For the past 15 years, I have been operating backcountry tours for snowboarders and skiers in the rugged Hakkoda mountain range in Japan’s northeastern Aomori Prefecture. The work is exhilarating, but also a sober responsibility. Adventure-seeking tourists put their lives in my hands, trusting me to get them up and down the mountains safely. I always spend the long commute up the mountain praying for wisdom and spiritual guidance, as well as for protection for each person in that day’s tour group.
In January of 2002, I was diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic melanoma cancer. The survival rate for people who reach this stage of the disease is less than 50%. Over half die within five years.
What would be a difficult prospect for anyone to face was nearly overwhelming for me. I was still in my 20s and the father of four young children. Faith in God is what kept my wife Iona and me from slipping into despair or succumbing to fear over what the future might hold.
Easter is the celebration of an event that is beyond comprehension. A body was brutally whipped, nailed to a cross, and hoisted aloft to die an excruciating and shameful death, then pierced with a spear before being taken down from the cross and wrapped tightly in grave clothes, and laid in a tomb. Three days later, that same body was once more living, breathing, walking, talking.
There is another miracle beyond my comprehension, one that takes place daily. A sperm joins with an egg to form a single cell, smaller than a grain of salt. This one cell contains the complex genetic blueprint for every detail of human development, including the child’s gender, hair and eye color, height, skin tone, and much more.
Jesus left His followers with an amazing promise of supernatural power. “Anyone believing in Me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12 TLB).
That promise has stood for two thousand years, and multitudes of Christians have done those “greater things.” God empowered otherwise ordinary people like you and me to work His miracles, and that same power can work miracles through us today if we will simply believe and act on God’s Word.
In the eighteenth week of my ninth pregnancy, I started to bleed a little. I went for some tests, and that’s when my doctor discovered that I had a tumor. He said it would be a miracle if the baby survived.
I prayed and asked Jesus to let me keep the baby because I felt that this was going to be my last pregnancy, and the Lord did a miracle and brought the baby to full term, in spite of a lot of pain in my back and uterus. She was delivered by cesarean section—beautiful, big, and healthy!
“Sally Agallo had reached the end of her tether,” said an article in Drum, an East African weekly magazine. “So one day she boarded a ferry from Mombasa and travelled far into the ocean, where she leapt overboard.”
“Amazingly,” Sally told Drum, “instead of sinking, I floated. I could hear clearly as people screamed that someone had thrown herself in the ocean. Desperate to sink, I forced myself under the water, but something held me up—very surprising, as I am a non-swimmer. It was during this time that God spoke to me and informed me that He had plans for me. He would not allow me to drown myself.”
In Jesus’ time lepers were treated as outcasts. So were others who were ill or disabled, due to the same fears and prejudices. But what was Jesus’ response? He was full of compassion, healing, and acceptance—not condemnation, fear, or rejection. “All those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40). Jesus set an example for us to follow.
Ana was two years and eight monthsold when we first noticed it was difficult for her to put weight on her left foot. It was almost undetectable at first, but grew worse by the day. When neither her orthopedist nor her pediatrician could diagnose the problem, they ordered a CAT scan.
The test results and prognosis were devastating. Ana had three malignant tumors in her brain—medulloblastoma, a very aggressive type of cancer, already in the fourth and final stage and already affecting the bone marrow in various parts of her body. The doctors urged us to have great courage, but to prepare for the worst, as this cancer usually advances very rapidly in children. Our world went dark.
Over 20 years ago, shortly after I first began volunteering with the Family International, a coworker named David noticed that I was wearing a special shoe with a built-up heel on my right foot. This was because my right leg was 1.5 cm (nearly 3/4 in) shorter than my left. Also, my spine had assumed an S-shaped curve to compensate, and normal daily activities caused aches and pains. In fact, I was medically classified as disabled.
It was January 2001, and Dad was 81 and bending under the weight of his grief. Mum had left us less than two months earlier. In his weak state, a harsh viral infection paralyzed a vocal cord and reduced his voice to a faint whisper. He couldn’t call out if he needed help, so he had to carry a bell with him wherever he went. Dad is by nature very sociable, so not being able to talk was difficult in more ways than one.
We did the rounds of ear, nose, and throat doctors, voice specialists, throat surgeons—the works. One doctor thought he detected a possible growth in Dad’s throat, which might need attention. Another recommended surgery to replace the paralyzed vocal cord with some sort of gadget. The list of diagnoses and possible cures went on and on.