My phone whistled with a text message from my sister. “Will you be free to chat tonight?" This seemed unusual. Generally she didn’t text me, except on weekends.
Later that night I called. “Hey, what’s up?" After some small talk, she broke the news.
“You remember that pain Stephen was having?” Pain. That’s right. We’d just been at their home in North Carolina, and he’d been complaining of abdominal pain.
“Does his abdomen still hurt?”
“Well, off and on. But his knee and ankle joints have been hurting. It came on fairly suddenly, and now he can’t walk.”
I caught my breath. Can’t walk! That’s serious. I tried to focus on what my sister was saying. All about doctor visits and the seven vials of blood they drew, trying to determine what was wrong. She used words like Epstein-Barr virus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia. Each sounded worse than the previous. Oh, God, not Stephen! He’s only 7. Such an active boy, with an open, generous heart toward others. Please, don’t let him suffer!
As the days passed, my sister kept us updated on the test results.
Not leukemia. Thank You, God!
Still waiting on the other tests. How do parents cope with their children's serious illnesses? Why does it hurt so much when a child suffers? I wish I could do something . . .
Later he had an appointment with the pediatric rheumatologist and the ophthalmologist. I spoke with him on the phone before his visit. “Guess what, Auntie Jill? Mommy made us a gingerbread train, and I got to eat a piece!”
I smiled. How like my sister, seeking to bring encouragement. “Stephen, that sounds yummy.”
Too soon they had to leave for the doctor’s office, my sister dropping the other three boys off at a friend’s house. I hung up the phone, a heavy feeling deep in the pit of my stomach.
Oh, God, we ask for Your will, but could he be OK? Please?
This morning I picked up the phone. At a time like this, North Carolina seems too far away. They’d gotten partial results, and the initial findings looked good. Thank You, Father!
“Hi, Auntie Jill,” broke into my reverie. It was Jonathan, my sister’s oldest. “Guess what? We were coming back from the hospital, where Stephen had to go to the doctor. Some people were trying to raise money for a boy who had brain cancer. Auntie Jill, he’s only 2 years old, and he might die soon!” Tears filled my eyes. While Stephen’s results looked promising, another child lay dying.
But Jonathan wasn’t finished. “We came home, discussed it, and we took our money and went to the fire station to give them money for the boy’s family.”
I took a deep breath. How incredible! In the midst of the pain and questions, the issues that Stephen was facing, they’d taken time to reach out and minister to someone else.
Lord Jesus, I breathed, please teach me how to get out of myself and truly practice Your self-sacrificing love.
Note: There is no final answer yet on Stephen’s diagnosis; tests are ongoing.
Jill Morikone is administrative assistant to the president of 3ABN, a supporting Adventist. television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.