Where, O Death, is your Victory? Where, O Cancer, is your Sting?
On Wednesday July 10th, my wife Anita discovered a small lump on her right breast. The next day she visited her OB-GYN for an exam, mammogram and ultrasound. A week later she had a biopsy of the mass that was visible on ultrasound. The next day, Friday, July 19th she received a call from her OG-GYN. Mammary Carcinoma!
And in a way I can’t explain it, the peace of God came upon me in that moment. Maybe God simply needed me to be strong for Anita, maybe it was years of God continuously moving mountains in my life, maybe it was story after story in the Bible of God working in the lives of those who put their faith in Him. What we both came to believe is God will use this too in building our faith and sharing our testimony.
In September of 2015 Anita and I felt the call of God to step out of our comfort zone. What began then is a journey that is still unfolding. We were in the middle of seeing the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our two oldest sons who have been in YWAM since 2012. Arriving at The University of the Nations in Kona, Hi and participating in week three of Discipleship Training School was beyond anything I ever witnessed.
Young people aged 18-22 hungry for God’s Word. Many humbled and broken from the power of the Holy Spirit moving in their lives. Many breaking free from the bondage that comes from Satan alone. Watching them sing praise and worship songs with a vitality and hunger I have never witnessed before. Young people laying hands on one another in intercessory prayer.
We were undone. This was real. These young people were at the beginning of a three-month Discipleship Training School that was preparing them for a 2 ½ month Outreach to a foreign nation yet to be revealed. They were answering the call to follow the Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:19 NIV. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
On the flight back to Alabama, God placed on our heart a desire to help fund these young people. Realizing our ability to support missions was limited by our personal earnings, the idea of building a business with the sole purpose of applying the profits to missions was conceived. In November of 2017 Trutogs LLC was formed and by September of 2018 www.trutogs.com was live. We were so excited to know we were taking a leap of faith and answering the call of God on our lives. Our commitment was to funnel all profits to these young missionaries and those yet to come. However, in order to accomplish this mission, the business must grow and become profitable. After a few months, the business, still unprofitable was not growing. So, we began to question if we really heard God in that moment in Kona. If this was His will, wouldn’t it be wildly successful?
In January of 2019 I visited my oldest son in East Africa. He and his YWAM team were conducting a live Discipleship Training School. While I can’t go into details, as they were operating in the 10/40 Window, what I can tell you is God began a work in me. I went there to better understand why my oldest son was taking risks in that part of the world and to caution him that his zealousness for the faith could affect our entire family if he should find himself in persecution. His answer caught me off guard, “To lose my life for the work of the Lord and be in Heaven would be joy”. That was day one. By day ten, it was clear to me why my son followed God’s call in that part of the world. And I was in full support and acceptance of the outcome come what may.
In May, this same son visited me in the states. On a visit to my 90-year old father’s home, he challenged me to take Anita, Logan (his 12-yr. old brother) and attend a Discipleship Training School in the fall.
We were doing what God called us to do in building Trutogs.com for the sole purpose of flowing profits to YWAM Missionaries. That didn’t make sense. Why would God place this call on our lives and have us go to all this effort to now put that aside and go away for six months?
We simply couldn’t come up with a reason not to go. Every conceivable objection to putting the business on standby to the additional funding we would need, to who will look after our home for six months, all was answered by God. He wanted us to go!
Within two weeks we signed up our family to attend Youth With a Mission (YWAM) held at the University of the Nations in Kona, HI. Was this to better understand the very students we were seeking to support? Was this to lead us into another direction? We know from the Bible God simply wants us to be obedient to His call. Yet I remembered a verse on the wall of that East Africa YWAM base that read, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 NIV
Satan will attack us at our most vulnerable weakness and the most inopportune time. His purpose is outlined in John 10:10 NIV “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
On Friday morning July 12th, a full week before the biopsy, I contact Aliera Healthcare. We had just signed up a few months before. They claimed they were a HealthSharing Ministry based on Christian Principals. We chose the CarePlus catastrophic plan. Our family has always been healthy (praise God) and we simply needed to protect ourselves from a catastrophic event like cancer.
They sent me the prior-authorization form to complete. During the process, I searched on Aliera Healthcare as I didn’t have their URL in my bookmarks. What I immediately saw was alarming. The reviews on Yelp.com were horrible. I frantically began searching for other information. Then I stumbled on an active case in Texas. The State of Texas had filed a lawsuit earlier in the day seeking a temporary restraining order on Aliera Healthcare (aka Trinity HealthShare).
Wow. Satan was attacking on all fronts. Not only could we be burdened with a potential prognosis of breast cancer, we could end up with thousands in medical bills! But even in the midst of the storm I felt in the core of my soul Satan was up to his old tricks!
Satan had been lobbing soft balls at us ever since we signed up for the Discipleship Training School on May 16th. For example, on June 13th, Sam, our third oldest son cut his thumb really bad on a band saw. He didn’t seek immediate treatment however, once Anita saw it was still bleeding that evening, she immediately took him to a physician. A small artery had been severed and needed a doctor’s care.
Then on June 27th, I almost got into a wreck that happened in a split-second right in front of me but was able (by the hand of God Himself) to avoid the collision and left completely untouched by any other vehicles. Praise God.
Then our 12-year-old son Logan falls off his bike in the street out front. Ok but bruised, scratched up and a little in shock that caused him to faint.
It was during this time I began to consider all that God was allowing to happen to us. There had to be a reason. So, I recounted the timeline of events.
- September of 2015 - God tells us to launch a web site to fund missionaries
- January 2016 - work on the web site begins
- August of 2017 - God sets in motion a series of events leading us away from our careers
- November 2017 - Trutogs LLC is formed
- September 2018 - Trutogs.com is live
- January 2019 - Trip to East Africa Discipleship Training School inspires
- May 2019 - God begins to call us to attend a YWAM Fire & Fragrance DTS in September
- June 2019 - The enemy begins his campaign to bring fear into our lives with accidents
- July 2019 - The enemy brings cancer to Anita and fear by taking away our insurance
This tactic was a well-worn path in my own life. I’ve been through so many struggles with Satan trying to temp me, threaten me, bring fear and doubt into my life and take away the most precious gifts God has given me. Yet each and every time, God has been faithful! Each time, by being patient and obedient, God’s plan was far beyond my own imagination.
But God gave us a written text of story after story of His mighty hand of deliverance. The Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt, Job who Satan believed would curse God if his family and wealth was taken away, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, David fleeing Saul, Paul shipwrecked, beaten and imprisoned.
God inspired Moses, Daniel, Paul and others to express in vivid detail the sufferings of this world. It was God’s intention that we would have these stories to guide us through life’s struggles and deepen our dependence and faith in Him.
With those stories of deliverance ruminating in the back of my mind, I began to trust God, be still and wait for His word. And immediately I began to see His purpose. Here we were planning to leave for Discipleship Training School just two months away without a care in the world. Life was so wonderful.
But we believe God allowed this to happen in our lives for a reason. God needed us to feel the fear and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis my wife just received. God needed us to be utterly and completely dependent on Him. He wanted us to experience the fear so many people have of not having health insurance at a critical time in their life. He wanted us to feel what it’s like to feel helpless. Our Discipleship Training School had already begun. God was taking us through our first lesson plan.
Without health insurance, would we even be able to book an appointment with a surgeon? Particularly UAB Medicine in Birmingham? Yet on a Tuesday morning came a call from the administrator. In the calmest of voices, she went ahead and scheduled an appointment with the Dr.’s for a week later. She was so empathetic and understanding particularly with Anita who had already began researching breast cancer and learning about the worst-case scenarios.
After explaining our loss of insurance, that calm voice on the other end of the phone recommended several options to mitigate the cost. Within 48 hours God once again weighed in and showed his mighty hand. Fully insured! Praise God!
It’s so obvious Satan does not want us to go to this Fire and Fragrance DTS. He hates the idea that we would grow in our faith, gain a new vision and plan to help grow the kingdom of God!
God's word to me was He needed our family to go through this in order to gain a greater dependence on Him. Being obedient means setting aside our plans and trusting that His plan is exceedingly greater than we could ever imagine. That suffering will grow our faith, instill in us an understanding, compassion and empathy toward others who we will come into contact in Kona and on Outreach. Our Father God wanted us to know what it feels like to be completely dependent on him.
Please pray for protection over our family. The spiritual battle is real.
“Strive to be one of the few who walk this earth with the ever-present realization - every morning, noon and night - that the unknown that people call heaven is directly behind those things that are visible”. By L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert.
Blog title adapted from 1 Corinthians 15:55
- Robert Winter