Sunday I ended the sermon on John 7:37-39 sharing about the many ways Dave Brown gave life to others. Even in the moment of his passing, his mother, Betty Brown, continued giving life to her family. Last week I experienced another powerful moment of life-giving.
On January 14 of this year, Gabe was on a bike ride in South Florida. He’d been planning this trip for a few months; a combination of an adventure getaway and a chance to catch up with an old friend. Even at 74-years-old, Gabe is one of the fittest people you could meet, the kind of guy who works out two or three times a day, does cross-country bike rides, and has calf muscles that fold toward the front of his shins.
That evening he started feeling bad with flu-like symptoms. Within 24 hours his body had shut down and he was on life support. The family flew in from all over the country, expecting the worst. The doctors said he was a 1-percenter; not referring to his income, or status, but his heart and lung function levels. His hands and feet turned black as all the blood pulled into his core to try and keep him alive. He was in a coma for ten days, but against all odds, he pulled through. Throughout his hospital stay, I kept in touch on their CaringBridge social media site and left comments and mentioned that we were praying. He made it back home to Arkansas mid-February and has been recovering there since.
Last week I called Gabe for the first time to touch base and encourage him. I should have known better than to think I would be the one encouraging him. He spent the entire conversation telling me of all the ways God has been good to him, of his gratitude for being alive, and of all the great people who’ve helped him learn about prosthetics. (He has since had his left hand amputated. He told the doctors he wanted a prosthetic that would allow him to do pull ups and pushups, and one he could ‘take off to swim.’) He was finally walking around his house without a walker and was super grateful for that (the bottoms of his feet are still recovering from the blood loss and need daily care and bandaging).
Then he dropped the bomb on me. “John I’ve got to tell you that I’ve taken a ton of inspiration from watching your son recover from his accident last year. Watching him stay positive and moving forward has been a powerful example for me now.” Gabe was a first hand witness to John Isaac’s recovery, since we were staying in his house at the time. We had sold our house in Little Rock and needed a place to stay until our house in Louisville was ready, so for six weeks Gabe and his wife Nancy let us take over their house, basically treating the entire place as our own except for their bedroom. Not only did we live there, my parents stayed multiple times, dozens of friends came to visit JI seemingly around the clock, plus we hosted going away parties at their home. But when Gabe said he’d been inspired by my son (who had fallen off a cliff and suffered major injuries to his face and a broken arm), I melted on the phone. I was calling to encourage Gabe, and he’s the one that ended the call saying, “John let me pray for you and your church that God would continue to move among the people there.”
I hung up the phone thinking, “I better not complain about a single thing today. If Gabe can keep that kind of positive outlook on life, what in the world do I have to complain about!” Instead, I hope to be a life-giver like Gabe, pouring into others instead of taking. I know Valley View is full of so many who are life-givers and build up others. May God give us all opportunities to be like Gabe this week and tell of God’s goodness and faithfulness even in the hard times. Please continue to lift up Gabe’s recovery as he still has a difficult road ahead. Also lift up the Martin family as Chastity is in critical condition in ICU, and keep praying for the Brown family as they continue to grieve the loss of Dave.
My prayer is that God would be actively at work at Valley View in such a way that from your innermost being would flow rivers of life-giving living water (John 7:38). May God use Valley View to pour out his Spirit in Southwest Louisville!