Sunday, December 7, 2014

Adversity and cancer: "Turning disappointment into witness"

Adversity comes in many ways.

     To Ron, it came in the form of a rare form of cancer that affected the muscles in his neck and throat. He was only 28 when he received the diagnosis from the physician in Texas. "If I operate, I may or may not get it all. If I do get it all, you'll never again be able to break in wild horses - you'll have to stop that all together."

     Ron was devastated. He enjoyed his part time job as a cowboy and half time job as a pastor of a small, rural church. Kneeling down at his bed he cried to the Lord, "Oh God! if you can, please let me live a little bit longer, enough time to let my wife at least get both our boys into school, so she can work. After that, you can take me."

     When he came to our home in Istanbul, (he visited more than once), he told how he was going with my friend, David to villages where no Christians had ever visited. More than 20,000 villages dot the Turkish landscape, from north to south and east to west. He overflows with joy and courage.

     "I sit down in the center area, ready to stay for a day, if need be. Men gather around, curious who has come to their town. They ask, 'Why did you come to our village?' they ask, and I say, 'I'm here because I was cured of cancer. I'm 68 years old and 40 years ago, a surgeon told me I had less than two years to live. Would you like to hear my story?' And let me tell you what happened in that village."

     Cathie and I found his witness powerful, courageous and captivating. He had been able to do the impossible, keeping taming wild horses, tending to the flock in his church and now, going to villages in a predominately Muslim country (99.9% is "predominate), sharing his faith in a vibrant way.

     Pain - lots of it came when almost certainly faced death many years ago, yet he turned those painful days into praise and ... now into one of the most creative forms of witness I've seen.

     "What was the response?" I asked, as the supper dishes remained on the table, more than an hour after we finished the meal.

     "In that village, more than 40 men asked for a copy of our Holy Book. It was amazing. And then, we went to another village, the next day. Do you want to hear what happened there?"

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