Sunday, March 18, 2007

building bridges

Two weeks ago, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. I'd gone to the doctor because of a relentless pain in my jaw and found out that a sinister virus was slowly attacking my liver.
I was shocked, to say the least.
The doctor wasn't. "Many people go for 30 years or more without experiencing any symptoms," he told me. "But your liver enzymes are elevated, you have the Hep C antibody in your blood--and the poor choices you made in the past put you at risk." (see my blog "How Jesus Found Me")
"What's the prognosis?" I asked weakly.
"We need to run another blood test to determine what type of Hep C virus you have and how much of it is in your system," he answered, peering at me over the top of his bifocals. "Then we'll decide what kind of treatment you'll need."
The whole thing seemed so preposterous that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! Hepatitis C, for crying out loud! I stopped by the lab for another blood test, then headed for home.
And started my research on the InterNet . . .
For the next few days, I read everything I could on the subject of Hep C. I called my daughters and told them the news--and encouraged them to get tested. Hep C is a blood-borne virus, usually transmitted by sharing needles or blood transfusions. It can be spread, however, by sharing razors (which the girls and I have always done) and toothbrushes. They responded with varying degrees of alarm and promised to pray for me.
Greg's reaction to the news was to fervently pray for my healing.
"Lord, let this second test come back negative," he asked every morning and evening. "Please heal my wife."

A friend of mine, who'd heard about my "health issue" sent me an encouraging email:

"This changes nothing," he wrote. "You are the same person you were last week. But this also changes everything. Your testimony is not over. Instead it is getting better. I sense in particular you're going to discover a whole new world of ministry to Hep C folks."

Whoa! When you look at things in the light of God's higher purposes, confusion, self-pity and fear just kind of evaporate. And I'd noticed during my research that the people group I work the most closely with--Native Alaskans/Americans--have a high incidence of Hepatits C. Mere coincidence? Was the Lord opening the doors to a whole new ministry for me?
Oddly enough, Hep C began to feel more like a divine opportunity than a cursed disease.

Four days ago, while on my beach retreat, I got the results of my second blood test.
"There's no sign of the virus in your blood," a cheerful nurse informed me. "It appears that the first test was a false positive. But we'd like to run one more test--just to make sure."

I shared the good news with my family and when I got back to Portland, went and gave up another vial of my blood (I may not be infected with Hepatitis C, but I'm pretty sure I'm anemic from all the blood I've given). While I was delighted to learn that my liver was not in any mortal danger, I was a little disappointed that my Hep C ministry was over before it ever started.
But the Lord had a little surprise in store for me . ..

Today I gave my Native American friend, Ted, a ride to church. For some reason, I found myself sharing the saga of the past two weeks with him--complete with my testimony.
Ted was silent for a few moments, then said quietly,
"I have Hepatitis C. I probably got it from using needles too."
We didn't talk much for the remainder of the drive, but I distinctly heard some walls crumbling between us. I was no longer an intimidating, white-skinned pastor's wife and Ted ceased to be a recovering, once-homeless Native American man. We were simply two sinners, saved by grace, trying to live our lives for His glory.

How amazing is that? The Lord used a disease that I don't even have to build a bridge between two very different people and cultures. I don't even try to figure Him out anymore--I just buckle up and hold on tight.
Following Jesus can be a wild ride!


two bird lindsay said...

aw, I like this story mom!

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