He loves singing in the choir at church and working with the middle school youth. The church is where he gives and receives life. Yet Sid doesn’t feel up to coming to church every Sunday anymore, for in November he started peritoneal dialysis. For thirty minutes four times a day, Sid undergoes dialysis in his home because of a degenerative kidney disease. He desperately needs a kidney transplant, but the wait is three to five years unless he can find a live donor. There are 77,000 people on the wait list for a kidney in the United States.
Three to five years seems like an eternity for Sid, as he grows weaker, more tired, and frustrated. When he is down, Sid remembers the words of his mother, who would say to him as a child, “When you are so weak that you can’t take another step, remember how far God has brought you.”
On Sunday, December 22, God wakes Pastor Chad early in the morning. Thinking about the theme of the Christmas service he is leading in the local movie theater that night, Chad asks himself the same question he will pose that night, “If you had a gift, who would you give it to?” God says to Chad, “Sid.”
Pastor Chad calls Sid and asks if he would be willing to offer a testimony that night. Sid agrees. He shares his need for a new kidney and testifies that God has been working throughout his life and still has plans for him. Pastor Chad invites anyone who feels called to be tested as a kidney donor to come forward after the service.
Julie writes in her journal on December 22: I learned of Sid’s medical condition at “A Christmas for Everyone.” Immediate thought: Of course! I have 2! We each only need 1! How can I help?
Sid’s health is slowly deteriorating day by day. He is waiting for a miracle.
Date Unknown: I called The Beaumont Transplant Center and requested donor questionnaire.
January 1: George lifts the “One Word Challenge” to our family. At this point, I was meditating on 2 words:
1. LIFE (every person has intrinsic value, speak life, live my best life, care for others’ lives)
2. GIVE (financial & “all in” involvement, getting involved with my time)
I continue to try to narrow it down to ONE word…. God persists with these two words.
Sid and his wife Kathy wait and hope as the donor process continues. Congregation members pray. Sid’s deep faith empowers him to take one day at a time.
January 7: 10am – The Beaumont Transplant Center called to arrange blood work for January 20; 3pm – I hear the song “Write Your Story” on the radio for the first time. I sense further confirmation that I want God to use me as a living kidney donor. I print out the lyrics and add “Julie: GIVE LIFE 2014” at the bottom of the page. I print the page and set it on the counter. My first public admission to my growing certainty that this is really God’s prompting and I’m diving in.
January 17: I know that I am “all in”… for Sid or for someone! I am the healthiest I have ever been. I feel humbled that God would choose me to express His love in this outward fashion. I feel honored to be offered this life-saving opportunity. I feel compelled to take intentional care of my body (The Holy Spirit moved in, years ago, after all!).
January 19: (At the Shine worship service) So, I approached her Kathy. We hugged. I asked how Sid was doing. She shared with me that Sid is struggling with depression… These long cold days, feeling homebound with the dialysis machine, not yet being approved for the while-you-sleep dialysis option.
January 22: Sleepless. 3am. Awake and praying. Praying for wisdom. Praying for Sid. Praying Psalm 23. Praying the Lord’s Prayer. Awake and praying. Waiting. Peaceful.
February 7: Alone (not really) in the kitchen, I prayed out loud, “Lord, I think the transplant team could very well be in the meeting right this moment. When they call, I trust a ‘yes’ will bring a blessing. I also know that even a ‘no’ will bring a blessing. In your all-knowing wisdom, you work all things for good according to your purposes! Your will, not mine. Where you lead I will go! Amen.”
The instant I opened my eyes the phone rang. Truly – that very instant! I smiled, knowing it would be the hospital. It was! I smiled ear to ear. And Sharon told me the team had determined that I was an “excellent donor candidate…” As long as Sid and I both stay healthy, our surgeries will likely be on February 26. It’s time to “walk the talk,” Julie!
Sid says, “When I hear that a match has been found and that it is Julie, someone with whom I have worked in middle school ministry, I feel calm but experience more joy than I ever have in my life. It’s so overwhelming that I don’t know what to do with it.”
February 13: This continues to NOT be about me. It’s more about Sid. And even more than Sid. It’s about God and His amazing love for His creation. I imagine that when I need the comfort of The Lord, I will feel the warmth of his hands on my shoulders.
February 23: Julie and Sid share their stories during the Shine worship service. Julie reads from her diary, and Sid speaks from his heart. There is not a dry eye in the congregation. Every worship service prays for Sid and Julie, giving glory to God that they are both modeling the life-giving, sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.
February 25: Twenty-five Bible study sisters in Christ lay their hands on Julie as she is anointed with oil and prayed over.
February 26: Julie and George and Sid and Kathy arrive at Beaumont Hospital at 5:45 a.m. Julie’s three and a half hour surgery will begin at 7:45 a.m., and Sid’s similar length surgery will begin after Julie’s kidney is carefully removed and ready to replace his diseased kidney.
I arrive bearing gifts from the congregation. Two hand-carved olive wood crosses, two hand-made prayer shawls, and two laminated tags that were pinned to Julie’s and Sid’s hospital gowns and remained there during surgery. The tags quoted Isaiah 41:10.
“Do not fear, for I am with you
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God,
I will strengthen you and help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Every doctor and nurse is compassionate and aware of the magnitude of Julie’s gift to Sid. Both are treated with tender care and respect. Julie says, “Our God is an awesome God and has created us so that we can give life to others by offering parts of ourselves to them.” She is peaceful and ready, and we pray as Julie is taken into surgery.
Sid has a longer wait. He and Kathy are overwhelmed at Julie’s unfathomable gift. Who could imagine? An older African-American man and a younger Caucasian mother of school-age children: a perfect match and from the same church! Sid, too, is at peace. The angels are already in the operating room, waiting to watch over both of these precious children of God.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Julie and Sid both unabashedly proclaim the extraordinary gift of Jesus Christ in their life. Our human existence is all about giving life, isn’t it? When we give life to someone else, we ourselves receive new life in return.
Both surgeries go very well, and Julie’s kidney immediately kick-starts new life into Sid’s body. They end up in rooms right down the hall from each other and remember how far God has brought them. When people ask Julie who the recipient of her kidney is, she replies, “He’s my brother … by a different mother.” Sid says the same thing of Julie, “She’s my sister … by a different mother.”
Lent begins in a few days on Ash Wednesday. Many of us are still uncertain what we will give up or add to our lives for Lent, but Julie and Sid have already made their decisions. By giving up her kidney, Julie is offering life to Sid as a witness to God’s glory. And by receiving Julie’s gift in faith, Sid is giving life to others by his testimony to the power of God. Whatever spiritual discipline you and I adopt in Lent, may it bring glory to God and abundant life to ourselves and others. GIVE LIFE 2014.