(Get ready, this IS a Ken Drake epistle!)
What an overwhelming honor and joy it is to finally write to you this morning, September 3, my dear praying, believing army interceding on behalf of me and my family. How does one adequately express that kind of gratitude for such love, grace, and sacrifice. I have been and remain so humbly thankful for all you are doing for us. In those lowest days of extreme physical pain and the burden of waiting on biopsy, petscan, blood work results, I know without a doubt it was God hearing and answering your prayers for us. It was 2 intense nights of of extreme spiritual warfare as the weight of extreme physical, emotional and spiritual pain engulfed me and in my weakened state Satan tried to make me believe that my past, present and future sin was too deep to overcome my diseased body. But then there was YOU who were interceding in the heavenlies on my behalf! "What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our Refuge __ take it to the Lord in prayer!"
It all began the evening of August 19th, the day Dr. Brad Gaspard came so burdened, so compassionately, so professionally to tell us the initial diagnosis. What a load to carry but what a great doctor moving so quickly with great wisdom and discernment on that Thursday and Friday before diagnosing the jaundice and moving mountains to get me in for an ultrasound and Catscan, hooking us up with Dr. McDonald, our GI doc, and an oncologist to help us move toward MD Anderson when that need arose! Doctor and Friend, thank you, thank you! "Thank you for giving to the Lord! I am a life that's been changed!"
On that evening was when the huge wave of prayer began that I truly believed turned the tide, healing began and a mass begin changing into some unidentifiable inflamed tissue in the pancreas. After the most difficult challenges of this whole journey, calling to tell Maggie, Spencer and Mary Elizabeth, we began to call Kevin, my brothers and family and dear friends. And of course Kevin, SuSu and Grace and these dear ones were at our door step within minutes, comforting and loving us but immediately began praying over us. I will also forever be grateful for my dear Perry and Melissa connecting us with pancreatic cancer survivor, Lucy Cobb, who at 10 pm that night so lovingly but so boldly shared her journey and the wisdom on what to do and how to move. She gave so totally from her heart that night! It was frightening but yet so helpful that it brought comfort and hope in that darkest of nights!
And dear Monica, up most of that night gathering video tutorials and other info from MD Anderson and JohnsHopkins in order for us to begin processing and getting informed that very next morning.
That Monday afternoon, my dear sister-in-law came with a prayer shawl from that ministry at First Methodist. SuSu crochets and knits every Tuesday with that group and here she came with tears in her eyes to anoint me and pray over me with that shawl. It has not left my body since that day, every night strategically wrapped across my pancreas and liver! Roxane and others led us back to Jesus Calling devo, the opening words for August 20th being, ""I AM A GOD WHO HEALS!"
Monday evening Kevin and the Elders came. What a powerful time of worship and prayer coverage. Amidst mine and Kathy's tears we poured out our fears, praying for cleansing of my sins, and we prayed, sang, worshiped our Savior believing in faith for healing. It was monumental, it was again I believe life changing as God heard and answered our prayers and healing was taking place. Chapel body, what a humble and Godly group of men God has assembled to lead us! Kevin led us in this significant hymn, "There's within my heart a melody Jesus whispers sweet and low, Fear not I am with thee, peace be still, in all of life's ebb and flow. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go!"
And your prayer coverage had only begun! On Tuesday night only as God could time it, as the choir leadership arrived to pray over us before the pancreatic biopsy the next morning here comes dearest Donald and Mary Tabb who had just flown in from Orlando and straight to our doorstep they came. Yet another night of incredible worship and prayer as we ended that eventful night proclaiming over and over, "we trust You, Lord, we trust You!" And Sherry also came announcing the blog that she had created that will be a life saver all my days as you have loved me with your prayers, scriptures, and words of encouragement, wisdom and hope from miles away! Dear family, all my Ware Shoals and Furman cronies I love you so! Brothers Bob and Jim, Karen, Debbie, First Baptist family, Tom Martin thanks for being the messenger to get the word to So many to pray. It has changed my life physically but more importantly spiritually! "Thank YOU for giving to the Lord . . . I am a life that's been changed!"
And to Sherry, Scarlett, Roxane, the choir, Evan, Hans, Kevin, Luanne, Donna thanks for all you are doing to keep the choir moving forward in such an excellent way. I am hearing the services and the Acts series is so powerful. Enjoying the messages online, but how we have missed being in the midst of these eventful services! Praying to be with you really soon!
And to all of you have brought meals, sent cards, your visits, calls, texts, dear Wade, the saxophone playing doorbell is so cheery; dear Randie Bertrand who came to batten us down for the hurricane, to Anne, Corky, Ava, Kristy, Tricia, Maggie, "Son" Sauer, Cindy, Suzanne for your incredible clean up after the storm in the pouring rain!!! We love you, we thank you!
Kathy has continued to bless us all not only keeping you updated with the latest news and results but ministering to our hearts as only she can do with her beautiful relationship with her Jesus! It all inspires us to know Him that intimately! In no way can I express all the ways my dear bride has ministered to my heart and soul through her grace and sacrificial love. You all know what an amazing lady God has given me. It is only because of this abiding relationship with Jesus that she could endure this journey and all she has dealt with in living 33 years with me! And to my dear Maggie, as her dear family she works for was so gracious to let her off, little did we realize just what a life line she would be with us that eventful week of procedures and the waiting of results. Of course she wanted to be right here with us, but I saw in her only a strength and grace that God could give as she carried such a burden for me and I knew an extreme angst for her and Spencer's most holy day of their lives pending. But she was a rock able to hear and discern from doctors, and to do what was impossible at that time for Kathy and me in our extreme pain, weakness, and weariness! It does make a Daddy proud to see his daughter and what God has and is doing in making her such a lady and preparing her to be such a beautiful bride and wife for our dear Spencer. He too was such a prince once again, longing to be here with us. He was bold and strong for me and his encouragement and true faith and belief that God was going to bring us through this spoke volumes of his character and his love for me and our family!!
And then my dear Mary Elizabeth, walking through her 1st week of school, the most intense for a Musical Theatre major at OCU as she had 2 auditions and 2 call backs all that week. It is physically and mentally exhausting and is trying in the best of conditions. Here she was singing her heart out on that Tuesday night, the night before my pancreas biopsy procedure and again in a grueling call back on Thursday evening, the night before the Petscan procedure. Once again what comfort and peace God brought Kathy and me as we could sense the Spirit's covering her with your prayers and the inner strength God was providing her at such a dark and lonely time to be away from her Mom, Dad and sister! Her Christian buddies were all around her right in her room on that Sunday night after we called to tell her the initial diagnosis and they were right there with her all week long praying with her and walking with her. Thanks Elise, Ezekiel and others!!! We are forever grateful!
God also answered our prayers for her in the auditions. She was called back for a lead role in Legally Blonde even tho the director knew she couldn't do the show, it is the same weekend as the wedding!!! But she received glowing reports from her auditions! And on the Saturday before, from another audition, she was chosen as one of 8 singers(4 female, 4 male) for the OCU show choir that will represent the University in singing for University, community and fund raiser events. There is even a New Orleans gig in the plans some time this year where they will come to sing! She has also been cast in the main stage opera, "Diaologue of the Carmelites" to be performed November 9-11. She is gaining great experience there. Needles to say all this good news was only from a loving, graceful God to encourage her with her hard work and perseverance in such a dark, difficult time!
Finally, I must declare the praises of Jesus, thanking Him for my wonderful Dr. Walker McDonald and Dr. Chris McCanless. Again, in God's perfect timing and plan that Dr. McDonald and I would meet earlier in the Summer when he performed my colonoscopy and we discovered then to be Christian brothers. And now in this most critical time of my life physically, he would be the doctor to care for me and perform this endoscopic ultrasound biopsy on my pancreas. His thoroughness and extreme care has been so comforting and brought the peace of Christ into his office each visit. And when he delivered the continued good report with the Petscan as I fell to my knees in worship right in my office, he too said he had done some of that himself over my condition. To know that He and McCanless were discussing, scratching their heads together and referring to every doctor they could seek advise, counsel and wisdom meant so much to us at that time. McDonald has been relentless, determined to help us find out what is going on and so he has turned all his study toward the liver right now. And so we await and prepare for the liver biopsy on Thursday and and MRI on the pancreas sometime after that. I am forever grateful that God in His perfect plan would place us in Dr. McDonald's hands! Walker, Friend and Doctor, "Thank you for giving to the Lord . . . I am a life that has been changed!"