Where we see difficult circumstances, God sees opportunity. When we’re ready to sound the retreat, God often calls us to charge the enemy. I learned that during my last three trips abroad for H.I.S. BridgeBuilders International, each one marked by an incidence of cancer.
My trip earlier this month (July 2013) was no different.
During the summer of 2009, as I prepared to visit H.I.S. BridgeBuilders in Galati, Romania, Doctors told me that stage 4 lung cancer would end my life within eighteen months. After the prayers of friends dispelled the darkness of doubt, I made that trip six months later. If I hadn’t gone, I would not have seen God’s blessing on that forgotten valley of gypsies. Pastor Bogdon, a former drug dealer and pimp, had become a worthy advocate in that impoverished urban community. He understood the BridgeBuilders model and advanced the program with determination.
If I had listened to my cancer instead of God’s voice telling us to go, I would have missed seeing this blessing.
In 2012, I traveled with a team of five to Nairobi to meet a woman the newspapers call “Queen of the Slums.” Because she feeds and educates the children of the Huruma Slum, residents call her “Mama Lucy.” We wondered if God might be calling H.I.S. BridgeBuilders to minister in Nairobi. We determined to pray about God’s leading and asked two Nairobi Christians to teach the Bible in the slum.
Soon after our return, on my 51st birthday, a biopsy revealed cancer cells in my lymph nodes. A few people hinted that maybe we should postpone any involvement in Nairobi or Galati until my cancer was under control. Believing that God is in control, we pressed forward; the needs were too great and the opportunities for the gospel too compelling. And thank God we did!
God used several rounds of chemotherapy and proton radiation treatments not only to eradicate cancer, but to bring people and resources to H.I.S. BridgeBuilders. A few months later, scans revealed a golf ball sized tumor in my cerebellum. After brain surgery and radiation, the cancer was gone and the ministry surged again. By the time God defeated this instance of cancer, H.I.S. BridgeBuilders had blossomed in Dallas and grew stronger in five other cities: San Antonio, Houston, Clarksburg, WV, Buffalo, NY, Chattanooga, TN. We also started hearing great reports from our two international cities.
Again, if I had listened to the voice of cancer instead of the Lord’s call forward, this movement of God we call H.I.S. BridgeBuilders would have been hindered by my unbelief. Great faith is only evidenced when we have to exercise it and not simply talk about it.
This past spring, we felt God’s calling to revisit Galati and Nairobi, but wondered if the travel expenses could be justified. To complicate matters even further, scans revealed a small growth in my brain that is undoubtedly another instance of cancer. Rather than throw a pity party, I have come to see these recurring bouts with cancer as a signal that God is about to do something wonderful again. After much prayer, the Lord’s leading was unmistakable: “Their need is great and you must go.”
As with each journey before, God amazed us with His power. Our travel to Galati and Nairobi has shown us that we come to a season of unprecedented growth to advance His Kingdom in some of the poorest areas of the world. Over the next few days, I will share all the incredible things that God has accomplished since our return and the opportunities His is opening before us. Even in these difficult times, with cancer reappearing and our finances struggling through the summer slump, God has called us to advance, not retreat. And so we obey.
As for me, personally, I continue to receive God’s favor. My doctors tell me that the three small spots in my lungs are very slow-growing! The largest is about a third of an inch. The nurse was astonished that my blood-work is perfect. This morning (Wednesday, July 24), Gamma Knife Radiation treatment removed the single spot that showed up in my brain, and I can return to work immediately.
I continue to trust God for healing and I remain thankful for His sovereign care and your believing prayers.
You may be facing a struggle of your own. Perhaps it feels absolutely overwhelming and you’re thinking of dropping back rather than pressing forward. Before you take that first step backwards, let me encourage you to ask God what He would have you do. Don’t accept defeat just yet; consider the possibility that He might use your difficulty to demonstrate His power, deepen your faith (and those around you), and to bring you great blessing.
And while you’re thinking about God using you and your circumstances for His glory, I invite you to stand with us as we advance God’s Kingdom among the lost and the least (Matt. 25:40). Summertime always brings financial hardship, but we have learned that the needs of people never take a vacation! So, we need your help.
Your generous donation helps H.I.S. BridgeBuilders bring hope to the hopeless and to restore people, families, and urban communities here and around the world.
Help us continue this movement!