My little family went on a mission trip to Thailand for six weeks over summer last year. The entire time was challenging and beautiful, life-changing and transforming. Near the end of our outreach, all four of us got sick. It started with our two kids. They spent a few days with a fever that would come and go, sometimes they had stomach problems, but after several days it stopped for them. The following week, Brenner and I came down with the worst illness we’ve ever experienced. It was far worse than whatever the kids had previously had. Our brains hurt. Our eyes could hardly open due to a constant pain behind them. Muscles and joints ached severely. Fever came and went rapidly. Food wasn’t even on the priority list because moving was so excruciating.
I put all of my strength in just living. I had never felt like I was fighting for my life before that. After two days of dealing with this, Brenner and I decided we needed to seek emergency medical care because we sensed that we had something extremely serious. Prior to this happening, we had visited a village in some remote mountains in Thailand where mosquitoes carried disease and illnesses. Therefore we went to the hospital to check ad see if we had anything serious. As if we hadn’t already felt minorities in Asia, we were very obvious Americans in a giant hospital containing nearly a thousand patients from all nations in the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand). Everyone stared at us. And yet, I was in such critical condition that I didn’t care.
“Just save me, God.” This was one of the few thoughts I kept on repeat in my mind while hardly being able to speak.
We were directed to a separate wing of the hospital. There a team of Thai doctors made a make-shift office sitting on a table outside the hospital. The sun was blinding and the heat nauseating. Upon looking at us and asking us what was happening, they immediately felt that we had dengue fever, a mosquito borne illness. The skin tests they ran confirmed that Brenner had the illness, and my results were inconclusive. Still, I remember seeing them write a large “D.F.” with a sharpe marker and circling it at the top right corner of little sheets that identified us out of the other hundreds of patients. They were convinced that we had the illness.
Our contact person accompanying us carried these papers from department to department as we were transferred around the giant indoor/outdoor hospital. I write ‘indoor/outdoor’, because many of the waiting rooms packed with sick and injured patients were outside in the heat. The indoor parts of the hospitals also had wide open doors and windows subject to the elements. The entire place was hot and packed with people. It was a hospital unlike any that a Westerner like me had been to.
My husband and I were sent for further blood tests. We had our missions team contact person with us. His name was Jai Jai. He was someone from the same unreached people group that our missions team had come all the way to Thailand to minister the gospel of Jesus to. This man was part of the less than 2% of evangelical Christians within his entire people group. And boy, was he was on fire for Jesus. He prayed and sang worship songs over Brenner and I throughout the entire process of wheeling me around the hospital in a wheel chair and translating to nurses, doctors and other medical staff for us. I was in bad shape, vomiting, drained of color, couldn’t lift my head while lying limp in my chair with eyes closed. I was a sight to behold for the many masses surrounding us in the different, giant waiting rooms. I couldn’t pray much outside of my one internal cry for God to help us over and over.
Instead of praying or thinking, I listened to Jai Jai praying and singing over us. He was going to battle for us against this sickness that could kill us, a sickness that had killed many. We were silent, but somehow, by the grace of God, unafraid. As wild as it might sound, I knew if dying was a part of this, that I had lived my life for Jesus. To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). That became real for me. And if it wasn’t time for that eternal gain, then I just wanted the medical team to help us get better. Again, this is intense for me to write out, but I can’t tell you enough that the sickness was extremely painful. There was so much we did not know. So much mystery. So there with closed eyes, I gave God my trust, my hope, my life, my husband, my children, my everything. again. and. again.
We went to another office and had our blood drawn. Then wheeled over to another place. We covered so much ground in that hospital. And hardly knew where we were going or what was happening. After several hours of waiting, we were taken to one last doctor.
Jai Jai wheeled me and Brenner over to the new doctor. Brenner was in bad shape too, but not as bad as me so he helped in whatever way he could for me. They helped me sit into the seat before the doctor’s desk. I remember thinking , “Wow, finally some air conditioning.”
She questioned me about the village in the mountains we had been in, and said we had to wait longer for the blood results to come. I remember being on the verge of tears because I didn’t want to leave her office to go back into that hospital crammed with people, sticky with humid heat while also feeling like death. But before I could say a word, her computer made a ding sound. She shockingly announced that the results had just came in. The words that came out of her mouth and then Jai Jai’s translation will remain in my mind for the rest of my life.
P U R E.
Miraculously our blood came back completely pure. Those were the doctor’s exact words.
“Your blood has come back pure.”
They were all a bit confused because our symptoms screamed that we had a mosquito-borne illness, and yet from our blood they could find nothing wrong with us at all. It was a good report, one that we received in shock. God was working miracles on our behalf, but we still couldn’t feel it in the physical 100% yet. I had to stay at the hospital for several more hours to receive fluids. My husband had to return to the place we were staying at in order to be with our children, and Jai Jai had to go back to work but would return to get me after the fluids were done. Which meant I would have to remain there by myself for several hours. I had no phone and was afraid to be alone there but at the same time I was too miserable to protest. I laid on a stretcher in a room with thirty other people. Some lying on stretchers, some were nurses busying about. It was crowded, with no privacy, but it was air conditioned and so much better than the waiting rooms. I tried to will myself to sleep but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t. The fluorescent lights were so bright behind my eyelids, and I shivered despite the heat. I was hooked up to several IV’s. Nurses, doctors and patients spoke and laughed around me in a language I didn’t understand. It was a lot for me. But there wasn’t much I could dwell on or worry about in the moment. I just wanted to live. I did continue thinking that I had no way of keeping track of time and was a little worried about Jai Jai not coming back for me. Slowly the overhead lights began turning off and someone wheeled me out into the hallway where I laid on the stretcher for another eternity, or so it felt. The waiting room was surprisingly empty. This part of the hospital was clearly closing for the day. Several employees came near and talked to one another right beside my head. I had no idea what they said but they soon left. I was a alone in a dimly let hallway. Later someone else came up and took the IV out of my arm and walked away. No one ever told me anything but I wouldn’t have understood anyways. Finally a male nurse or hospital employee came up and began rolling my stretcher outside the wing of the hospital. He took me behind the hospital to an elevator in the back. At this point, after the fluids ran through my veins and hydrated my body, I was feeling a tinsy tiny bit better. So my logic returned to me and I began thinking about everything I had been warned about in coming to a developing country like this. For example, being an American young woman by herself, vulnerable, and without a form of communication. Something rose up in me, a will to live and a fight to be done with this insane situation. Despite my wariness, the man rolling my bed across the parking lot and hospital grounds did in fact take me into another part of the hospital. He left me at the front doors of the hospital’s main entrance. I laid on the stretcher in front of hundreds of people sitting in the waiting room wondering if my ride would know where to find me since I had been moved and the hospital was so big. I waited for a while, still no way of checking or asking for the time. And finally I made the resolve to just leave and walk back to the hotel that our team was staying at. I knew how to get back, but the walk was about two miles and I still felt horrible. Even so, I was done with this situation. So I put my sunglasses on, peeled myself off the stretcher and left without checking out.
Who knew if that was even something that was done here?
I didn’t at the time. I walked back to our hotel in the beating sun with my eyes half closed due to the intense pain in my head. I know now that I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly, but after so much pain and enduring such harsh conditions I was totally done. I wanted it to be over and I wanted to be with my family. Jai Jai found me one block away from our hotel and drove me the rest of the way back. He had to return to the hospital with my passport to check me out and get my medications. What an awesome man dealing with us wild, sick Americans. Still I made it ‘home’ to the hotel with my husband and kids after all of that, and I was pronounced to have pure blood! You would think things got easier. But not quite yet.
Afterwards, recovery was not easy. Despite the good report, our symptoms raged on and the situation remained the same. We practically laid on our backs in darkness for the next two days. As parents, we had to force ourselves to try and get up for the sake of the children, to care for them. And thankfully we had a friend on our team help us a few hours a day to play with the kids, as we hoped and prayed for rest and healing.
On the second day after leaving the hospital, I had had enough of this sickness, enough of crying out to God and seeing the same awful results in front of me. I had so much faith, I loved God with everything in me, I had given up everything to follow Him, literally, and yet we were still so very sick. I began to plan for the worst. I told our team leader that we needed to find a way out of this small village and get to a bigger city with a bigger hospital. I said that we needed someone close to us to come be with the kids, and maybe we needed to be flown back to our home in Norway or even to the U.S. if this sickness went on any longer. We couldn’t take it anymore. The entire situation had become too unbearable. Brenner was in an even worse condition than before, I wasn’t doing any better, and the kids were tired of sitting in our tiny hotel room all day everyday. I felt helpless. I wanted my husband and I to be healed. I felt like a failure. Failure as a Christian, for not having enough faith to be healed. Failure as a mother, for not being able to care for the kids the way I normally would. Failure for getting so sick during a mission trip we prayed for months for. I felt like a failure, for all of it.
The agony of my great weakness and my great need for God came crashing into me in a way I had never felt before.
I laid in bed with my eyes closed, tears seeping slowly between eyelids, hoping for a slumber that wouldn’t come. And so suddenly I felt God lean over me and say, “I am taking care of you.“
I saw the shadow of a figure hovering over me. I heard the whisper. I felt the pressing of someone leaning over me. I’d have thought it was a dream if I could have actually fallen asleep. It was real.
I am taking care of you.
Did I imagine that? How could that be true?
Is this what being taken care of looked like?
I genuinely felt so baffled that God would say such a thing when nothing about my reality looked like care being given. My shock was not malicious, I genuinely contemplated what caring for a child looked like and wondered in what ways this could possibly be that. Still I recognized His voice and I grabbed on to His statement as if it were a rope descending into a dark pit in which I sat at the bottom of. I wrapped this glimmer of hope tightly within myself… and slowly a sound sprang up in the pit.
A distant song began to stir within me like an echo of old. It steadily grew louder and louder, and I soon felt l like I was being electrocuted with the power in the melody.
All my life, You have been faithful.
First, it was just a thought in my mind. But immediately upon thinking it, the truth resonated within me. It pulsated through my bones, bringing warmth into my aching joints. The song pumped with my blood, beat through my heart, and I felt a real revival, from death to life, spark inside me.
All my life, You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God
I opened my lips and with a cracked whisper I began to sing this song to the Lord.
As I whispered the song, I actually felt the pain behind my eyes start to fade away. Very quickly I was able to open them both. The pain receded instantly in one eye, and then slowly, the other. The pain in my body began to leave too. Joint by joint. Muscle by muscle. At last, I sat up. I placed my feet on the cold tile floor without any pain in my brain or body and it was then that I realized what just happened.
I was healed.
It was a miracle. A real healing miracle from God. When I was able to give nothing, God came in with everything. He saved me, as He always has. All my life He truly has been faithful. Something about meditating on His goodness in my life, even when I didn’t feel good, even when I could no longer see His goodness, something about remembering His goodness changed everything for me in that moment. He was caring for me as He always has. That was a knowledge that was so above me, I still don’t understand it fully. He is my Daddy, and He is good. Despite what I see, and despite what I feel the goodness of God is a tangible flame of truth that can pierce through the darkest of nights.
I jumped out of bed singing this song, “Goodness of God” by Bethel Church. I was amazed! I began praying for Jesus to heal my husband, who still laid in the bed and then I took the kids to play outside. I could now be outside in the, once excruciating, bright sunny afternoon. While I was out, my husband also cried out to God for healing and he received instantaneous healing as well. We saw God move in a way we never had personally before. We went through our lowest valley, but God showed Himself in so much glory. He is faithful and that is something we will never forget, something we will shout from the roof tops. God is faithful. Trust Him. Believe.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.John 15:16 NIV
This was a word the God gave my family when we arrived to Thailand, and it remained true through our entire journey there. The knowledge of His faithfulness is one of the fruits that we will carry to the ends of the earth. Be encouraged, friends. God is with you even when you can’t see Him. God is good even when your circumstances don’t feel good. Remember all that He has done, remember His goodness.
Now my family and I are back as missionaries in Norway. We are confidently unsure but unafraid of the unseen journey that lies ahead. We have been miraculously healed and have endured some seriously hard battles. Taking up our cross is not easy but it’s not about us really. All the glory goes to the Father. And one thing we know, He is worthy of it all. Wherever He calls us, however He calls us, He will never leave us or forsake us. He is a good Daddy, and He cares for us. Even in the wilderness. Even in the desolate places.
And that I now know without a shadow of a doubt to be true.