On December 28th, 2014, a community of believers in Jesus gathered to commission me on my two year mission calling to Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators. With all the feelings of joy, sadness, excitement, terror, wonder and loneliness, I was sent out, overwhelmed by how many people love and are behind me.
On January 8th, 2015, my family drove me to the Detroit airport to say goodbye. I arrived in Papua New Guinea 29 hours of flights later on January 11th.
Two weeks after arrival on January 24th, I began to feel severe pain in my left arm, spreading across my neck, torso and right arm. Eventually unable to move, my roommate went to get the nurse.
The next 24 hours were spent arranging for me to be evacuated to Cairns, Australia. I never left my bed.
On January 25th, I called my parents to inform them of my condition. At this time, I had lost complete use of my arms and was unable to walk. After several tests and MRIs, doctors started treatment for Acute Transverse Myelitis with intensive steroids.
The day before my mom arrived I was able to extend my left are at the elbow, and feed myself for the first time.
On February 1st, my mom arrived in Australia to help care for me and eventually bring me home. With the help of fellow missionaries staying in Cairns she was able to arrive at the hospital quickly for a tearful and heartfelt reunion.
We were both overwhelmed by the love these strangers had shown, but know that it is because of the love of the body of Christ that can be found across the globe. This continued to be the case over the next three weeks.
On February 2nd, I started intense physio-neurological therapy including occupational therapy. This went on for the next three weeks. I gained more and more mobility in my legs and arms each day. I had good days and bad days. Still do.
I experienced sensation loss, banding, and other odd sensations that are hard to put into words.
Since the day I became a follower of Jesus at the age of three, I have known that God is with me, always. It was hard to see it in the moment, but if we look too closely at our circumstances we cannot see God.
The Lord has blessed me. Even this trial I believe to be a blessing.
I lost my good health, the ability to move my arms normally, and my dream of working in Papua New Guinea (PNG) at this time.
I feel like Job. Who am I to complain in my losses—when what I have lost wasn’t mine to begin with?
I lost—and the Lord has blessed me. Just like Job, who lost everything he loved and that’s his response: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21). And he lost far more than me!
The brave deal with losses with thanksgiving. You defeat the darkness and the enemy when thanksgiving is the default. Anything I have, I don’t deserve. Everything I have isn’t a given—it’s given. Nothing is given—everything is a gift. Unyielding gratitude to God is how God makes us unstoppable and brave.
I am thankful to this day for the many people who were there for me and my family during this trial. We were loved by both Australians and Americans in Australia. We even went to church while there, and the pastor came to see me twice always bearing coffee.
My mom and I began our journey home to America the day after my 24th birthday. We were thankful for my evacuation insurance because they paid for everything. They even paid for business class seats.
After returning home, I transitioned to a new set of doctors and therapists. Three months later I completed therapy after regaining more use of my arms.
I still experience loss in feeling, sensation, mobility, endurance, and strength among other things. It has been a challenging time to say the least, but I know the Lord is with me always, and that He has given me everything I need to make it through each day.
Losses are not without end, but so is God’s Glory. We smile brave, give thanks, and the grace and God comes without fail.
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