Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SICK (05/09/19)
- TITLE: God's Sovereignty Over Sickness
By Mariane Holbrook
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It was the rainy season in 1954 in the Philippine village of Monkayo where this first-term missionary couple and their two children lived, a small settlement with steep hillsides and only dirt roads to provide access to the town.
Suddenly Bob heard a noise that he later described as "pneumatic hammers breaking up concrete." He quickly ran outside then yelled back, "Everyone, get out of the house immediately." Fely, their Filipina helper, grabbed two-year-old Debbie and rushed outdoors. Bob raced back inside to pull seven-months-pregnant Marge and four-year-old Becky out from under a dresser where they were trapped, lying in a pool of broken glass. Outside on the lawn, he checked them all to make sure they were not injured, then looked up at the house which was resting at a precarious thirty-degree angle from the massive mudslide.
They were driven to Davao where they would remain until Marge delivered her baby. Bob returned to Monkayo to work on the house and continue his work at the church until their assignment for the future could be determined.
A few months later, as if to prove the old adage, "when it rains, it pours," two-year-old Debbie began feeling ill. The doctor's diagnosis was the dreaded word, "Polio," a paralyzing illness which had already claimed thousands of lives in the United States. The newly-discovered Polio vaccine was only then available to U.S. citizens, but no supply had yet arrived in the Philippines.
Since Polio was highly contagious and Marge had recently delivered her third child, they decided Marge, Becky, and baby Daniel should return to the U.S., leaving Bob to become Debbie's caregiver.
Unbelievably, just a few days later, the unthinkable happened. Bob was also stricken with Polio.
Their families back home in the United States were devastated by the news. "How could God let something like this happen?" some asked. "Is that how God treats people who have devoted their lives to serve Him in the harsh jungles of undeveloped countries around the world?" Many felt that missionaries, of all people, should be exempt from illnesses of any kind.
Bob had only one response. "I believe in the Sovereignty of God. Rev. Harold Freligh, one of my Bible college professors often wrote on the classroom blackboard, 'In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand. There can come no second causes, all must come by His dear hand.' I cannot question the wisdom of God in allowing this sickness to happen. I must trust Him for the lives of my family and myself."
The only treatment available to them in the Philippines were hot packs, a painful procedure involving applying wet, hot woolen pads to the affected parts of Polio victims' bodies. Both Bob and Debbie endured many of these treatments. Also, Debbie suffered from boils on her forehead, arms, and back. Soon it became apparent that Bob and Debbie should return to the States for more advanced treatment.
They were flown back to New York Hospital For Special Surgery, one of the leading Polio treatment centers in America where Bob and Debbie for several months followed an intensive, rigorous therapy routine. Marge lived with Becky and Dan in a house about 20 miles from Manhattan where she was surrounded by Christian friends who facilitated her almost-daily visits to Bob and Debbie.
Debbie's left leg was permanently paralyzed forcing her to wear a full leg brace to walk. Bob had weakness in his arms and in one leg but was finally able to walk unassisted by learning to "lock" his knee.
Bob was released from the hospital before Debbie, but it wasn't long before she joined her family at home, continuing her exercises.
Bob was left with a decided limp, but after a year and a half of rehabilitation, he and his family returned to the Philippines where he directed Ebenezer Bible College for five productive years. By then, Debbie's growing need for surgery prompted Bob to request a permanent assignment back in the States where more advanced procedures were available for Debbie.
Bob was invited to speak at many churches, conferences, and other gatherings about his ministry and illness in the Philippines. At his alma mater, Nyack College, he faced the student body in assembly and opened with these words, "I believe in the sovereignty of God," to which the students immediately rose as one in approving sustained applause.
This is a true story.
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