The Healing Adventure

It was February of 2008 when I first started to feel more tired than usual. I remember it was February because we had a mission team visiting us from Canada out at the Villa and most of the members were senior citizens. Despite the fact that I was twenty years younger than the majority of the team, I could not keep up with them. I was lagging behind in all of the physical activities (painting, gardening, hiking etc) and that was out of the ordinary for me. Something was wrong. Around the same time, I noticed that I was able to feel my liver which, as a nurse, I knew I should not be able to do. It was no longer tucked up under my ribs on the right side but rather it was palpable two inches below the rib line making its presence quite known. I was not worried by this, just frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with the work that needed to be done. I remember checking with a doctor in the States and he thought that perhaps it was just hepatitis, which is endemic to Honduras, and that if I slowed down the fatigue would eventually go away.

It didn’t.

A second team, this time from Wisconsin, came to celebrate Easter with us and during their visit at the Villa at the end of March, I ended up having to go to the hospital in Tegucigalpa because my heart was beating irregularly. They took me to the best hospital in the city because a friend of mine who is a doctor had a dear friend who worked in the ER and she volunteered to examine me for free. She told me that I really needed to get a liver biopsy, if possible, in the States. The ministry has been supported by a Korean Baptist Church in Houston and they wrote to say that they had doctors in their congregation who could help me to see a liver specialist in Houston.

So to Houston I went with Hae Young. But because I always have to get the cheapest ticket possible ( a weird missionary rule I made up), we decided to fly standby. For three days the planes were totally full so we would get all ready to go and then have to return home. During those three days, God spoke to me clearly. The first night a dear Pastor friend and his wife came to pray for me. He said he felt like the Lord wanted him to tell me that when the doctors told me what I had or made pronouncements over me, that I should rebuke them in the name of Jesus. Initially that hit me as strange because usually you go to the doctor to find out what you have. The second night another friend of mine with prophetic gifts came to pray. She is a hair stylist and she told me that her prophetic gift worked best while cutting hair so she wanted to cut my hair. While she was cutting away, she gave me this message; “You are like Moses and you will take the women and children into the Promised Land. But unlike Moses, you will actually go into the land with them.” At that point I began to weep. I hadn’t sensed any fear up until that moment but when she said I would go into the Promised Land with them, I knew that meant that I would be alive and the tears flowed out of relief. Deep down inside I think I had been sensing that I might die. The third night when I was reading my devotional, the scriptures were from Psalm 41:1-3. “ Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the LORD will help them when they are in trouble.
The LORD will protect them and preserve their lives; he will make them happy in the land; he will not abandon them to the power of their enemies.
The LORD will help them when they are sick and will restore them to health.”

When I read those verses in my devotional, I knew they were for me. He was so gracious to give me these assurances of His healing in my life even before the doctors told me anything.
I read them and sensed that it was God speaking to me and promising that He would heal me completely.

A computer screen is where I learned the news that would take me on the wildest journey of my life. After a liver biopsy in Houston on the 13th of April, I returned to Honduras to await the results of the biopsy because they said it would take two weeks for them to be ready. Four days later I was sitting in my bedroom checking e-mails when I received a note from the liver specialist. I read that I had something called Amyloidosis and opened a file that showed a biopsy of my liver. There were all kinds of black spots on the pink tissue. I looked up Amyloidosis on the internet and what I found was not encouraging. My son Noe was in the room with me, and he asked me what was wrong. I told him that they had found something in my liver, well actually a lot of little “somethings”. Despite the fact that I had just gotten this news (over the internet of all places) that I had a terminal disease, I sensed God’s peace. He had given me Psalm 41:1-3 and I knew that He would keep that promise. That night as I spoke to Him, I told Him that if we were going on this healing journey together, and if He had promised to heal me, that I wanted Him to do it in a way that would bring the most glory to His Name. I had no idea at the time what I was asking nor how He would answer that prayer.

The whole Jericho staff decided to pray and fast with me for a week to seek God’s direction for the next steps. I sent out an e-mail to friends, family, and supporters asking them to pray for a miracle because the more I read about the disease the more I knew that the only way out was through a miracle of God. My cousin and his family had already planned to come for this week to spend time helping us out at the Villa so I went out there during the first part of the week to be with them. During this time I noticed that I could barely climb up the path to the Villa without becoming very short of breath. On the last day of the fast (Friday) I got an e-mail from a friend of mine, Tim, who lives in New York City. He is a man of great means and influence and his e-mail said, “ We have an appointment with a specialist. You can stay in our apartment. Come now.” He also wrote that he and his family wanted to take care of my medical expenses and sent a generous donation to our JM account for me to use while in NYC. I was overwhelmed and just wept at God’s goodness to me through this family.

At that point things started to move quickly. We decided that Elvia would go to NYC with me and stay for a month and then Hae Young would come up the next month if necessary so that Elvia could go back to Honduras. It comforted me greatly that they both wanted to take care of me since going alone to NYC seemed very scary. Actually I had never wanted to go to NYC and going there now for medical care was not exactly what I would have planned. What I had seen of NYC made it seem like the last place on earth to go when you needed warmth and care. But of course God’s plans are always better than ours. NYC ended up being the ideal place for the healing adventure.

(This is the actual e-mail I wrote at the time)

A peace totally enveloped me….such as I have never felt before. I knew you all had to be praying. The peace was so strong that when we realized that we needed to be on a flight to Houston two hours before it was to leave.

We flew to NYC the day after receiving my friend Tim’s e-mail. Our leave-taking was quite dramatic. There was terrible fog at the airport and we got news that we had to make the 1pm flight or we might get stuck in Honduras. Rosario, my spiritual Mom, and Hae Young threw dirty clothes into a suitcase for me while I packed toiletries. I still had on the same fuchsia colored sweat pants that I had worn to bed and I wore them on the plane too! What was I thinking? We arrived at the airport with all of our children, plus Rosario and Hae Young and the children from the Villa. As we waited in the line to pass through immigration, suddenly all the staff came running towards us. They had been at a baby shower and decided to come and participate in our farewell. A rope separated us and I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know when I would see all these beautiful faces again. Elvia had read that morning about Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him . He said to his servant, “We will go up, we will worship, and WE will return.” Abraham didn’t say “I will return” because he had faith that they would return together despite the fact that God had told him to sacrifice his son. As we went through the final gate, Elvia turned and yelled to our now waving family, “We will go up, we will worship, and WE will return.” Everyone laughed and blew kisses and waved even harder.

New York was a whole new adventure. Tim had sent his driver to pick us up and as we drove into Manhattan, he asked me if I knew anything about the Hotel Carlyle. Tim’s apartment was on the 15th floor of the Carlyle Hotel but I had never heard of this famous hotel before. He explained that we could see the stars there and my mind went in the direction of an immense skylight. “No,” he said, “movie stars!” We were definitely not in Honduras anymore. One night when Elvia was on her way to buy meds at the pharmacy across the street she ran into Julia Roberts and George Clooney and a slew of paparazzi in lobby of the hotel. Elvia said she would have stopped to chat but she was on a mission for meds so she couldn’t stop. (wink)

Two days later we met with the doctor. Elvia had prayed that he would speak Spanish. His name was Dr. Ruben Niesvisky. Maybe he spoke Russian or Polish but I really doubted that he spoke Spanish. But Elvia is a woman of faith and she wanted to be able to speak to him in Spanish to understand everything that was going on. He greeted us in perfect Spanish! I was shocked! His mother was Mexican, his father was Polish and he added that he was Jewish! He asked which of us the patient was because at this point I still looked fairly normal. My size 8 clothes still fit and the whites of my eyes were only slightly yellow. He explained that he suspected that the amyloidosis was caused by multiple myeloma (a cancer of the blood) and that he would confirm that by doing a bone marrow biopsy. Then they would treat me with heavy doses of a new chemo that would hopefully wipe out the multiple myeloma which would in turn allow the liver to regenerate and recover from the amyloid proteins that were causing it to malfunction. It sounded like a good plan to me and we were all hopeful.

In the next two weeks, my body started to change more rapidly. My abdominal area thickened and I could no longer wear the same size clothes. My eyes and skin had turned a sickening shade of yellow. My strength was waning and I could no longer walk to Central Park or to restaurants close by. The chemo was taking its toll and I remember one day my sister Marty, Elvia, and my brother Rick took me to the park in a wheelchair. My brother got us lost and at one point I had to get out of the wheelchair to vomit beside a small pond. Yuck! I was not particularly distressed by these changes in my body because they had come on slowly.

The day that I became distraught about my body was when it could no longer withstand the chemo treatments and I went into crisis. I could not stop throwing up and my body was quickly becoming dehydrated. Elvia knew we needed help so she called the hospital and they sent an ambulance to the hotel. The New York paramedics came rapidly and put me onto a rolling chair and then whisked me down through the bowels of the hotel and onto the hospital. It was quite an adventure. We waited 10 hours in the emergency room while the residents tried to figure out what to do with me. They started pumping me with fluids because of the dehydration. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my liver function had become so compromised that the doctor told Elvia to prepare for my death since my body could not sustain the level of toxins that had built up from the liver malfunction. He told her I had two days maximum to live. Miraculously, my brain function was not affected. Usually when the liver enzymes are that out of whack, the toxins go to the brain and cause delusions and problems with mental function. I remember my cousin Kevin bringing Hae Young in from the airport since it was her month to come to help take care of me. Kevin at one point was with me by himself while Elvia and Hae spoke to the doctors. By God’s grace I was able to share the Gospel with my cousin who is a lovely man but at that point was not sure of his salvation. Later I reflected on how amazing that was that God gave me the grace to evangelize when I was at the edge of death. The nurses came and went frequently pushing and prodding and sticking me. Finally there was a room ready.

When I awoke the next morning I was shocked as I looked down at my body. My legs were three times the size that they had been before I arrived at the hospital. My abdomen was huge, about the size of a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. It seemed like someone had come into the room in the night and stolen my legs and glued on this pair that were not my legs. I could not move and I somehow had lost all control of my bodily functions. It felt like I had fallen down a very dark hole and I desperately wanted out. Those days were the darkest of all. I rarely cried during the whole illness, but one morning during that week I just wept when the doctors asked me a simple question. They asked, “Were you active before you came down with this illness?” The tears just flowed down my cheeks as I told them how I used to hike up and down the mountains at the Villa and ran with my children in the park. It was a pretty pathetic picture. Those doctors-in-training just stood there silently as I had a major melt down in my hospital bed. While I knew that God would heal me, and I never wavered on that, it was still hard to find myself trapped in a body that no longer worked as it had before. I remember looking out the window and seeing people on bicycles below and wondering if I would ever ride a bike again.

What got me through the valley of the shadow of death was the very subtle but very real presence of Jesus. I cannot totally describe it in words, but I sensed His gentle presence with me and I would sense His still small voice encouraging me. It felt like He was holding my hand. I would cry out to Him, especially at night, and I would sense Him tell me what to expect next and what I needed to do. He told me, “This is the worst of it all. Once you are through this, it is all uphill.” Everything He spoke to me in the darkness came true in the light of the following days, weeks, and months.

After two weeks the doctor released me from the hospital. I was so thrilled to return to the apartment that, if I could have kissed the floor, I would have. As God would have it, I still sported huge legs and a very pregnant looking abdomen so I couldn’t bend down to kiss anything. But I was out of that hospital and for that I was exceedingly grateful. The next weeks were not easy. The doctor still did not know what to do with me since what was happening in my body defied all his medical research. He decided to put me on a lighter chemo and several weeks after taking the chemo orally, he told me, “I don’t understand what is going on with you. You are taking the chemo but your blood work shows me that the chemo is not working. And yet you are getting better.” I was just about to tell him that people all over the world were praying when he responded, “I know, I know, people are praying for you!” We had been witnessing to him and I told him from the very beginning that he would see a miracle.

We stayed in Tim’s apartment for exactly three months. I took all kinds of pills but the real medicine was the healing promises that God had given me through his Word. Once I could write again, I wrote my healing verses in big letters and taped them to the walls above the couch where I slept. My sister Mindy would walk the halls with me since I could not yet walk outside and we would say the verses together. I had to choose to believe what God said over what I could see in the physical realm. When I looked down at my body, it was frightening. When I looked into the face of Jesus, I knew that He would do all that He had promised. My key verses at that time were these:

2Co 4:17-18 For our momentary light affliction is producing in us an eternal weight of glory [beyond all measure and proportion],
because we are not looking at what is seen, but what is not seen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is not seen is eternal.

Heb 10:35-36 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has a great recompense.
For you have need of endurance, so that having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.

Another version says it this way:
(Keep on being brave! It will bring you great rewards.
Learn to be patient, so that you will please God and be given what he has promised. )

The illness did not seem momentary or light at the time but I realized that God was trying to give me His perspective on the situation and was encouraging me to focus on the unseen not on the very visible deformed body that I could not escape. It helped me immensely to say 2 Cor. 4:17,18 out loud over and over. The changes in my body were slow and not extremely visible but day after day I seemed to be gaining strength. My physical therapist who came to teach me to walk again was very encouraging. She told me my progress was miraculous in her experience. Soon I was able to walk one city block which was a huge accomplishment at that time. By the end of three months in New York City I was able to walk 15 city blocks. I was ready to go home.

Exactly three months to the day of leaving for NYC, I got on a plane headed for Honduras. God spoke to me through the scriptures, through prophecy, and through a sermon. A dear friend of ours with a prophetic gift called me to tell me that she had a vision of me coming back to Honduras and all kinds of people were there with banners and they were all welcoming me home. I knew I had to take the step of faith to go off all medications and to trust Him to complete the healing and it would be in Honduras. We had come to the end of what man could do and now it was God’s turn to show off. Tim, who had lavishly provided for our financial needs was not happy with this decision. He called me every night for a week and begged me to stay and receive more Chemo. My doctor was ambivalent. He pretty much told me that I could stay and take light doses of chemo once a month or go back to Honduras if I so desired. The liver specialist encouraged me to stay in NYC. She said, “I don’t know how you are even going to travel with that huge abdomen.” But those closest to me were all in favor. God had given us the same heart and the same mind regarding this step of faith. It was time to go home.

I still had a huge amount of ascites (fluid in my abdomen from the liver malfunction) and my legs, while smaller, were still full of edema. My eyes were mustard yellow and because the liver affected my hormones, I also had a white beard. My arms and shoulders looked emaciated from the lack of nutrition. It was not exactly how I wanted to show up to see my family and friends in Honduras but I had no choice. The instant healing that I had begged God for was not to be. I had prayed for Him to get the most glory possible out of this and instant healing was not part of that. The people in Honduras needed to see the true state of things in order to experience the miracle up close and personal. So when I returned to Honduras my appearance was shocking according to my family members. Elvia cried when she saw me again (I thought out of happiness to see me but she confessed later that it was because I looked so bad!)

Somehow I was able to get on that plane for Houston, spend the night, and then board another plane for Tegucigalpa the next day. The minute I got off the plane and set foot on Honduran soil, I began to weep. Someone brought a wheelchair so that I didn’t have to exert the energy needed to stand in line. I have no idea what the immigration folks thought when they saw this weeping white woman with yellow eyes sobbing as they stamped my passport and herded me through the incoming process. I didn’t care what they thought: I was just so thrilled to be home again. I wept tears of joy and elation at finally being able to be home with those I loved most in life. Elvia wheeled me out of the baggage area where the entire Jericho family was waiting for me. Elvia had prepped them and warned them sternly that no one was to cry when they laid eyes on me. No one obeyed. I went from person to person and we cried into each other’s necks. It was one big messy bittersweet moment.

The days that followed were not easy. I had to remind myself over and over again “that what I needed now was patient endurance”. I couldn’t sleep at night and my skin itched horribly ( I couldn’t even wear undergarments) but I did notice that my appetite was back and my big belly was becoming smaller on a daily basis. Little by little I began to take on more projects that would keep me busy during the day (card making, organizing, cleaning etc). Six months later I was able to finally sleep again and the itching stopped completely the day I returned to NYC to witness to the doctor which was a good thing since I needed to be able to wear underwear! One year after this healing adventure had begun, I was able to go back to work fulltime. I was still not totally symptom free but I was able to walk by faith and work, knowing that God would complete His promises to me.

From the very beginning God made it very clear to me (through scripture, His still small voice, and prophesy) that He was going to heal me. I never doubted that, ever. So even when the doctor told Elvia that I was going to die, I was not frightened. I knew I was going to live. What I did struggle with was, when? I had pictured in my mind that I would get really sick and then God would do an instant Benny Hinn healing. God’s plans were different. Later on I realized the perfection of His plans and the reason for the lengthy healing process. More people saw the miracle that way.

I did have terrible pain in my back so I could not sit for more than 10 minutes at a time. Because my liver was involved I could not take normal analgesics and the medicine the doctor gave me for pain caused me to have hallucinations so I pretty much had to just endure the pain since I couldn’t take anything for it. During those days I read a book about a missionary who had suffered terrible pain because he had been taken captive by guerillas in Colombia and they had rolled heavy logs over his body which crushed him but did not kill him. That helped me to think about how much more he had suffered and how God had sustained him and he made it through by the grace of God.

We saw our time in that NYC apartment as Spiritual Intensive Care. I could not sleep most nights so as soon as the sun would come up, I would wake Elvia since she was the caretaker who didn’t mind being awakened no matter what the time. She would help me get out of bed and then would walk with me in the halls of the hotel. Then we would read the healing promises that God had given and pray together. Then Hae Young would give me my dozens of pills and would bring me mini wheat cereal with raspberries and I would try to sit up for more than ten minutes to eat it but I would usually fail. It was just too painful to sit up. After breakfast I would shower and usually either Hae Young or Elvia would help me with hygiene because I was so unsteady on my feet. I could not reach my toes so I would do as much as I could and then they would dry my toes for me and help me put on my clothes. At first I could not even go to the bathroom on my own but each day in small ways I would be able to do more things for myself. Then I would listen to Joyce Meyer with my sister Marty or she would read to me from Joyce’s books. Then Hae Young and Marty would make me something salt free for lunch which they had purchased ingredients for in Korean town or Whole Foods. In the afternoon I would walk again, either in the halls of the hotel or my sister Mindy would roll me to Central Park in the wheelchair and I would walk once around the pond where ducks and toy boats competed for my attention. At some point in the day I would read cards and e-mails that people around the world would send to encourage me. That was a major highlight of the day. Dinner was more of the same…..someone would go to great effort to cook something creatively salt free for me and then I would not have the energy or the desire to eat it. In the evenings we would sometimes watch movies but I couldn’t watch anything that didn’t somehow have something to do with Jesus. I just couldn’t. I would then write in my journal about the things God was teaching me. Then Hae Young or Elvia would rub my feet and then it was time for my most favorite thing……we would praise and pray together for an hour and a half. Praying for others really helped me to focus on something other than my body and what was going on with it. Then Hae and Elvia would anoint me with oil and we would read the healing promises again. Then when everyone else was asleep and I couldn’t sleep, I would read my verses over and over until I would finally fall asleep….or not.

In December of 2008, just six months after I returned from NYC to Honduras, I was able to board a plane and return to witness about the miracle God had done. There was something amazing in returning to the very place where death had threatened us in a way that we had never experienced before. Our Papa had taken us to the Red Sea and then He parted the waters. New York City was our Red Sea, our Mount Moriah….the place where it seemed the ultimate sacrifice was required. And then God held back the hand holding the knife and life returned, but it wasn’t the same life. It was a richer one full of the assurance that God can do the Impossible.
That first night back in the NYC apartment, Tim knocked on the door and when he saw me he his eyes lit up and it seemed like he would even jump for joy. He knew he was seeing a miracle before his very eyes. He kissed me on the forehead and excitedly hugged Elvia and me. When we went to see Dr. Niesvisky the next day, we decided to send Elvia in first and then I would pop out from behind when he asked about me. It all went exactly as we had imagined. He greeted Elvia cordially and then he asked about me and when I came popping out from behind a wall, his mouth dropped open. “Oh my,” he said. “This is definitely a lesson for medical science.” I reminded him that I had told him early on that he was going to see a miracle. He told me then that he believed in God but that he believed that all roads lead to God. And then he said, “Don’t you?” which just opened the door to be able to witness to him about Jesus being the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Elvia then shared the Gospel with him in Spanish and she then said, “What you really need is a radical change through Jesus Christ.” At that point I gave him a devotional book called “Our Daily Bread” and when he took it from me, he seemed perplexed about how to use it. I explained that there was a scripture for each day and an explanation for the scripture reading. He took the gift and he opened it to the date of his Birthday. He read out loud what the title of that day said– “What you need is a radical change through Jesus Christ”. At that point, all of our mouths dropped open in surprise. Only God could have orchestrated something like that. Before we left, we took photos together and I reminded him that God knew He was going to heal me and He could have sent me to anyone, but in His wisdom, He had chosen him to give him an eternal hope for himself and for his patients. He did not accept Christ that day, but God definitely was revealing Himself to this precious doctor.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about some aspect of this miracle God did in my life and in all of our lives. Every day is a precious gift and I am so thankful to be alive and well, especially for my children. But the truth is, with Jesus, either way we win. If we die, we die and get to be with Him forever. If we live, are days are spent serving Him and getting to know Him better. One of the ways I knew that I was completely healed was when God brought little Emma Isabella into my life. Noe and I named her because together her name means “the full promise of God”. She is a wild one, this little Emma Isabella and I know God would not have given her to me if I wasn’t able to keep up with her. My deepest prayer with this miracle continues to be…..Lord let Your Name be glorified!