I lie here once again in the hospital awaiting treatment for a Myasthenia Gravis flare-up. I was thinking back this morning to that fateful day in May of 2009 when I got the diagnosis and was told what it meant. The doctor was trying to impress upon me how my whole life would have to change.
M.G. is a combination condition; it is an autoimmune disease and a neuromuscular disease. It effects the nerves and muscles of the body because the immune system is constantly attacking it. Which means my immune system doesn’t fight illnesses.
This doctor was telling me how I needed to limit myself from being around people and that I wouldn’t be able to work long hours or do lots of physical activities. He informed me of how stress could also bring on a flare-up so I needed to avoid stressful situations. Then he went on to tell me how the condition would gradually get worse and that in the end it would either effect my lungs or throat or heart and lead to my death.
My whole world ended with his explanation. I was a pastor, church planter, prayer walking revivalist. Now I had to limit my contact with people and physical activities. That meant I couldn’t fulfill the calling God had placed on my life. It was devastating news because at the time, I was chasing a prophetic promise God had given me.
In 2000, God had lead me to read Habakkuk 1:5: “Look to the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your day that you wouldn’t believe, even if it were told to you.” After I read that verse, God spoke to me that He was going to allow me to see and be part of His fulfillment of it.
How in the world was that going to happen if I couldn’t be around people? Then on top of all that, my family asked me to move back home from the state I felt God had called me to. Their reasoning was good; my wife would need help and support as this condition worsened. So reluctantly, we moved home the following month, closing the last church we had just started planting.
I arrived in West Virginia depressed, and it just got worse as my condition flared often because I was learning my limitations – which seemed to be almost anything I did. By the first of the year in 2010, I had become a virtual hermit in my bedroom, afraid to do anything for fear of ending up back in the hospital. The depression worsened and I thought and told God often to just take me home to heaven. I didn’t want to be worthless here and what about that promise I was so sure was from Him? I’d chased that thing for ten years at that point.
That’s when everything changed. Oh, not all at once, but slowly. I started writing just to have something to do besides watching Netflix and YouTube. Just a couple of story ideas I had kicked around but never put on paper. I didn’t plan to do anything with them but fill time. I became a Facebook addict, spending hours a day there just talking to people. After all, it was the only safe way for me to be connected. Then in November, I had two breakthroughs at once.
The first one came from a FB friend, a pastor in the South American country of Guyana. He was pastoring a little church in a small town about an hour outside of the capital and he mentioned how it was the Hindu festival to the goddess of death. He told me how the spiritual atmosphere was so dark that he couldn’t even prepare a sermon to preach that Sunday. In an off-handed way, I said, “So, go prayer walk your community and declare and proclaim that your town is part of the Kingdom of Light and that the goddess has no power there.”
His response was to ask me what prayer walking was, and I spent an hour sharing something I had taught to others and did as part of my own ministry for years. He got excited as we talked and asked me to send him an email with the scriptures and prayers so he could teach his whole congregation this exciting weapon. I said I would and he got offline to go do some of it himself. I started writing his email; about 4000 words in, I realized this was too big for an email. So I opened up Microsoft Word and started a book on prayer walking.
That was Monday of Thanksgiving week; by Thanksgiving day my rough draft was finished. It was 32,000 words. I sent him the whole thing in that form. My next thought was if this pastor doesn’t know about this great weapon to change the spiritual atmosphere of a city, maybe no one else does either. I should try and get this published.
So I Googled publishers and got a list of a few that were accepting unsolicited manuscripts in Christian genres. I looked at them all and picked three to send a query letter to. The first one to ask for a couple chapters got the whole manuscript. I got a call two days later from the submissions editor to ask me questions because she wanted to use prayer walking in her own situation. She also begged to send me a contract.
I was blown away. In the end I didn’t go with a publisher because I ran into these people online who informed me that I could publish my book for less than the publisher wanted by doing it myself. I got the book looked at by a few beta readers and edited and published it in January of 2011. You may have read it or seen it on my FB or Amazon page Prayer Walking for Spiritual Breakthrough.
From there I started actively writing and publishing. Next was a little booklet on a teaching I had done that people had always asked for notes on, The Complete Armor of God. Then I thought, well I have these stories; let’s see what people think of them. I meet other Christian writers online and soon was part of a forum called Christian Indie Authors, which has grown and moved to FB mostly and is the CIA Network with several groups.
The second thing I did in 2010, mostly because of the writing thing, was decide not to give up on life. I exited my room and my house and started getting involved in church again. I limited myself, but I was going to trust God.
He had me work with several churches and pastors during that time. In 2012, He brought me back to the church where He had made me that promise. I became the assistant pastor for my father-in-law, who had recently been asked to pastor the church. I’ve been there since then. We work around my special needs. God has allowed me to author nine books since 2010, and I get emails and Facebook messages from people who are touched by them every week. The founder of the CIA Network has asked me to officially become the group’s chaplain. I touch hundreds, if not thousands, of people all around the world through the Internet and my books.
Why tell you all this? Because today, as I lie here in my hospital bed waiting for a treatment regimen to start, God reminded me of His promise. “I am doing something in your day that you wouldn’t believe even if it were told to you.”
I realize that what at first I saw as an end to my ministry and a curse on my life is instead a miracle. If you had told me in 2008, before my diagnosis, that I would have the kind of impact I’m having now – that people from several countries would call me pastor, mentor and a blessing from God, that they would say I taught them how to be closer to God – I wouldn’t have believed it.
I have received emails from people in South Africa, Peru, England, South America, Canada, all over the U.S., and soldiers in Afghanistan. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t get a question and thanks or a prayer request from someone online; most weeks, I receive several. God took what I saw as the ending of a dream to start fulfilling His promise to me. I have more impact now than I ever thought possible for a simple West Virginia inner-city preacher.
I want to end this by saying this maybe all our personal crosses aren’t crosses, but blessings and miracles in disguise. I pray today that each of us would look for the blessings in our curses, the opportunities in our adversities and the testimonies in our tests. I think this song by Laura’s Story says it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQan9L3yXjc&hd=1
Till next time, God bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace and purpose. -PG