May 3, 2010
Editor’s Note: In November 2008, Pastor John Stumbo of Salem Alliance Church encountered an adversary that robbed him of basic physical function-such as walking, talking, and swallowing-and nearly took his life. But the mystery illness would have to conquer more than the mere human; it would have to contend with the Spirit of the Living God, who resides in John’s heart, as well as thousands of believers worldwide who would pray for John’s healing.
When he was able, John included his friends and family in his healing journey through a blog. His chronicles of pain and faith-sometimes blunt and graphic but always inspirational-prompted even those whom he had never met to pray regularly for God’s healing touch. On April 27, 2010, God moved mightily in John’s body, bringing him to a new phase in his healing journey. John describes his latest victory in the following blog.
Last night I went to bed with the prayer, “Thank You that I lived to see this day.” I’ll confess I haven’t had this thought too many days since becoming ill. I’ve even said more than once, “This ‘every day is a gift’ concept is completely overrated.” But yesterday, as my wife and I enjoyed a day of travel together-the pleasure enhanced by the fact that my pain level was very low-I had genuine appreciation in my heart for having been kept alive long enough to enjoy it.
This morning I woke up with a spirit of expectation. I felt good again-two days in a row. Wow! As I normally do, I opened my Bible and got out my syringe. The hotel we were staying at had a continental breakfast, and I had brought back to our room a couple of cups of milk and 12 ounces of raspberry yogurt. By mixing in the milk, I could get the yogurt runny enough to go down my feeding tube. I have eight cases of canned formula in the trunk of the car but prefer to use real food whenever possible.
While pouring runny yogurt down my tube, I enjoyed reading Psalm 108. When I came to the last two verses, I felt like they were meant especially for me on this day: “Oh give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain. Through God we will do valiantly, and it is He who shall tread down our adversaries.” My heart was light, and my spirit was being ministered to.
Shortly after reflecting on these verses, I noticed that my feeding tube wasn’t flowing. This has happened countless times, and with a little coaxing, it always releases. Usually, the problem is a little blockage that the plunger of my syringe easily forces through. Today, however, was an exception. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the contents of the syringe into my stomach.
Joanna came into the room and tried as well. She pushed as hard as she could, but it wouldnt budge. Something was obviously wrong. Nothing like this had ever happened before. My feeding tube-my lifeline-was inoperable.
We held each other, and I prayed in desperation, “Lord, why are you withholding this from me.” Jo didn’t tell me at the time, but she had been meditating on Hannah’s words arising from the bitterness of her soul. She clearly heard the bitterness of mine.
With huge concern, we packed up our belongings, checked out of the motel, and started to drive east on I-70 through St. Louis. We decided to give my tube a few hours to see if anything changed and headed toward Louisville. If I needed an emergency room, we could find one there.
After a few miles I asked Jo to feed me a small spoonful of the yogurt. In the beverage holder of the car sat my trusty spit cup. Every 15 minutes or so, I’d relieve myself of the saliva in my mouth and throat. If the yogurt didn’t go down-and I had no reason to believe it would as I have not been able to swallow for almost 18 months-I’d do what I’ve always done-spit it out.
As I drove, I repeatedly tried to get the yogurt to go down. Getting it out of my mouth was easy enough, but as always, it seemed to just sit in the back of my throat. Rather than just spitting it out, however, I wondered if today God had something special for us. We texted a few family members letting them know of our dilemma. “If God doesn’t heal me or open my tube, I’ll have to go to the ER in Louisville.”
Prayers of Faith
Jo and I prayed. My sister texted, wanting to know what she could do. I wanted to tell her to make me a cheesecake, as we would be seeing her in a few days, and I wanted to eat her wonderful cooking. I wanted to declare this as a statement of faith that perhaps this is the day that God would heal me. I was too afraid to do so, however. We simply asked for prayer, specifically to use Psalm 108:12-13.
Meanwhile, Jo and I drove and prayed. Very slowly I took more small bites of yogurt. After about 75 miles I said to Jo, “Look.” I had eaten an ounce of yogurt . . . the first since November of 2008!
Faith was building. We began to pray harder. She laid her hands on my neck repeatedly as I attempted more swallows. Sometimes I could understand her words, sometimes I couldn’t. However, her tears spoke deep to my heart. We cried together. I started to sing an old song I don’t really even like very well but that seemed to be the word for the moment: “In the Name of Jesus, in the Name of Jesus, we have the victory. In the Name of Jesus, in the Name of Jesus, Satan will have to flee.”
By the time we reached Grayville, Illinois, I had eaten two ounces. I texted the family and called the church with the news. At a Casey’s, I picked up a free cookie sample (one-sixth of a macadamia nut cookie). I went back to the car in kind of a daze. Was this really happening? Was God really healing me? As Joanna had prayed a couple times, I felt something different in my throat than I had felt before.
We stood by the car in a gas station parking area and declared God’s goodness. I then took my spit cup and, as an act of faith, threw it away. By God’s grace, I was starting a new era.
We drove further. I kept trying to eat. We stopped again, this time with an empty four-ounce yogurt container. The man I asked to take our picture had no idea why I was standing next to my wife, holding a spoon and an empty yogurt container. I didn’t try to explain.
We sang more, prayed more, drove further, and nibbled more. After about four hours, I had eaten six ounces of yogurt, one tiny sip of orange juice, my cookie sample, and one-third of a banana. It is not easy. There have been a few times I’ve really wanted to spit but have determined not to. Somehow, some way, this will go down-I will act valiantly (Psalm 108).
A couple coughing fits have served as the warning that the food doesn’t automatically go down the right pipe. I’m definitely not swallowing normally yet, but by the kindness of God, I have swallowed!
I’ve had to confess that something within me wants to cling to self-pity-to not fully let go of this infirmity. I’ve found my identity too much in this affliction. I had to declare that I do not want to live this way.
I also had to remind myself of what I know: God is good. He can heal. He could do so today. We had prayed that this would be the last feeding tube put in me. We reminded God that He had shown Himself to us before-would he do so again today? Would he allow me to begin to swallow on the very day my tube ceased to function?
Jo is concerned about my getting enough food via this manner. I am as well. Should we stop and have a new tube put in? Can we have a formula-dumping celebration one of these days?
Five hours into this and the second four-ounce container is finished. The banana is tougher. Sips of orange juice are going okay. I’ve had occasional violent outbreaks of coughing, but I’m DETERMINED not to spit. The habit must be broken; the declaration (living sermon, illustrated sermon, demonstration to the spirit world) must be made.
Jo bought me a large vanilla frosty and a small chili. Seven hours later it is all consumed. How sweet of God to allow me to share this day with Joanna and only Joanna. So many times we’ve been prayed for in public. Often I’ve envisioned being healed while on the platform preaching-wouldn’t that make a great video? Yet, this whole journey has primarily been for Joanna and me to walk together, mostly in private.
All Glory to God
For this moment, I just want to celebrate, and I want you to do so with me. To the hostess who believed for me this week when I couldn’t; thank you! To the brother in Oklahoma who has fasted from ice cream on my behalf for the duration of this ordeal-your commitment is complete. Have a big bowl . . . with toppings! To the parents whose children have prayed for me with unusual regularity; throw a “Yay, Jesus” party. Don’t miss this teaching/celebrating opportunity. To all of you friends-literally scattered across the globe-bring glory to God. A God-timed miracle took place today. You were part of it. Thank Him!