We were still living in Newcastle when the Lord started prodding me to do hospital visitation amongst the members of our church congregation, but I dug in my heels and declined. I considered myself totally ill-equipped to do something like that, but the Lord disagreed. The prodding continued over the years, but I would just side-step the issue with the excuse that I don’t have the necessary capabilities.
In 2007, here in Port Elizabeth, the prodding became a nudge one Sunday morning in church, and somehow I found myself writing my name down on a piece of paper and handing it to our minister before I could change my mind. Afterwards, of course, I wondered what on earth had possessed me to do such a thing. I was terrified of all that it would entail, but somehow the Lord never gives us a task to perform that’s too difficult for us to handle. He knows our capabilities better than we do and, best of all, He never sends us into a situation alone.
After four years of visiting people in hospitals I am not immune to their pain and suffering. I feel for them and with them. I have walked in on people seconds before going into theatre with just enough time to say a brief prayer with them and I’ve seen the peace of the Lord come upon them in those moments. I have been with people sitting at the bedside of a loved one who is dying, and I have been with cancer patients who know they don’t have long to live. I stand beside their beds and I hold their hands and I am at a loss for words. Their faces glow when they talk about their love for the Lord and how faithful and good He is, and I feel so small and insignificant. ‘What do I say, Lord? I’m here because you wanted me here, and now I don’t even know how to pray for this person.’ And then we link our hands and we close our eyes, and I swear that the words that pour out of my mouth are not mine but from God.
I have a friend from our church, Veronica, who does the hospital rounds with me on a Wednesday morning. Since August last year we have been visiting a lady in ICU who is suffering from that debilitating disease called “Guillain-Barré Syndrome”. It attacks the nervous system and paralyses the muscles, and the healing process is painfully, and frustratingly slow.
Christa Booth is not from here, she is from Jeffrey’s Bay, and her husband, who is eighty, can only visit her when someone can give him a lift from Jeffrey’s to PE. The first time we saw Christa she was in a coma. The second time she responded by turning her head slightly. The third time we saw her she was unresponsive and her right leg was making jerky movements. She was clearly in distress. At the time we didn’t know yet what was wrong, we thought she had had a massive stroke, and we didn’t think we would see her alive the following week. But, amazingly we did. As time went by we learned the true nature of her illness, and from week to week we have been following her slow, often tedious progress. She was incapable of closing her eyes, she was on a ventilator, and the only movement she could make was to turn her head slightly to the side. She can now sit in a recliner, she can close her eyes to some extent but not yet 100%, she can smile and nod her head, and she can move her hands (her right hand mostly) to speak to us by indicating the letters on a board. They now also take her off the ventilator for a certain period every day and about two weeks ago we discovered that she was also able to take a few steps with a walker, but not, of course, without assistance.
We feel that we have walked a long road with her and we pray that we will be able to walk it with her right through to the end of the healing process. We look forward to seeing her every week, and we know that she looks forward to seeing us. Last week Wednesday she was moved to the Aurora Stimulation Centre. This, in itself, is a progression that we rejoice in.
There were times during these past months that I almost dreaded visiting with Christa. I had prayed for her in so many different ways that I began to feel I was all out of prayer. There was one occasion when I asked God, in private, to please give us some indication that healing was taking place. It didn’t have to be something big, just a tiny sign would be enough. Well, God certainly gave us the sign we wanted, and that was when we saw the walker next to her bed in ICU. The problem of what to pray for her was also solved. We learned that she felt the need to have the scriptures read to her, and that opened a wonderful door for us. Now we read the bible to her when we visit, and I read the day’s lesson from the Faith For Daily Living. Somehow, after that, the prayers come easier, and I know this is God’s doing.
The Aurora Stimulation Centre is not in our jurisdiction. We are only supposed to visit patients in the Greenacres Hospital and at St Georges, but we have come so far with Christa that we feel we can’t desert her now. We’ve become friends, and we look forward to the day when we will walk in and have her speak to us instead of using sign language and the alphabet on a card. And, please God, I pray that day is not too far off.
Christa has been an example to us even as she sits there in her chair, or when exhaustion after physiotherapy keeps her in her bed a while longer. She can’t function normally, she can’t even speak because of the ventilator, but there is never any sign of temperament. There is nothing wrong with her mind, her mental faculties are all in tact, so I can only guess at her frustration, but she never complains.
We are so quick to moan when things don’t go exactly the way we want. It is in meeting people like Christa that we realise we have so much to be thankful for. I also won’t stop praying that the Lord will soon release her from the physical restrictions of this disease.