By: Laila Bare

Started the night before surgery.
Completed at 12:10 AM on July 16, 2019, the day of surgery.

A memory popped up on my Facebook page this morning. Of pictures from one year ago today. Wish I were more tech-savvy. Somehow I lost them. Maybe I’ll have time tomorrow to recapture them—and someone will drop by to show me how. Amazing how things can change in a year. A month. A week. A day. A minute….

The question looms: What will tomorrow bring forth?

People keep asking us how we are doing. And it’s a question we appreciate, because we see the care and concern behind it. Thing is, we really don’t know how to answer it. So this is what I sent to a concerned friend this morning:

I'm fine.
Puzzled as to what God will do.
Anticipating that He's going to do great things.
Confident He will do His will.
Just wondering what that is!

So, yes, even though we trust God there is the unknown. Which is not comfortable. But concern for the unknown has not ruled our lives since the initial visit to Dr. Stokes on June 18. The visit which set everything in motion. Rather, there is a sweet calmness that has carried us. An unfathomable peace. Yes, the peace that passes all understanding.

Sometimes we wonder if something’s wrong with us that we’re so calm. And then we remember that He’s promised to be with us in the midst of the storm. His presence sets the calm.

There have been some real advantages to going through this. First, my husband has slowed down a bit. He has really tried to adhere to the advice of the doctors. His pace is now that of a pretty normal 20 year-old. He’s eating healthy—which he does most of the time anyway. A major change I’ve noticed is that of being able to pass by fallen limbs, trash, and whatever else is out of place on our walks. “Later,” he says. I’ve found this very refreshing as I don’t like leisurely walks that turn into work.

The second major change I’ve seen is in sleep. Some nights he’s slept 12 hours. Some days there are 2-3 naps. In the beginning days, I found myself napping whenever he did! Regrettably I was not able to keep up the pace. Though I did enjoy it while it lasted. Think maybe I needed that extra strength that comes from good naps.

Another advantage I’ve seen is that my dear husband is receiving the roses while he lives. Some people never have that opportunity. We started out trying to keep track of all the calls, letters, cards, texts, e-mails from all around the world. Found it an impossible task. People calling, asking what they can do. People volunteering to drop everything and get on a plane and fly here if he needs them. Concerned pastors who have lives of their own and congregations to serve. Some friends volunteering to come to UVA and donate a kidney if needed.

In addition to the prayers of our precious family and Covenant family, we’ve been notified of prayer groups in the far reaches of the world. Word from the Executive Committee of the Church of God, which halted business one day to have special prayer. Followed by personal calls from most or all of them. [Told you it is hard to keep track…]

A post on the Pentecostal Theological Seminary website generated many calls and prayers. Additional word of prayers from missionaries stationed around the world. Word of prayers from churches Covenant has built and sponsored around the world. Whole congregations fasting and praying. Word of prayers from churches within and outside of the United States.

One morning I awoke and wrote to our family about what I had seen in my spirit that morning. It was as if there were a huge white funnel ascending to God---spreading wide at the top. It was feathery-looking. And it was composed of the prayers ascending to heaven. What struck me most was how huge the funnel of prayers was. Immediately our son-in-law, Rob Fultz, responded:

“When I woke up this morning, it felt like the whole earth was interceding. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world…are doing just that! What an encouragement.”

And then a friend wrote about how she was just thinking what the sky would look like if all the prayers going up were white doves! Again, we’re overwhelmed.

Another advantage is that we’re located in this beautiful city of Charlottesville that we’ve loved as our home for 39 year. We don’t have to drive hundreds of miles, find a motel, eat out at restaurants, learn our way around a new town in order to receive treatment. We have been able to be at home—our happy place—sleep in our bed, drive to town, enter a hospital we know because we’ve been there hundreds of times. The convenience of a world-class hospital [two of them, in fact] where we live is ours. We consider ourselves blessed.

We’re blessed by the doctors that are part of the Covenant family. Dr. Bobby Stokes [remember Bobby & Ricky Stokes from the UVA Basketball team years ago?] who had the foresight to order the initial tests that revealed there was a problem. He worked his Pastor in the same day he was called with the concern.

Two other doctors part of the congregation have lent their encouragement and advice. One is Dr. Francis Ansa, Director of the Critical Care Unit at Martha Jefferson Hospital. Known as “the other” hospital or “the local” hospital, it is a world-class facility housed in a new complex. State-of-the-art. Modern. Beautiful. And also with spectacular medical personnel.

Then there’s Dr. Cantrell who’s now retired but formerly was Vice-President of UVA Health System and Head of the Otolaryngology Department. A Sunday dinner with him and one of his protégées, Dr. Conrad Zapanta & his wife Lita, was full of laughter and memories. And advice and encouragement. And prayer.

So many other Covenant medical personnel have offered advice and support in various fashions. One nurse on the cancer ward [she requested to serve there because she herself is a cancer survivor], handwrote pages of notes of hints and ideas for a best outcome. Trustworthy people, they all are.

When this all started, my husband confided his situation to a doctor doing a plastic surgery specialty at UVA. We were surprised when we announced it to the staff 3 weeks later that he had not even shared it with his wife—who is our Fine Arts Director!

Does it seem we’re surrounded by doctors? Think so! We are thankful to God that He has placed them in our local body at this time. If we were to try to name all the nurses, doctors, specialists, even hospital janitors and technicians who are part of our Covenant family, we would be afraid we would miss someone.

If He chooses to perform a miracle through people, we’re already friends with them!

In addition, the 3 new physicians/specialists we’ve met since this all started have become more like friends than doctors. They’ve even called today to check in and offer support. Again, what a blessing. [This just in: Just saw that the 2019 version of UVA Health Systems Guide has a picture of one of our elders on the cover!]

An advantage we have both thoroughly enjoyed has been that of time together. We have taken 2 trips during this time. They haven’t been long or huge trips to far-away places. Just short trips here in Virginia. The best part of them has been just being together. Enjoying being surrounded by love. Love from God and love for each other. We’ve taken it easy. And just gone in directions that appealed to us at the moment. We’ve laughed. We’ve remembered. We’ve dreamed of the future. We’ve shared memories of blessed events in our lives. And even laughed at some of the mistakes we’ve made.

And while I would like to share every moment with him, I’ve moved aside to give him time to complete Trouble III. People are anxious for the third installment of this series, and he is enjoying completing it. I love to watch him write. And see his joy as he reads newly-written pages to me.

So, what does the future hold? It’s not ours to know. But it’s ours to trust Him. And live one day at a time.

Thank God that the dread of surgery has not dimmed the joy of yesterday and today.

And what does a man do the night before major surgery that may remove part of the pancreas and stomach and the entire spleen? He bakes his famous brownies for the family. Brownies our Covenant teens and children always anticipate when coming to our home.

Then he follows doctor’s orders for pre-surgery procedure. And goes to bed to enjoy another good night of sleep. Precious sleep that comes because of those prayers going up for him.

We don’t know what God has planned. But we have a feeling it’s going to be a testimony to bless others. And we’re calm because our Father is in control.

With much love to all—


Sharing a scripture a friend sent this morning:

“Listen to me, Harold & Laila;
I have created you and cared for you since you were born.
I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes,
Even when your hair is white with age.
I made you and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and be your Savior.

Who can tell you what is going to happen.
All I say will come to pass,
For I do whatever I wish.”

Isaiah 46:3,4,10 [TLB]

Be encouraged, friends! And keep those prayers going up.

Robert McCready