Monday, June 24, 2013

My Testimony

Yesterday, June 23, 2013, I had the opportunity to share my testimony with my church, the Greencastle Baptist Church. It may be a bit long, but perhaps it will minister to some of you. Everything went well yesterday. I intended to play the Gaither Vocal Band's song, "Come to Jesus," but there were some technical glitches that kept it from playing. Anyhow, you can read  my testimony and better understand what I've been experiencing since March. Comments, as always, are welcomed. Please share your thoughts.
Good Morning Church,
I have grown up in a God-fearing, God loving home. The Bible has been a source of many conversations with my parents, my grandmothers, and a number of other relatives. For the longest time I had considered Antrim Brethren in Christ Church my home church. It was here that I began my faith journey. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to more fully understand what it was that Christ did for me upon that cross.  Around 2008 the leaders of the church began to fight among themselves; this resulted in a congregational split. After Antrim began to unravel we moved to Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, and considered this home for roughly three years. This was a charismatic congregation, and it was led by Pastor Dave Hess. This was in a way a “foreign” setting. The worship style was very different from anything I had experienced at Antrim. We often sang hymns and contemporary songs at Antrim, with a few people raising an arm or two to offer worship to God.  Christ Community also played contemporary songs, but members of this church worshipped in a variety of ways. Some people remained in the pews, hands in pockets, others were down front near the raised pulpit with heads bowed to the floor, or dancing, or waving flags. To be honest I was taken aback by what I saw, unlike anything I had witnessed before in a church sanctuary. I eventually came to appreciate the variety of worship styles; you could feel a sense of freedom in that place; you could worship God as you wanted, and the people who were down front were performing for an audience of one. Everything they did was to bring honor and glory to the Father. They did not seek my approval, nor did they need it. They sought to worship God, and that was the focus of everything they said or did. There is a spirit of freedom in this house too. There is not a religious or judgmental spirit here, but a warmth and friendliness that is sometimes difficult to find in congregations. There is a desire to reach out into the community and leave a lasting impression, to advance the Kingdom of God into familiar territory.   So, prior to my ordeal I knew God, believed in His Son, and had received His Holy Spirit.
 I awoke on the morning of March 7, prepared to begin my day like any other day. Within a few hours I would be starting my shift behind the counter at Kline’s Grocery located in Shady Grove However; my morning routine came to a screeching halt as I attempted to venture out of bed. My first step out of bed landed me on the floor. I had collapsed, and I had no clue why. It was not until I was lying on the floor that I realized my left arm and leg felt numb. In that moment I knew something was wrong, this was not just some bad dream, but a nightmare of sorts come to life. Somehow I had managed to clutch my cell-phone in my right-hand before I fell. I managed to call my dad through the business line. I thought there was a pretty good chance that he was just on the other side of the building. You see, my apartment sits on the second floor, just above the funeral home and what was my mom’s old hair salon. Even if he wasn’t in the building I knew he would pick-up a phone ringing for the business. It is a small wonder that my call even went through; looking back at my phone log the number I had punched in was 59-2828, I forgot the 7, but still the call went through. I placed the call around 7:30am, and fortunately my dad was in the building. Within a few minutes he was standing over me. I was trying to explain to him what I was feeling, and my description told him that something seriously wrong had taken place. He tried to set-me-upright, but every attempt failed. I remember trying to sit-up only to slump over onto the floor; I was a rag doll, my left was simply powerless to help me and I had no sense of balance. This is roughly my last memory from the day. I stayed awake long enough to say a few words to my mom, who came to my apartment as soon as my dad notified her of my predicament. I lost consciousness at some point, and had a seizure while lying on the floor.  I have no recollection of the chief of police coming into my room He was the first respondent to the scene, Chief   Phillippy was the first to examine me, but certainly not the last. My dad had not only called my mom, but also 911. The paramedics were not sure what was wrong with me, but they told my parents that I would be flown somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be Hershey Medical Center. By 10am I was in the operating room having an emergency craniotomy performed on me. The surgeon deemed it necessary to relieve the pressure on my brain, and the only way to do that was by removing the bone flap, so a small piece of my skull was removed and placed in a freezer unit at the Medical Center to be reattached at a later date ( that turned out be Monday, June 10th). I spent one week at the Medical Center, and that week is fuzzy at best in my recollection. My mom took a couple of photographs of me while I was lying in bed at the Medical Center. (Photographs) You can see me here, breathing with the assistance of a ventilator. I am perfectly content with not remembering any of this. The first time I saw these pictures I cried; I had no idea I was in that bad of shape. I was seeing myself  as others saw me on March 7, and it is no wonder after looking at these photos  that the paramedics were unsure as to whether I would survive the flight or not. It is frightening to think that death was that close to claiming me. The day began as a typical Thursday, but somehow within the span of less than three hours I was fighting for my life. After my week at the Medical Center I spent an additional six weeks at the Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital It was here that I began to work on regaining strength and motion in my arm and leg. Initially I was enrolled in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. After a couple of weeks I was discharged from speech therapy. Thankfully, my speech and memory had not been affected by the stroke. My physical therapist was able to join us today. Her name is Hillary. During my stay at the Rehabilitation Hospital took time to think about my circumstances. I wrote this while lying in my bed at the hospital “Will I ever know the reasons behind this event, why I had this stroke. Perhaps, one day I will know, maybe not until I have passed through the pearly gates. What will I do? Patiently wait for my arm and leg to recover, and for my brain to heal. I can still give God glory in this moment, granted it isn’t easy while I’m in this condition, but He remains God, He is still worthy of praise because He never changes. He is who He was before my stroke, and He remains the same. I will count my blessings one by one, and now I see that they number far beyond what I possibly could have imagined. I will enjoy life and count even the smallest things as blessings from above. I am rich, wealthy beyond  measure, and so many of us are in the same place, we just don’t see it until something opens our eyes and reveals to us how fortunate we are. A handshake, taking a step, walking upright, all things taken for granted until one day you can no longer do those things. Help me Father to see in the midst of this storm and offer you thanksgiving. Help me take delight in Your presence and glorify your name from where I am at today. Let me be a witness, light and salt in this hospital. Let me raise Your name far above all else, including my own. Work through me Father.
I certainly felt overwhelmed at times I had difficulty imagining myself sitting upright, standing, walking or driving because I spent the majority of my time either lying in bed or sitting in a wheelchair. Mobility seemed like a far off dream, but as you can see I have made quite a bit of progress since my days at the Rehab Hospital. I can stand; I can walk with the assistance of a cane. I am improving every week, and working diligently in my therapy sessions at Chambersburg Hospital. What was affected by the stroke, namely my left arm and leg can be regained through therapy, and I’m still expected to make a full recovery.
It was also at the Rehab Hospital that I had to come to grips with the unsettling truth – that this stroke could have claimed my life. I was reminded of this point again a few months later when we sat down with one of my surgeon’s associates. He had told me that the EMT’s who had escorted me to Hershey were unsure if I would survive our trip. They prayed with me during the entire flight. Through their prayers, the prayers of this church, of this community, and from people across the nation, God preserved my life. My time had not yet come. I still have work to do in this life, in this world. A verse that I have held dear since college remains just as true today. Proverbs 16:9(NLT) states that “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Having a stroke was certainly not in the plans I had made for myself, but God led me through this ordeal, guiding my every step. He is faithful to His promises. Now He is in the process of restoring my body, and a full recovery seems very likely.
Satan manifest himself in darkness, and he was present at the Hershey rehab Hospital. He attempted to flood my mind with fears and doubts that I might never regain a sense of “normalcy.” He tried to whip me into a crazed frenzy. He wanted me to rail against God, to curse His name because this was somehow His fault. How could God allow this to happen? Where was God when I was lying helplessly on my bedroom floor, unable to move? The answer is: He was right there with me acting as my shield, my protector. He was entirely aware of what was going on in my life, and He intervened that day sparing me from a premature death. I felt entirely unprepared for this trial, something that resembled a mountain which sprung up directly in my path. Yet, God was there, instructing me on how to successfully climb that mountain. I am hiking down the other side, and my future looks just as bright as it did before March 7th. I am recovering, slowly but surely and I believe this is due in large part to the many prayers offered on my behalf. So, I want to thank this body of believers for the prayers you said for me, and the many well-wishes. When I doubted, you were there standing by faith, believing that I would recover and regain what the stroke had taken from me. Those prayers also sustained the hope within me, and brightened my day. . I could expect healing to take place.  The stroke is merely an interruption. I will resume my normal activities before too long. I have already completed my graduate course, something I was in the middle of taking when all of this broke loose. I am already enrolled in a class for the Fall semester at Shippensburg University, so I will continue to work towards my Master’s degree in Applied History. Satan failed in his attempts to paralyze me with fear, and to persuade me into hailing curses against God. I now have a platform to give God the glory. By sharing my story I am giving Him praise and allowing others to see how God has worked in my life. In the recent weeks some people have commented on my smile: Pastor Don, his father-in-law, Steve, and Darren have referenced my smile at one time or another A number of physicians and nurses have asked me over the course of the last couple of  months whether I have always been this “happy,” this“ agreeable,”, or this “laid-back.” My answer to them has always been yes. The stroke did not alter my personality in any way. I think I surprise people by what my physical body can do so soon after suffering a stroke, and by the positive attitude that I possess. God has supplied me with a peace that surpasses all understanding. I remain thankful to God for what Jesus did for me on the cross. I am simply thankful to be alive. My positive attitude is also due in part to the music that I listen to. I am a fan of Christian Contemporary music, and a huge fan of Southern Gospel music. Is anyone else a fan of Southern Gospel?  One of my favorite groups from this latter field is the Gaither Vocal Band( which for the longest time was a traditional quartet, but in 2009 it became a quintet. In a minute or two you will hear the Vocal Band perform a song from their newest album. The song is entitled, “Come to Jesus and it feature the group’s first-tenor, David Phelps, one of my favorite artists. ” I listened to this song while at Hershey Rehab, and actually listened to it before going in to my second surgery. The words stayed with me throughout that Monday, especially the line that reads, “Worry not my sons.” I entered the operating room on June 10th, entirely at ease. God had brought me through so much I knew that nothing wrong was going to play itself out while I was on the operating table. I also had confidence in my surgeon and his team, and as you can see I made it through the operation without any complications. God is good, and He is doing a good and mighty work within me. He is healing me, restoring me, If anyone asks you,” Does God still answer prayers,” you can say “Yes.” “If anyone asks you,” Does God still heal?” you can say “Yes, I know a young man who was brought back from the brink of death, and is being wholly restored: mind, body and soul. “ I intend to proclaim His name and to give Him glory for the series of miracles He has performed in my life over such a short period of time. This is my story. Thank you for listening.                     

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