to the Royal Victoria in Newcastle as they have a transplantation unit. But it’s in a different health group so it meant starting over again, this time at the Accident & Emergency department. After about a 1.5 hour wait, Noel was seen and the doctor was worried about hydration so admitted him overnight to the hospital’s Assessment Ward – an almost sleepless night of hydration asother patients came and went. As full assessments of their needs became clear, usually after test results became known and beds became available, they moved to more specialised wards. The next day, day 16, still brought no relief and Noel saw a fourth doctor since arriving at Hexham. This doctor, a specialist from Haematology decided Noel was OK to be discharged, prescribing him pain and mucositis topical medications, which helped a bit. He arranged an appointment the next day at a regular transplant clinic at another nearby hospital.
We found the Northern Cancer Care Centre, Newcastle early on Thursday, day 17. We had no idea of the full nature of the Centre, never having heard of it before, and we knew only that Noel would be seen by an unknown specialist. After about 1.5 hours wait we were called into an office and examined by a very pleasant, caring, personable Professor Matthew Collin, who we think is the top Haematology Specialist and personally knows and spoke most highly and glowingly about Dr. Robert Soiffer, Noel’s specialist in Boston. Noel was prescribed prednisoloneand three other medications and a follow-up appointment is arranged for the day before we return to the USA. He told us about a blood treatment involving “cleaning” certain white blood cells with UV light, of which we knew little even though it has been in use for about 2 years. This information heartened us hugely, potentially offering great healing from this chronic GVHD illness (we will find out more about this ECP treatment when we go to Boston on June 19).
The “rest of the story” is like a miracle: by the second 40mg/day prednisolone treatment, the mouth sores were in retreat and swallowing improved. During lunch on day 18 with Noel’s cousin and wife, whom we had not seen for 3 years, Noel realised he could speak a little more easily. Great praise! On day 19, yesterday, improvement continued as we drove a couple of hours to the seaside. Today, Noel has eaten normally, albeit still with a little pain and minor swallowing problems. We anticipate continued good progress. After a bit of gastric uncomfortableness there seems to be no side effects from the prednisolone.
As we look back on the last 10 days, we now see that beyond any knowledge we had, God led us from place to place, doctor to doctor very precisely. It was as if each were actors and scenes on the stage of life to get Noel to the right person in the right place at the right time. The inspiration that He gave human beings to invent and produce prednisolone and other medicines, coupled with the daily journey, painful and morale sapping though it has been, now seems like a marvellous work of God in our lives. We feel this is like a miracle and maybe you, the reader, might agree?
And so, we take each day as it comes, one day at a time, as we try to “walk the walk and talk the talk” as Jesus would do. Some days are better than others but we never give up trying. Read and be encouraged by Matthew 6:25-34, particularly verses 31-35. And this edition of our story – this update – we realise culminated on Trinity Sunday.Perfect timing! All praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as an inspiring hymn chorus goes!