Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our Testimony #1

Sharing notes from my 1st testimony shared at Church! Good Morning! Isaiah 40:31 …but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Let us pray: Father God, I thank you for this opportunity to share Good News with your children this morning. We thank you for being a God who heals, comforts, and provides strength. We thank you for being a Father who always has time for us, and renews our strength, especially when we need it most. Father God, I pray that this message offers joy and encouragement to us all. Amen For those who may not know me, my name is Stevenson Thomas, but you can also call me Tobi. My wife is Joyce and we have a 6-year old son, Luke. I would like to thank Achen and the Church for the opportunity to offer this morning’s message. This message is a testimony I am sharing regarding a journey we have been on for over 3 years. Many of you may know that our son, Luke, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. The Church upheld “Baby Luke” in prayer from the very beginning. Last month, Luke completed his treatment. We are happy to announce that he is in remission and has been healed of leukemia. My hope is that what you may take away from this morning’s message will be that God is always here for us, His Word is always available for you in your Bible, and that you as a member of this Church have the living God in you and he acts through you! From the verse I opened with in Isaiah, we understand that we may get tired, but our God is powerful at all times. He’s a source of strength, and he is always available. So call on him to renew your strength. Our journey was definitely one that required a great deal of strength to endure, and thankfully, we have made it thus far. When I may have been weary, Joyce was stronger, and if she was weary, I had strength. When both of us were weary, Luke has strength. When all 3 of us were weary, or if any of the 3 of us were weary, you in the Church had strength to offer us, through prayer and through other means of support. Visits. Inquiry. Kind words. Acts of kindness. Meals. Play dates. Opportunities to pray together. We had friends who treated us to a comedy show. We had a friend donate all of her birthday gifts to us, so we could enjoy. We saw and felt God’s love through all of this. Let me tell you about our journey with leukemia. Leukemia is a blood cancer. It starts in bone marrow. Bone marrow is where your blood cells are made. Blood helps to find infections, carry oxygen through your body, and helps bleeding stop. Leukemia basically makes blood ineffective. In Luke’s particular leukemia, if it went untreated for 6-weeks, it could have taken his young life. In the US, every year 50K people are diagnosed with leukemia, and every year, 24K people lose their battle with leukemia. Many of these are children. Many of these affect families and their circles of friends and family. Luke was diagnosed a few weeks before his 3rd birthday. His chemotherapy and treatment schedule was 3 years & 3 months. As a toddler, he was a typical, fun-loving child. No real issues. One day, he complained of foot pain. We did not know how or where the pain came from. Also, getting accurate information from a 2-year can be challenging as you can imagine. We visited doctors, had several tests done, and ultimately, he was diagnosed. One day, our child had foot pain, and within 10-days, we had consented to initiate chemotherapy. Joyce and I are both pharmacists. We have spent a career studying and working with medicines and what they can do, good and bad. God placed in both of us the need to be Luke’s parents and not Luke’s pharmacists. God is the healer. We placed everything in his hands, and focused more on the role we have as Luke’s parents and God’s children. I know many of us have the experience of family members and friends who share their medical opinions about practically everything. As a family in Christ, we appreciated every encouraging word. At the same time, when faced with struggles, it is always good to seek God first. During Luke’s diagnosis time, he spent over 1-week in the hospital. I remember that he was so fearful of everything. We noticed that any time a hospital worker would enter the room, he would slowly pull his blanket over his hand that had the IV site. This was a 2-year old. He did not eat for 4-days. He lost nearly 20% of his weight during his hospitalization. He actually could not walk for 1 full month because of his pain. Within 6-months, his hair fell out. He battled nausea and vomiting throughout his treatment. We recall pulling over routinely on drives to Church, so he could vomit, or to soothe him. The night before he started chemotherapy, I remember walking around the hospital unit. As I talked to God, I prayed for mercy and healing for Luke. I also remember thanking him for the gift of a child 7-years into our marriage, and how much of a blessing he had been to us. I remember thanking him for the chance to love in this way. I do also remember saying that if it was His will to take Luke from us, let it be, but help us. In his journey: 1. Portacath placed (1st time taken from us) 2. Took 10K tablets 3. Had 200 needlesticks (finger, arm, chest; we waited for results) 4. 22 spinal taps (meds, CSF, we watched, left him with team) 5. 4 bone marrow aspirations 6. 5 hospital admissions 7. 12 ER visits 8. Wears ankle braces 9. Life was adjusted to medical schedule Other things that affected us as a family: 1. I decided to stay at home and not work for over 1-year; stayed with Luke 2. We constantly worried about his immunity and had to pick and choose what activities to engage in 3. How do you make a child feel that things are normal? That things will be ok? 4. How do you keep a child happy and encouraged when going through something like this? 5. Giving a lollypop to a child after a doctor visit didn’t cut it in this case I want to take some time briefly to share from the Word. We all have struggles of some kind, correct? Struggles may cause pain and hurt, but God’s Word can offer support. It is good to know that our God heals. Psalm 103: 2-5 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. It is easy to complain about life when things seem to be unfair or don’t go the way you want them to, but David shows plenty of reasons to praise God. I recall early on in our journey with Luke and leukemia how we felt sad to miss out on some many things we would typically take advantage of. At some point, though, we became focused on being thankful for the things we could do, versus thing we could not do. Being thankful for every opportunity we do have, through Christ our Lord. Don’t we have things to be thankful for? James 5: 15-16 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. This passage is so meaningful to us in that it reminds us of you, our Church Family, as well as our family and friends. This passage speaks to the faith of those who were praying versus those who were afflicted. No matter what healing is needed, no matter what struggle you face, when we all pray for one another, and with us being faithful, things can be healed, because God heals. Matthew 15: 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. This passage again applies to all of us. It calls us with a chance to take those who need healing to Jesus. Do you know anyone who has a struggle of any kind? A hurt of any kind? Even if you cannot bring that person to a place where you can pray together for healing, you can pray for that person or family to connect with Jesus. Christ heals. Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Again, this is something we can all do for each other. You have done this for us as a family. I want to make sure you know how meaningful and supportive your encouragement has been. Be cheerful, be encouraging, and be positive with each other. Did you ever come across a person, who makes you feel better just be interacting with them? Is there any one you know who places joy inside of your heart, by simply being positive and encouraging? If there are members of our Church family who have empty tanks because of a struggle they may be facing, maybe you have the power to encourage them without even knowing that you are! What are you struggling with today? 1. Lost a child 2. Lost a parent 3. Lost a sibling 4. Marriage 5. Wanting to be married 6. Peer pressure 7. Wanting peace 8. Health 9. Current job 10. Looking for a job 11. Finances 12. Studies 13. Pain 14. Fear of being old 15. Fear of being young 16. Raising children 17. Wanting children 18. Child not walking 19. Child not talking 20. Addiction 21. Abuse 22. Broken relationships 23. ??? This morning is a good morning. We have God. We have God’s promise. We have God’s Word. We have each other. Please continue to take your struggles to the Lord. Take your struggles to your Church Family. Continue to pray for each other. As Luke’s journey continues, as we will continue to go for monthly check-ups on how things are going, please keep us in prayer. May I ask one of you to please close us in prayer?

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