The Heart of God

            When I tell people I work in organ transplant, I can tell that their mind is often racing with many different images and ideas. From Meredith Grey dropping a kidney on Grey’s Anatomy (and then proceeding to transplant it into someone…) to myths about celebrities paying to move to the top of the list, the misconceptions about the organ donation world live on. For me, though, organ transplantation brings up many other images and ideas. It’s the look of grief mixed with hope on a young mom’s face as she signs yes on the dotted line, agreeing to donate her child’s organs. It’s the ringing of the phone in the middle of the night (sometimes all night…), signaling an organ offer for someone on the waitlist. It’s the sound of the helicopter taking off with my transplant team in it, on their way to bring back someone precious second chance. It’s the scream of joy from a patient when my team calls to tell them we FINALLY have an organ for them. Through it all, through the joy and heartbreak that intermingle in this job, I have seen Gods plan at work and been able to witness firsthand how while every prayer is not always answered, He never stops working.

            I started working as an organ transplant coordinator in 2005 after working as a critical care nurse prior to that. I can still remember my first day of training as a transplant coordinator. I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t know a ton about organ transplant. I knew that patients had to be declared brain dead first and then families had to consent for organ donation. Beyond that, I was utterly clueless. I quickly learned on the job and became immersed in the world of donation and transplant. I learned how to approach families and ask for consent for organ donation which is, perhaps, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I learned how to maintain an organ donor’s heartbeat and keep their organs oxygenated and how to place organs with potential recipients. And perhaps the most important thing I learned was how to pray and let God use me to do His will.  

            I grew up attending church and prayer was a part of my daily life. I prayed, read my Bible, attended church and church camps. Yet, I had never actually heard God speak to me. I felt that a lot of the choice I made were the result of events I had experienced and didn’t necessarily see God as the one orchestrating those choices. As a nurse and transplant coordinator, I continued to pray but most of my prayers were me asking God for what I wanted. I would pray that I would be given the right words to say to a grieving family and that I wouldn’t make a mistake when caring for a patient. And even though I was able to work with countless organ donors and their families and place many organs for transplant, I hadn’t really felt God’s hand directly in my career and my life until He one day showed up in such a clear way.

            The phone rang late one night and when I answered, it was the administrator on call at the organ procurement organization I worked for. I was on call the next day and a family had just signed consent for organ donation at a hospital in Southern California. I was told the donor was a young teenager that had suffered severe head trauma after a car accident. I went to sleep knowing the next 24 hours would be busy and stressful. I drove close to two hours the next morning to the hospital the organ donor was at. The donor’s family was at the bedside and I was immediately struck by how calm and peaceful his mother was. She was very honest with me and told me that while she knew God hadn’t answered her prayers of saving her son, his death was going to be the answer to so many other prayers out there. She went on to say that she didn’t want his death to be in vain and she wanted his life to have meaning and she felt that organ donation was giving them this chance to make his memory live on in a tangible way. She smiled and said she knew that I was sent to help this happen, hugged me and continued her vigil by her son’s bedside.

            I spent the next few hours coordinating the care of my patient. I adjusted his medications, analyzed lab results and attempted to keep his organs functioning and perfusing so they could be transplanted into someone else. By mid-afternoon, I was ready to begin placing his organs. As I printed out the list of potential recipients for each organ, I knew how many lives were about to be changed by the calls I would make. Within a few hours I had transplant centers interested in every organ available for transplant, except his heart. Due to my patient’s rare blood type and large body build, the list was short, and I had exhausted it. I spoke with my supervisor who recommended we move forward with setting an OR time for recovery of the organs we had placed as it was often difficult to get into this OR. I went into the room to update the family. I let them know that we would most likely be going to the operating room before the morning and that his lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas had been placed for transplant. His mom asked about his heart and I repeated what I had told my supervisor and said that I was unable to place it. His mom looked right at me and said, “That’s not actually right. I’ve been praying without ceasing since the first phone call about his car accident. I first prayed for him to be spared and for God to save him. Then I prayed for me to be able to get through this. And now, I’m praying for those out there that his organs are going to save. And I know without a doubt that someone out there needs his heart. I know it. And I know I’m going to hear his heart beating again, in someone else’s chest. I’m sorry but your work here isn’t done. You need to go find that person because there is someone out there waiting for his heart.” She then turned away and began praying.

            I walked out of the room stunned and frustrated. I had spent all day making phone calls. I had exhausted the list and I now had other transplant teams waiting to go to the operating room. I had already spoke with the OR at the hospital and had an OR time booked with teams starting to prep. I had literally no idea what to do. I called my supervisor to tell her they might need to send a family coordinator out to the hospital to talk to the mom as she seemed to have some unrealistic expectations. I walked to the cafeteria to get a Diet Coke and as I did, I prayed. I prayed that God would help me reach this mom. I prayed that if there was someone out there waiting for this heart, God would find a way to let me know. I prayed that I would know the right words to say to the mom when I walked back into the room to tell her that I had not placed his heart. Because as much as I was praying, I was praying for what I thought would happen. My prayer wasn’t really a prayer as much as it was a request to God to do what I wanted Him to do. I didn’t believe that God was actually going to change the outcome of the case; after all, I had already done the job I had been sent to do.

            I walked back into the unit more relaxed and caffeinated. I sat down to look at the heart list one more time. Right then, the phone rang. It was the coordinator at one of the local transplant centers. She quickly asked me if we had been able to place my donors’ heart. I explained that due to the short heart list and his size, we had not. She said they had a patient that had been referred to them for a potential heart transplant. He was still in the workup phase but had just been brought in by ambulance and was in complete heart failure. His blood type matched my donor and he was a big guy, one that could definitely fit this heart. She asked if they could quickly list their patient as a Status 1, meaning he moved to the top of the list, and if we could re-run the list. I had to work with my supervisor and UNOS (United Network of Organ Sharing) to make sure the proper protocol was followed. Less than 1 hour later, the patient was listed, our list was re-ran and the transplant center had accepted my patient’s heart. I walked back into his room to tell his family. His mom turned, looked at me and before I could say a word said “It’s placed. I know. I know. I knew all along. This is what was meant to happen.” We hugged, both of us in tears at this point.  A few short hours later, I wheeled him into the operating room. On the other side of the big metal door were all the transplant teams, anxiously waiting to recover his organs. I waited while his mom and dad said goodbye and walked through those doors.

            When I left the hospital after the recovery was complete, I felt completely different. It had been a mere 24 hours since I had entered yet I had witnessed something so amazing. I’ve always known that there were miracles that occur in organ transplant. How else can one person’s death be that which saves someone else? Yet, I had never played such an integral part in it. I saw firsthand how God used me to complete His work. I learned to give my job over to Him, to stop praying for the outcome I wanted to happen and to let my actions be directed by His will.

            Less than 1 year after this, I walked into a small room at the office of the organization I worked for. Inside the office was my patient’s mom. We hugged and talked and then a man walked in. I watched while the two of the hugged and cried. I handed over my stethoscope and helped my patient’s mom listen to her son’s heartbeat once more as it beat strongly in this man’s chest.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve witnessed and the culmination of my career in transplant. It was on that day that I dedicated myself to continuing to work in this field and to letting God use me to do His work. I’ve now worked in transplant for over a dozen years. It hasn’t all been roses. There are times where I’m exhausted and frustrated by the work I’m doing and wish that I had a job with more normal hours where my phone didn’t ring 24/7. But then I remember that what I’m doing is so much more than a job. I’m letting God use me to help others. So, I take a deep breath, answer the phone again and remember to pray that God’s will, not mine, is done with each case I work on.

-Megan Bell #RLLA

Hearing From God

This is an amazing story of someone who heard directly from God in a miraculous way in church recently.

I certainly am not one who likes to admit that, in my own callousness and cynicism, that supernatural ways God chooses to work, are fine for others, but not for me. I probably think this much more than I care to admit. I am not completely comfortable with the topic, and in some respects, I guess it comes down to not being completely comfortable in all that my faith entails. I think I sometimes want my faith on "my terms," not God's, and that puts me in uncomfortable spiritual places at times. Thus, this is out of character for me to have this type of experience, but it's one I most definitely cannot deny. I suppose what is even more interesting about it, was that my wife can back-up the story, because she was there and walked through it with me. 

I find myself in a place I've never been before - out of a job. Without going into great detail for the sake of this blog, I was a school administrator, and I have been seeking other opportunities, and nothing has worked out thus far. I've come close a couple of times, but nothing has happened yet. Many say, "Oh, you'll find something," "It's out there," so on and so forth. I want to believe them. However, what I do know is "out there" are bills to pay in August with no real means to do so. And while others have been traveling and posting their adventures on various social media outlets, I have been spending the summer filling out applications and applying for jobs. It's just been "glorious." Of course, it's not like I'm bitter or anything ;) So yes, I've spent countless nights staring at the ceiling wondering what in the world am I going to do? And why God isn't rescuing me from this? Then a week ago Sunday happened....

And let me just start by saying I still don't have a job. So, it's not like God answered that prayer on Sunday. However, He did something else I never would have expected.

When I was walking into church (late as usual), the worship band was just finishing up and Jim was about to start his sermon. I received a text message from a guy named Mike, my best friend of 30 years who goes to church in Whittier (WAC). He had sent me a link to a song (which was odd because I don't recall this happening before), and he had texted some things with it, but I obviously wasn't going to open up the link or read what he wrote because i had just walked into service. So I didn't even open it up, and instead opened my phone Bible to Mark 1. As many of you know, at the end of the sermon, Jim asked if anyone needed prayer for healing? A lady right next to my wife, Jacquie, raised her hand and said, "yes." So when we started to pray, I felt compelled to get up out of my seat and go lay hands on her. So, Jacquie and I both prayed for her. I know at this point you are probably thinking that she was healed of her ailment, etc. Actually, I have no idea. She came up after the service, introduced herself, and thanked me for praying. Off she went. What you don't know is what I said to God, when I felt compelled to get up out of my seat. I said to Him (not out loud-but in my head), "I'm the one that needs a miracle. I'm the one that needs something supernatural. Why am I praying for her?" I know....completely selfish. Welcome to my life.

So, we finished praying and Vanessa and the worship team came back up on stage. Now, I have to admit something. Vanessa, you are one of the most talented worship leaders I've ever had the pleasure to hear. I completely appreciate the God-given gifts He has given you, and why you don't have a professional record deal, I have no idea! (or maybe you do, I just don't know about it). Yet, I'm not someone who likes to sing at church. I will at times, but I mostly just like to listen and read the words. It's just how I'm wired. I really can't explain it other than that. And, in addition, worship usually doesn't resonate with me. It certainly does for everyone else in my family, but not me. Hearing someone talk about God's Word tends to be my gravitational pull. I say all of that as context for what happens from here....

One of the closing songs had lyrics that hit me square in the heart, but not in a normal way, more like a “supernatural way”. The congregation started singing and in some very strange way, I felt like God was talking straight to me, as if NO ONE else was in the room. I couldn't hear Vanessa, or anyone. All I saw were these lyrics and it all of the sudden became this overwhelming feeling, like God was reaching into my soul. 

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I'm still in Your hands

This is my confidence

You've never failed me yet

I've seen You move. You move the mountains

And I believe I'll see You do it again

You made a way, when there was no way

And I believe I'll see you do it again

Well, at this point, tears are streaming down my face (just like they are as I write this now). Please understand, I don't cry at church. I mean, I have, but I certainly don't make a habit of it. And at this point I'm kind of wondering what's wrong with me, because this song is speaking to me in a way I have never experienced before.  Well, this would be a nice story if this is where it ended. However, God realizes just how stubborn and thick headed I am. So here is where it gets interesting. I was so moved by the song, that as soon as it was over, I took the notes section of my phone out, and typed out the part of the chorus that I wanted to remember. I had no idea ( I do now of course) the name of the song, or who sang it. I just know it moved me deeply, and I didn't want to forget the words. Yet, please note, at this point I still was not putting two and two together with what I had said to God when He wanted me to get out of my seat and go pray for someone else, and the event that just took place.

Service ended. I put away some chairs, the lady (later was told her name was Doris) introduced herself to Jacquie and I, and thanked us for praying, and we left, and she left. Then, we walked out to our car. I turn the car on in the parking lot, and of course it's really hot. So I crank the air and the radio is already on. Jacquie likes to listen to KLOVE. (I would rather listen to classic rock, but what are you gonna do?) Well, all I can think about is how hot the car is, and that I don't want to go grocery shopping or go to Kohls...please no Kohls! Then Jacquie recognizes the song that's playing...of course, it's the same song that has just resonated with me 15 minutes earlier. I then tell Jacquie about my experience, and I show her my phone and the lyrics I wrote down. At this point she thinks it's amazing and awesome. Myself? Nice coincidence at best. I mean, really cool, but it's a popular Christian song I am imagining. What happens next is when I start paying attention.

Then I remember that I had received a text message from my best friend Mike. I wanted to at least read what he wrote before I started driving. So I did, and he said the following, 

"Our worship service ended with this song and communion today. Made me think of you and your job hunt situation. I highly encourage you put it on a loop or playlist. Love you Brother!" 

And then underneath it was the link. Embedded in the link were the words, "do-it-again." I just saw those words in the lyrics I wrote down, the same lyrics that are playing on the radio! My friend Mike had sent the same song to me  before service started, certainly long before I heard Vanessa and the worship team sing it! Jacquie looks at the text from Mike and we both look at each other, and hear it on the radio, and at that moment I remember what I said to God. "I'm the one that needs a miracle. I'm the one that needs something supernatural." Well, it gets even better. At that point I text Jim (at Kohls-because I just couldn't think of anything else to do there) and asked for both his and Vanessa’s email to share with both of them what had happened. What I did not know, even at that time, was what my friend Mike would tell me later on Sunday night when I called to share with him my experience at church. I asked him why he sent it to me? I was curious. I don't have our conversation recorded, but I will tell you, to the best of my memory, what he said to me. 

"I heard the song play, and I was listening to the words, and I just started crying, tears rolling down my face, and it wasn't for me, it was for you. I just kept thinking, 'Tim needs to hear this, I have to share it with Tim'".  Then he said something to me that I will not soon forget. He said, "God was telling me as the song was playing, 'tell Tim he doesn't need a job, he needs me. He is seeking a job, but he needs to seek me. I see him. I see him."

Well, at this point on the phone we are both in tears, especially when he heard about my morning. And then, if there hasn't been enough, comes the clincher. I tell my wife what Mike said on the phone and she says, "I've been praying exactly those same words for you for weeks now." I'm just blown away at what God did for me on Sunday. He answered my prayer. I told him I needed a miracle, and He gave it to me. I needed His supernatural intervention, and He met me right where I was at. Nope, I still don't have a job. Not yet. But He sees me, and I am to seek Him, not a job. Yes, I will do diligence and apply and interview. However, God made it quite clear who is in charge, and it’s not me.

Vanessa, thanks for choosing that song....Thanks for letting God use you in a supernatural way. I guess you never know. And Jim, thanks for asking me to pray for someone else. Because in doing so, I'm the one that received the supernatural. Go figure. Isn't that just like God?

-Tim Relph

#RLLA

 

A further note: a week later a woman emailed Pastor Miller and said she had experienced significant relief from back pain after she was prayed for at church on that same Sunday.  She said she needed less pain medication all week.  Then she said, "I didn't catch the last name of the people who prayed for me, but their first names were Tim and Jacquie."

My Miracle

As part of our "Super.Natural." series, Alicia, a member of Real Life, shares her story of being healed miraculously through prayer.

I was experiencing difficulty swallowing certain foods. A green salad and a glass of red wine were sure to cause a bout of choking.

After finally going to a gastroenterologist and having an endoscopy in 2002 it was discovered I had a “Schatzki Ring” (a narrowing of the esophagus).

I had a procedure where they stretched it opened it with a ‘balloon’ which gave me relief for a time.  But it would slowly close up again and the symptoms would return.  Each time the ‘Schatzki’ closed up again it got worse than the previous time.  I started having chest spasms that felt like a heart attack. Very painful and scary.  And it was difficult to go out to dinner with friends and family because I would often end up in the parking lot crying and foaming at the mouth while retching.

I went on to have five different endoscopic procedures to open it up.  I was told the last time I had the procedure in the fall of 2009 that Schatzki Ring ‘closing up’ would continue to increase in frequency (I had it done twice in 2009) and that I would likely need to have the procedure done several times a year, possibly up to 4 times a year.

My cousin Margie invited me to attend a service at a healing ministry.  There were many people there who had been healed.  I shared with them what I was experiencing so they could pray over me. I had never been to anything like this before, I didn’t know what to expect.  I opened myself to what they had to say.  They told me, there is power in the name of Jesus.  That they didn’t have the power, but Jesus does. They laid hands on me.

I don’t know if I was healed at that moment, but I walked away feeling it was going to happen. I believed it with all my heart.  I went home and was given this scripture when I was reading my Bible “Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Since being prayed over, and much praying myself, 8 years later I haven’t had to have any more procedures and I have not had any more problems, contrary to what the doctors had predicted. I am very grateful for science and doctors, but my praise and thanksgiving go to God.  I believe that all healing is divine and no healing takes place apart from God.

Alicia Roller, July 9th, 2018

#RLLA

A Real Miracle Story

“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” ~Acts 1:3

The Experience

Just over two weeks ago, I sat with a group of mostly new faces on a Tuesday night attending my first bible study outside of a small group. It is the first bible study for Real Life. I had missed the first of a 7 week study on Acts. I remember thinking, “It has been quite some time since my wife and I have even belonged to a small group.”My excitement about experiencing the planting of a church compelled me to join this study to learn about the beginnings of the church. On this day the group was going to cover Acts 2. As music was being played during worship, I read over Acts 1 so I could catch up from the week that I had missed.

I have never read the entire bible and I am not very comfortable trying to interpret scripture but here is some of what we were studying.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” ~Acts 2:1­-4

As we read I was sitting there thinking, “Pentecost?? I wonder what that is?” Later I looked it up and here is what I found.

The Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.After reading Acts 2 together, Pastor Jim asked a few questions before we broke off into groups to interpret the scripture. Questions like; “Has anyone ever seen a ghost?” and “Has anyone ever experienced the Holy Spirit?” Some of the attendees exchanged a few stories. I was not one of them.

To end the night Jim suggested what he called “an experiment.” He started prayer and wanted anyone who felt compelled to speak during the silence that followed to do so.I remember sitting in the silent moments between waiting for someone to speak thinking "I already know I'm not going to say anything."

Many people spoke and there were times when the silence between speaking was long. At one point someone across the room said something that I could not hear. I looked up at Jim as he gestured to someone to “go ahead.”It was the guy who led worship at the beginning of the study. He said something like, “Is there anyone here that has ongoing issues with pain and weakness in their left hand?” I cannot recall the exact words he used.

I was reluctant to speak up, but then I thought "lucky guess" and decided to mention I had such a condition.

In the moment of casually dismissing this coincidence while I looked over at him, I felt this intense warm energy start somewhere low in my body and work its way up through my body increasing in intensity. It felt awesome.I remember in that moment as the heat felt as if it were beaming from my face and chest I could not hear Jim very well because I was thinking how ridiculous I must look to him and anyone else around me. Was my face red?

It lasted for about 15 seconds and I have never felt anything like it before. My group prayed for me before the study concluded but the experience I had happened before I received prayers.

Results

My hand was caught in a printing press when I was in my 20's. I have permanent swelling in the bone of my middle finger with permanent inability to fully extend it. It falls asleep quite often. Many people don't know that it is the reason that sometimes I do not wear my wedding ring. My hand just falls asleep or hurts. I have always had some pain which varies depending on how cold it is. My finger is disfigured but it is not outwardly obvious.

As I walked to my car I realized that I had no pain in my hand. I just kept thinking that it was just not bothering me at the moment. At first, I did not tell anyone about my experience. After about 3 days with no pain I told my 9 year old son the story. After telling him, he was just silent. I asked him, “What do you think?” He put his hands in the air waving them in an evangelical gesture while mimicking the familiar organ sound made when the clouds part or the the angels ascend. We both laughed. Good to know he has got his Dad’s sense of humor.

It has been over two weeks and I have absolutely no pain in my hand.

The Real Miracle

Over the last two weeks I have been trying to make sense of this experience. You see, I never asked or prayed that God take away the pain in my hand. It is just not something I would have thought to ask for. I have been dealing with the pain in my hand for so long that it has become part of my life that I have learned to accept.The events that shaped this experience were so unlikely.Someone sitting across the room during a bible study about the Holy Spirit feels compelled to mention a condition I have during a time of prayer without any knowledge that I have this problem. I am so used to the problem with my hand that I never even bring it up to anyone except for maybe occasionally to my wife. Then there is the fact that I no longer have pain in my hand. Why use this miracle on me? I know why.

I have been going to church regularly for about 12 years now. I was only an occasional attender for about 3 years prior to that.About six years ago I wrote a prayer for myself that I occasionally read.

The following is my prayer:“Dear God,When I was a kid I remember sitting in my room or lying on my bed in the dark at night. We would have our little talks. I could feel your presence. You were there. I know you still are. Please God. I want to have that relationship with you again. I want you in my life. I want to feel you. Open my heart to the frequency of the child I once was, when society and life experiences had not yet tainted the purity of my spirit. Forgive me for everything sinful I have done and forgive me for my inability to see what you see in me. Use me in the way you designed me to be. Bring me to the fruition of your vision. I am here to fulfill my role as one of many instruments of your opus. I don’t want to let you down anymore. I surrender.”

I believe that God used this experience to finally answer that prayer. I feel at peace. I feel reassured. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from me. I feel like that kid in that prayer.

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” ~Acts 2:12­-13

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 2:7­8

-Jerry Stabell

First posted 9/22/16