As I sit down tonight to try to catch up on the past several days, it’s hard to believe how much has happened in such a short period of time. Even now, there is so much follow-up that is needed for what’s occurred, I’ll have to keep things brief…
As mentioned in the post for Day 25, that was a day that caused heaven to celebrate, because of what happened in a hospital room. In the morning, I got a call from Tammy, an Access member and a nurse at a local hospital. She left a message to tell me a man had been admitted who wanted to talk to ‘a minister’. So without even returning the call, I jumped in my car and headed over.
When I got to the room, I introduced myself to Victor (not his real name) a Hispanic man in his late thirties. When I asked him what had happened, he said, ‘I just couldn’t handle it any more, I just wanted to end it…’ and I looked down to see both of his forearms were bandaged up, as he had slashed both wrists in attempted suicide. My heart skipped a beat and all I could get out at first was, ‘I’m so sorry…’ He started to cry and I reached out to put my arms around him, and told him it was O.K. After a few minutes he calmed down and we began to talk.
Over the next hour or so, he shared about his history… his father’s death when he was only seven… in and out of foster homes and juvie… ultimately spending a total of 19 years in prison for various crimes. He’s been out for a couple of years now, but had been struggling with meaning and purpose… and drugs. As I asked him more questions about himself, he opened up to say that he believed there was a God, but didn’t understand much else. From that green light, I shared the gospel with him, opening up my Bible and having him read verses like John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9. He asked a few questions and seemed to quickly grasp the answers. Ultimately, when I asked him ‘Would you like to receive Jesus as your Forgiver and Leader?’ without hesitation, he said, ‘Yeah, I would.’ At which point he repeated a prayer of salvation after me to God and at that moment He became an adopted son of the Father!
And then there were more hugs, and more tears… Oh yeah, it was a scene! But we didn’t care, because God was so obviously there and in that moment. As I left, I said I’d be following up with him (which I have been) and I’d look forward to seeing him again soon. Tammy told me afterwards that before that ‘God moment’ she was afraid to be in the same room as Victor, but after the prayer, she said that literally he was a changed man. We serve and awesome God!
On Friday, I’ll update on a personal story of God providing for our needs, I spent the next day in a hospital as well, as the insurance authorization for our daughter Skylar’s treatment finally came through. What a huge answer to prayer to finally be back on track with this medicine that is so vital to her fight against Castleman Disease!
Then on Saturday, there was a third hospital visit, and this one would prove to be far different from the first two… In the afternoon, I got a call from Peter Petrotta, one of the founding members of Access, telling me his wife, Kathleen had been in a car accident. He said he didn’t know how serious it was, but he would call me from the hospital once he got there to let me know. About an hour or so later, I got a call from Peter’s son-on-law, who after a few words said, ‘Rance, Peter wanted me to let you know what Kathleen has passed away.’ The shock was so strong that the word ‘No!’ just came out as I tried to process the reality of it. My next words were simply, ‘I’ll be right there.’
After picking up our associate Pastor Matt, we went to the hospital and found Peter in a side room with his daughter and son-in-law. And through the tears we all shared that moment together, processing the shock, the grief, and the disbelief. But the processing that happened also came through filter of faith, and for anyone who knows Peter, his is a faith that is firmly anchored in Christ. As a matter of fact, through our time there, listening to him, I found myself humbled by his steadfast trust in the Lord even in his darkest of hours.
There is so much more I could write about here, but just even a few facts speak so much. Kathleen is one of the heads of our hospitality ministry, and so something she did every Sunday was pick up the bagels and other food items and bring them early to set up at church. Well, that next morning, just a matter of hours after the accident, Peter showed up with the bagels, etc- fulfilling his wife’s role. And then he was there for our worship service, singing through tears about the Savior who he knew that Kathleen was now seeing face to face. And by the end of the service, after hearing about Kathleen and Peter’s story, 5 people ended up receiving Christ into their lives that day! Praise God that he can take even the most tragic events in life and bring beautiful things out of them!
Note: I shared about these stories in much more detail in the message this past Sunday. If you weren’t there, by tomorrow the message should be up on our website www.accessaz.org