And if not, He is still good

It was a dream.
A crazy, impossible dream, but there nonetheless.

He’d sat on the hard packed compound floors and watched bare feet pound the dust into the late hours of the night. Sparks surged into the dark African sky, and he knew he wanted to live his life touching these lives.

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We married, and moved not to Africa, but the rural mountains of Honduras where he spent hours in the clinic, translating for the English doctor. The dream grew stronger, to go to school, and touch human bodies with souls for eternity. But it seemed so far out.
So impossible.

And one day, in a strange twist of events, the missionary he had followed down those narrow African paths, and who we named our first child after, spoke a message on giving up our dreams in exchange for God’s dreams.
Sometimes God asks us to let go, even to the best of dreams.

I remember clearly the battle in his face and in his soul, this husband of mine. It was almost part of his DNA,
this love for Africa,
this dream to get into medicine,
to go.

It was while we still lived in an adobe house in the Honduran mountians, and our first child was months old that God won, and my husband’s heart rested in God’s plans.
He surrendered that dream.

Our trail twisted and turned, and led us through many dark, long nights. The drowning of my only brother, challenges with the mission board, the far off feeling of being misunderstood while giving all we had on the mission field. Finally we returned to the States to be there for my widow mother, as my older sister and her new husband moved, of all places, to West Africa.

Healing began, and God gently led us and deepened us, and restored hope and relationships in our hearts, far beyond what we even imagined possible. And of all crazy things, the thing Daniel NEVER dreamed of and instead actually ran from, God laid squarely before us: to be in the ministry.

Oh, he had been ministering for years, but the official office? We love people and working with the youth, and hearing hearts, but being ordained? It was a struggle. After all, He grew up as a preacher’s kid.
It was a strange place, the calling he wanted he had to lay down.
And the one he had vowed never to do, now was asked that very thing.
But God was gentle, and persistent.
And He won.

For several years Daniel has served in this role, I have watched something happen. Like a little spark in that dark night sky, the medical dream revived in spite of its impossibility.

Our dear friend and neighbor Marco was shot, and we spent days in the hospital, praying for a miracle, for life that hung in the balance. Daniel interceded by the bedside, and watched the numbers on the monitors, and spoke with the nurses. He watched their every move and saw how they had opportunity to minister, to touch lives in such pivotal moments. “YOU should be working in here,” they told him.

The spark grew into an ember. But the numbers on the monitors went still and we buried our friend, and all our prayers of intercession were laid on the altar of trusting through tears. Through it all, somehow, God was still good.

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I knew that Daniel’s job of construction was not what either of us wanted for the rest of his life, and stood back as that little fire grew in his heart. It was still impossible.
How would we pay for school?
Who would take care of my mom?
Go to school? Now, while we have small children?

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Then we met him at a wedding reception. He was part of a group from Togo, here in the States to attend the wedding of a mutual friend, who had served with him in at the Hospital of Hope.

His warm eyes made him a safe stranger to visit with, and when I heard that he was a PA, I said, “Oh! My husband dreams of becoming a PA!” His eyes lit up, this man named Todd, and he began asking questions.

I told of our years in Honduras, of Daniel’s 16 years in construction but knowing he was called to something else. The dream that grew while we were in the hospital with Marcus. But now, the vast world of not knowing how to proceed.

“He can totally do it!” Todd nodded. We managed to sit with them over dinner, and the words and hope that flew back and forth were all it took to fully reignite this dream in Daniel’s heart.

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Todd too had become a PA. And God was using him mightily, both on the ground there in Togo and also here in the States, inspiring and recruiting others to go. “You should come to Togo!” he urged Daniel. And before we knew it, within a month, a ticket was bought and Daniel joined a team over there on a work project installing solar panels.

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But they flew through it, he assured me on the phone, so the rest of his time was freed to spend in the hospital, shadowing Todd. Daniel’s birthday was spent in the OR, wearing scrubs watching multiple surgeries, and he could not have been happier.

I could hear it in his voice.
I saw the gleam in his eye when he finally stepped back on US soil.
The dream was back.

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(Hospital of Hope, Mango, Togo)

Maybe, just maybe we would end up in Togo with Todd and his family someday. We looked into schools, and sat through PA program overviews. We felt God nudging us to step away from the business of all these years, and start preparing. We are working toward getting our house on the market next year so Daniel can start school in the fall. In the meantime, he has switched to an office job and we are exploring all our schooling options.

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A couple days ago we heard Todd was sick. Was it malaria, or typhoid, they didn’t know. But he wasn’t responding. We prayed. Hard. Surely God couldn’t be done with this incredibly talented man. He seemed to be the heart and soul of the Hospital of Hope.

But he kept getting worse. They prepared to evacuate him to a hospital in Germany. Sleep suffered and the nights were broken in to small increments of waking and pleading with God till the words became chewed and worn. How could a man I’d only met once in my life impact me so deeply?

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All day yesterday, our breaths came in the form of prayers, prayed silently, mumbled as I did laundry, as we ate supper, and we planned our upcoming youth conference.

A verse that has meant so much to me in the past kept coming to my mind. As Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood before the angry king and the furnace seven times hotter, they spoke these words,
“And if God chooses not to save us, He is still good.”

Still good.
God is still good, even after choosing not to answer our prayers to heal my dad, a skilled trauma surgeon, dying of cancer at age 39.
Still good when my mother found herself a widow with six young children.
When he could have kept my brother from drowning.
Or saved Christopher from Cerebral Malaria while his family served in rural Benin.
Or spared Marco’s life from the one bullet that changed everything.

Here again, we stood with uplifted hands and desperate hearts, pleading for a miracle.
And this morning, after another fitful night, I woke and scoured for another update.

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There it was. The update I didn’t want.
Todd has entered heaven’s gates.
We lay in bed, and wept.
All these prayers, these dreams, these tears we offer to God in such brokenness.

This God that is worth living for is also worth dying for.

And while I weep for Todd’s dear wife Jennifer and their four sweet boys, I know they are some of the richest in the world. They have been chosen to taste and see that the Lord is good, even through the ultimate sacrifice.

So we stand with them today, tears staining our cheeks, our arms around them as much as we can from the other side of the world, and we choose to say with them;

“And if not, He is still good.”

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(The plane airlifting Todd to Germany for treatment yesterday morning)

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15 thoughts on “And if not, He is still good

  1. This is so beautiful, Melissa. The tears are streaming down my face, but I agree with you. God is still good. As Christopher’s mother, some of my favorite words in song are the ones that say, “If I never get to kiss my child ‘goodnight’ again…..You have been good, You have been good, in so many ways, You’ve been good to me.”

  2. Oh Melissa, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart….and I didn’t even know Dr. Todd. But something about what you wrote about him and the way his eyes twinkled and the joy that showed on his face in the pictures that you posted, well, I can’t help but feel that our world experienced a huge loss with his passing into Heaven. I’ll be praying for his family as they come to mind. And praying that somehow God can use Todd’s death to do even greater things in Togo.

    And wow, so sorry for the loss this is to you all, too. We know a bit about college and dreams and all that goes with that. Blessings as you continue to pursue that and grieve the loss of another friend.

  3. Sitting in McD’s with my girls, using WiFi to read your blog post, and the tears are streaming. I don’t *know* you OR Dr. Todd, but our Great God connects the hearts of His believers all around the globe. Love to you & yours, “sister”.

  4. My husband and I are planning to start deputation this year to serve in the two ABWE hospitals in Togo. May the Lord bless you with wisdom as you seek his guidance to serve him in missions! Hopefully we will see you there at some point! 🙂

  5. And the God who takes your hand and sometimes carries you through the valley of the shadow of death will NEVER let you go.

  6. I too only knew Todd for a short time. I spent about a month in December 2013 with Dr. Kelly who became friends with my daughter in college. I had been on several medical mission trips but wanted to experience more than the trips from my church. I am a respiratory therapist that teaches and still practices and knew I could help but where? Dr. Kelly invited me to Togo and I was able to stay for month. During that time we went to Mango, to view the ongoing construction of the Hospital of Hope. I spent some time with Todd and we talked about the logistics of what the hospital would need in the line of respiratory supplies and I got to meet his boys and his beautiful wife Jennifer. I fell in love with Togo and was suppose to return this past year but lost a dear friend suddenly. Watching Todd share Jesus to the Togolese people through his servanthood has forever affected me. I grieve but rejoice that God gave me the opportunity to meet this man. I continue to pray for his family and all of the healthcare providers at the Hospital of Hope. I also pray for the Togolese people who have not received Jesus, that they are shown that our God is a loving God. Todd was called home for a job well done.
    Forever in our hearts.

  7. This is a beautiful, touching post. I’m so sorry for your loss. Truly God’s ways are higher than our ways & His thoughts than our thoughts and someday life will all make sense. Also, many blessings to you all as you become involved in the medical field. My husband is entering his third year of medical school in April. He graduates as an M.D. in 2018. It is a different kind of life, for sure, but it is exciting and very rewarding! It can be hard some days but you won’t regret it. It always makes me excited when I hear of people I know entering the medical field. The medical field is a wonderful way to be God’s hands & feet to others. All the best!! 🙂

  8. Todd was a missionary to my church, Kent City Baptist. I only met him and his family once as well, but he had such a passion for Togo, and to build a hospital there, that it fascinated me. I can only imagine how his wife and his kids must be feeling right now. Praying that God will surround them with His loving and comforting arms! God is still good

  9. Thank you Melissa! I never met this man, or his family, but I was moved to tears reading about his life of service to God, and broken humanity.
    I’m excited to see where God will lead Daniel and you as you walk in obedience to Him. The far reaching effect a Dr. can have as he binds up the broken, AND shares of the One who heals the soul, is under estimated. People are always at their most vulnerable, grasping for hope, when they are physically ill and in need of help, and heart compassion.
    This is one of our dreams for Dustin…

  10. Oh melissa. This is heartbreaking. But splashed with the joy of heaven. your life repeatedly speaks of radical trust. God bless you. I know he will keep leading you as faithfully as he always has. Hugs, Sheryl

  11. Melissa, I have tears streaming down my face both for the loss of a kingdom warrior and the loss of a mentor-friend. Your walk through deep loss upon loss has been so hard, and yet your faith in God’s goodness is still strong. In that I see so much grace, so much of who God is. I weep with you because, even though our losses are different, the calling of our Father to trust Him and the safety of His embrace is the same.

    I’m also to hear how God is bringing Daniel’s dream back to him. I’ll be excited to hear what comes next for your family. Have you read Confessions of a Transformed Heart? Reading your post reminded me of the story.

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