A copy of the 4 Instant Messaging notes between Roger and Bill hit my inbox on November 10th of 2009. As lead singer for The Ambassadors, I remembered meeting Roger Kinze at Lost Creek UMC . Our group has shared the gospel in song on several occasions at their church. Located south of Stillwater and beyond Perkins, Oklahoma you will find one of the most active churches in the state.
Bill Chilcoat is a long time friend and founder of The Ambassadors. His email to me simply mentioned a “wonderful opportunity” and asked for prayer and consideration from myself and Vicki McCuistain, the third member of the group. Nowhere in the message was there any mention of a mission trip to Alaska but such is Bill’s style of methodical patience.
In over 40 years of singing across the country, The Ambassadors had never been given such a “wonderful opportunity” to be part of a 10-day mission trip. The team, made up mostly of UMC members at Lost Creek, Edmond and OKC was preparing to share their building talents as well as teach on the “Five Principles of a Fruitful Congregation”. And then there was the three of us. There was also my wife, Lori. Our role was to provide music ministry (The Ambassadors) in the evening at the Soldotna UMC, video (Mike Harris Media) tape the journey, help in the kitchen, teach the children (Lori’s lifelong career, I mean “calling”) and any other areas that might be needed.
Emails, instant messaging, fund raisers, phone calls, team meetings, fund raisers, orientation, practices…fund raisers (may have already mentioned that before) and prayer went by quickly. June 19th, 2010 was suddenly here.
Saturday morning, the moment we had all been waiting on (except maybe for those not going on this trip) was interrupted by a normal “Ring…ring, ring….Ring, ring ring…” which is a little annoying (“Angry Ring Ring” is the title) but hilarious ringtone assigned exclusively to Bill Chilcoat on my Blackberry. Anticipating the typical covering of last minute details, I answered the call with excitement. The voice on the other end of the line sounded vaguely familiar. It was Bill. He gave me a quick synopsis on how sick he was, how dry his mouth was and that regrettably, he did not think there was any way he could make the flight out that morning. Lori and I would be leaving for the airport to join the rest of the team who was driving in from Stillwater to Tulsa in less than 30 minutes.
The call concluded with plans for Bill to be driven by his cousin Joe Brown to the airport. Bill would then bring the laptop (holding our entire playlist of tracks) along with the microphones, cables, etc., and join us later in the trip. We did not realize at the time that neither the microphones (packed in another case left at Bill’s home in Mounds) nor Bill would make the trip to Alaska…at least not this year.
Lori and I continued as planned, arrived at Tulsa International Airport and was greeted by the rest of the team already gathered in the check-in area. A short time later, an unknown telephone number came up on my cell. Joe Brown introduced himself to me as Billy’s cousin and that there would be a delay in bringing the laptop to us. Joe was taking Billy to ER first. Little did we know how the relationship between that unknown telephone number and Joe Brown would develop over the next two weeks and beyond.
So here was this Alaska Team 2010 of twenty minus one facing individual testing of faith that would only increase as the journey continued. For nineteen of us it would be a battle of emotions. For one it would be a fight for life.
Our group departed Tulsa and landed in Dallas as scheduled. Joe Brown called to report that Bill, obviously sicker than anyone realized, had been admitted to the hospital and was in ICU. His body was dehydrated. His kidneys were being affected. There was nothing more to report for now. Joe and I agreed to touch base again as soon as additional information was available. The 3 hour time difference between Alaska and Oklahoma did eventually play a somewhat challenging role in the sequence of updating information. This factored in on both the sending and receiving end of progress updates. The concern became quickly evident on faces throughout the team as Bill’s condition was relayed. You could see lips start to move as silent individual prayers began to be offered. Others began texting or calling family and friends to report the news. Heaven was starting to receive a blend of voices, praying for a quick recovery as a band of faith began to form across the region. Still counting on a simple delay for our friend to rejoin the team in Alaska we boarded the flight for Anchorage.
The non-stop flight from DFW to Anchorage was a long six hours and approximately forty minutes. Between the pages of another Lee Child & Jack Reacher mystery novel reflecting over the past week of activities leading up to the trip gave no overpowering evidence to support my friend being in ICU versus in a seat beside me. At a relatively young age of 64, with an alien-like ability to recall telephone numbers, names, dates and other things permanently dislodged from most of the rest of people like myself, Bill is in good health. A lean, active mind and body that keeps pace with most has no business being in ICU as far as I could see.
A week ago Bill was routinely helping with the cattle chores. This was nothing new. It was hot that weekend. In Oklahoma that is also routine for this time of year. The Mounds home place is filtered with pecan trees and native hardwoods. Shade is available even by the corral where activities the previous weekend had taken place. The water can, properly positioned on top of a post at the pin, was on site and in use. It was not new but surely the broken handle had little effect on the cool water inside? Bill along with the others drank from the can and he had remarked how the handle needed to be fixed. Joe remembered the remark and had mentioned it to me. The novel was an excellent read for me but the reflection part was not turning up anything significant enough to land my friend in ICU. The flight seemed longer without the ability to call the unknown number yet to be logged in my contacts under Joe Brown, Cousin to Bill.
There is no way to get your mind to be able to associate the sun shining and it being 10:00pm local time, at least not if you are from Oklahoma. It was 1:00am in Oklahoma and dark at about the same time Alaska Team 2010 was loading up in the two 12 passenger vans for what would become a scenic route to the local Golden Corral.
Note: If U would like more details on how a 5 mile trip from the airport location took approximately 3 x longer than it should have, please ask. I would be glad to share. In fact, most any of the team members present (save the driver of the white van) could give U a nice rendition of the jaunt. Multiple inquiries would most likely provide a Universal perspective.
Actually, the scenic experience from the airport to the buffet came as a much needed release of mixed emotions. Laughter is good medicine! Proverbs 17:22, A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Back to our familiar seats in either the white or grey vans and off we went in a southerly direction toward the Kenai Peninsula. We had all been up between 20 and 24 hours straight and were growing weary. Mile 101 on Seward Highway and the Bird Ridge Motel with its giant bald eagle statue was a welcomed sight for everyone. The back of the vans found immediate relief as the piles of luggage found their way into the respective owner's rooms for the night. The team devotional ended with special prayer for Bill. It was 1:00am local Alaska time, while light enough outside to read and mid 60s 3:00am Oklahoma time, hot and dark.
By 7:00am local time the grey and white vans were once again packed with 10 days of luggage for 19 people split up as equally as the sizes and configurations would allow. Leaving The Bird Hotel behind, most of the team reclaimed their original seating positions and settled in for the 2 hour drive to Soldotna, home of the world record King Salmon and the Soldotna United Methodist Church.
Our first day in Soldotna, Alaska was packed tight with activity. If the two vans could talk, they would be able to describe this first day in the mission field without any difficulty considering their first-hand experience thus far in the journey. Needless to say, Sunday, June 20, 2010 would provide an excellent representation of the remaining trip.
Cousin Joe Brown phoned just prior to the end of service that evening, following orientation from host pastor, Richard Whetsell and teaching from team member, Buddy Moore. My hip vibrated, a quick exit from the evening service, a soft Hello, this is Mike and the voice on the other end of the unknown number replied with a weary voice, Yeah, this is Joe. Searching for good news to share and good news to report back to the group, we hung up with nothing more to say. His call came about as late as he thought was reasonable, based on the three hour time difference. The foyer kept me concealed just long enough to update my contact list. The unknown number was now assigned to Joe Brown, cousin to Bill Chilcoat, filed under Friends.
The scheduled 7:00am start time would become routine during the trip. The smell of bacon and eggs cooking permeated the Soldotna Church as the team gathered for breakfast, morning devotional and instructions. I repeated the same answer to the same questions individually to several team members and again to the group regarding Bill's condition or report just prior to the group prayer for the day. It was still too early to be hearing anything from our friends in Tulsa. While the prayer covered numerous areas like traveling mercies to the mission, productivity for all the work ahead, etc., the focus was on healing for Bill.
This would be our first day of work, Monday, June 21st at the Friendship Mission in Kenai. The 30 or so minute drive from Soldotna would allow time for daily rounding at St. Johns Medical Center, room 819. Enough time had passed since Bill was admitted to the hospital to get some answers. Plus we all were praying. Our family and friends back home were praying. We were on the mission field doing Gods work. The connections we were making in Alaska got to hear about Bill, this guy from Mounds, Oklahoma who was in need of a miracle. People who knew us were praying. Plus we thought he would be joining us eventually on this trip and all would be well. We had made plans and this extreme interruption and detour was not part of the plan. Reasoning based on emotions will wear you out.
The text messages, emails and Facebook notifications had already picked up in volume shortly after arriving in Dallas and Prior to Anchorage. There were still more questions than any of us had answers for but we knew people were praying for Bill. Word of his hospitalization spread quickly as the team shared individually on the cell phones between their family and friends. Thank God" The Last Frontier" had been found by enough satellite strength that gave the team cellular and internet access.
By the time the vans pulled into the gravel parking lot of Friendship Mission, I had received updates from both Joe Brown and Dalton Beck. A long time friend and former member of The Ambassadors, Dalton gave an almost identical update on Bill's condition as Joe. Their description of our friend from Mounds was much worse than expected. His kidneys were in critical condition, his lungs were a major concern, he was unresponsive, swollen upper body and on a respirator. Dialysis was next and from their descriptions, the amount of equipment left little space in the room for anyone else. Daltons phrase, "he's really bad" brought a huge lump in my throat and we both decided to end the call. Bill's condition warranted keeping visiting traffic out of the equation, leaving those close by and those far away only to pray. And pray we did. This latest report spawned an even higher volume of satellite activity between Tulsa, Alaska and literally the rest of the world.
The day was winding down. Having completed what work could be done at Friendship Mission prior to the evening classes back at Soldotna .We learned the sewer system had clogged causing no small dilemma for the facility or the team. The two Porta-Jons along with accommodations from the Baptist Church across the street brought immediate welcomed relief. Naturally We knew without a doubt by then that we really were on a mission trip.
The Ambassadors, consisting of Vicki, myself and our new recruit Lori (my wife of 31 years) had opened with a song for the evening class. We had barely heard a recap of the previous nights lesson when the unwelcomed vibration on my hip caused a quick exit out of the sanctuary. Buddy
was close to finishing the series for the night and TheAmbassadors
were supposed to be closing the session with another song. There
was not much time left. The text message (with clickable image
attachment shown)sent from a friend in Broken Arrow came through
at about the same time as the call from Sandra Barton hit. Her call
went to voice mail as I continued letting the phone process, waiting
for the attachment to open.
It wasn't hard to guess what Sandra was calling about or the news
that she had to give. Her cell phone number was still on my screen
so I quickly texted her back asking if I could call her in a bit, knowing
that our time to enter the stage and sing was very close. Her text reply was almost immediate. It read, No, call NOW! I called. Sandra informed me that Bills condition had reached an even more critical place in that the next 24 hours would mean life or death. The news was taken about as well as it was given and the call ended with
yet another incoming call. The screen display showed, Joe Brown, Bills cousin. Joe wearily repeated the unbelievable news. This all felt very much like a bad dream. Swallowing hard, very hard and fighting back the tears the phone was placed back in its cradle as I re-entered the sanctuary. The back of the church became my selected seating location preventing me from being visible to Vicki, Lori and the rest of the team. The brief pause was quickly halted as The Ambassadors were called on to share the final song of the evening. Composure was
a must. Patience in being able to share the devastating news was being accomplished someway, somehow...but not by me.
Immediately following the service and towards the back of the sanctuary Vicki, Lori and I gathered in a small huddle. My cell phone still had the .jpg image of Bill in ICU (see pic above) on the screen. Composure became an even greater challenge, multiplied by three. Our unsettling questions and heightened emotions gave ample time for the rest of the team to discover our spontaneous private meeting. Lost in the moment and without normal awareness of our surroundings, the small huddle had grown. Now standing in and around the pews, along the wall behind us were seventeen (16 VIM + 1 Pastor) soldiers. They were not in uniform that would distinguish them as such to the natural eye, but in the spiritual sense, they were warriors ready to stand in the gap. The gap for us at that moment was huge but God was closing the gap for us and for Bill.
One by one the team began expressing their support for whatever decision we made. To stay and complete the mission or to arrange 3 return flights to Tulsa. The doctors had said, The next 24 hours will determine whether he lives or dies kept rewinding, playing, The doctors said...pause, rewind, play, The doctors said...pause. The sincere faces of the warriors around showed strength and encouragement. They said, "We are behind you all the way."
Some of the lines from what has become our signature song say, "You've been praying and you're still praying...you've been asking and you're still wondering...well there is nothing too impossible that my God cannot do..."It was late. We would decide tomorrow.
An immediate check to be sure my cell phone was charged and working revealed no messages. No missed calls. No voice mail. No emails or text messages save the typical pharmacy spammers and their annoying counterparts. Left click. Delete prior. Delete all prior items. Deleting…a clear screen once again and breakfast in less than an hour.
No angelic visits manifested through the night. A trumpet blast might have worked but only if it were at least 2 octaves above middle C and as loud as a Ted Nugent concert. A call had already been made yesterday to have the flight schedules from Alaska to Tulsa emailed to my phone. They were saved and ready to be retrieved if needed. No word. No decision. No packing either. It was still early.
The group was learning by now that news from the hospital would probably come later. They asked anyway. The Janet Basler led devotional was appropriate as the VIM team listened to her delivery on “How God is Mindful of Us”. With no news on Bill, prayer was given and the vans were loaded once again for the short jaunt south to Kenai and the Friendship Mission. An Arctic Entry needed to be completed and it was already Tuesday, June the 22nd.
Just prior to stopping for photos of a momma and baby moose grazing lazily just east of Arby’s, the familiar vibration on my hip revealed the text, “No change”. Before the message could be relayed to the others inside the white van, the phone rang. The same person who had just texted the “No change” message was now calling. Dalton said, “I just wanted to talk instead of this texting stuff”. The bottom line and reason for the call was that according to Bill’s nurse, “He was holding his own”. For the moment, that was welcomed news! In fact, that short phrase was a prize of great value. It was shared with the others in the white van, those in the grey van and repeated again to others throughout the day.
The fifth day of the mission trip was also the fifth day of the hospital stay. You start to get used to the environment, the activities and settle in to enjoy things more. Not so in a hospital.
I wanted to flush out something from an earlier chapter (5) that had a good ending. While we weren’t necessarily sharing our misfortune with everyone, the major sewer inconvenience at Soldotna had been repaired in a timely and miraculous way. It was no small expense and God provided the means to cover over and above what the repairs cost. This really was good news.
The mission activities continued as planned for both the work in Kenai and Soldotna, Alaska. The cell phone towers and their associated base stations in Oklahoma and Alaska were getting a break today. Thanks to Kaye Welch and everyone connected, the prayer shawl, hand delivered to Bill by Sharon from the Lost Creek Church, would have arrived by now. Knowing that any change would generate a call, we waited.
Daily work in Kenai had ended and service began on Wednesday, June 23rd at Soldotna but not before calls came from both Joe and from Dalton. The connection was good as was the update. Bill’s blood pressure meds had been DC’d, his oxygen saturation was down to 60% (was 100% when he started) and the next stage would be to start bringing him out of the drug induced coma once those stats reach 30%.
Once again our cell phones began inundating the atmosphere with our special transmissions. There was good news to share.
The evening service ended with one song. People request particular songs for various reasons. Often it reminds them of a special time, special place or a special person. Sometimes a song is requested just because it’s an old favorite or a new favorite. Although Vicki and I had never sung the song as a duet, “Beulah Land” hit the mark, at least for Roger. The request never made it to us that night but we sang it anyway. We would find out later, during devotional that Roger had wanted to hear that old favorite. He had told Nancy about it but neither one of them told us. God just has a way of doing those things. The earlier calls from both Joe and Dalton had concluded with the best report yet. Bill’s condition had changed from “critical” to “stable”! Like sideline cheerleaders we were reassuring one another with the welcomed news. Still, I was thankful that Vicki had the second verse of that song that night.
Thursday and Friday of our final work days for the mission trip in Alaska were very productive. Bill’s condition was fluctuating somewhat…
…But as another dear friend, Sandra Barton reflects…” I started my nagging at Bill several days before his departure time to leave for Alaska. I knew how badly he wanted to go and suspected that he was not being entirely truthful about how poorly he was feeling. I gave it my all on Thursday night by telling him that he must not try to go on this trip as it would be far too dangerous. I felt he needed much more medical care than he was willing to admit to. He assured me that he was going and that was that.
Joe called on Saturday to say that they were in the hospital and starting to run tests and give Bill fluids. Ed and I waited until the next day, Sunday, to go to the hospital. Bill was sitting up, visiting, and trying to eat some soup. He resembled a very ill toad with the shakes. They had pumped the fluids to him and he was terribly swollen with all kinds of tubes and machines in attendance. He was unable to get much soup down because of the shaking of his hands.
As Ed and I walked back to the car, we discussed his condition and both felt that the signs were not encouraging and that our buddy was in real bad shape. The call from cousin Joe the next day confirmed it. From that moment on for the next two weeks, Bill was in a medically induced coma and was completely unaware of all that was going on around him. That in itself was a blessing. Dialysis was started, he had a breathing tube inserted, and his bed was constantly moving him to keep his lungs from being endangered.
Daily reports from cousin Joe were full of hope but also the realism of the test results. Poor Joe had to be the recipient of my great ability to cry at the least provocation. Happy, sad, scared, it doesn’t matter; I am one of the most emotional people I know. He was a trooper and gave me a lot of comfort and security in knowing that he was always there. I have great admiration for him." - Sandra Barton
The fluctuation in Bill’s condition continued over the next three days and on Tuesday the report came back to us that weaning trials were starting again. He had actually started moving his legs and his oxygen saturation was down close to 35%! This was about the time the mission team was heading to Anchorage for the red-eye flight back through Dallas and on into Tulsa.
It is a very common speed limit across many of our roads. In CB radio terms it has often been referred to as “double nickels”. The natural number following 54 and preceding 56 would be my estimate of number of bags we were handling for the last time on this trip as we exited the baggage claim at Tulsa International Airport. It was June 30th and our group was home, almost. Hugs abounded, indicating much stronger relationships than 12 days earlier and the group gathered outside of the airport, curbside to pray for Bill.
While the rest of the team loaded the majority of the people and luggage for their westerly route home, Lori, Vicki and I headed to 21st & Utica, room #819. My father and youngest son came in the Pathfinder to pick us up. Vicki and her father would meet us at the hospital.
My last conversation before boarding the plane in Anchorage alerted Joe to our plans of going directly to the hospital after arriving in Tulsa. My Dad and Brett had already been to see Bill prior to our visit. We gathered around the bed, held his hands, spoke encouraging words and managed a quick massage on his feet…prayed…and Joe, cousin to Bill and our new comrade joined us. The weight of the reports was an undeniable reality as we tried again to grasp Bill’s condition. Joe reminded us of how far Bill had already come but somehow, at the very moment, it just didn’t sound all that great. Our friend was…well, still holding his own. We could only do the same…and pray.
July 1st through the 4th is still pretty much a blur. There were many contributing factors that led me so easily to such a conclusion. The normal things left undone or needing to be caught up at home, at work and elsewhere are always to be expected after being gone for any length of time, but there was more this time. Joe, Dalton and our other close friends had been hovering and tending to Bill, at least in a “hey, we are right here” sort of way…and now it was my turn. But there was this constant feeling of not doing enough, of not being able to make Bill better which was after all, what these friends had been feeling all along. I now got to experience it for myself. It was the same feeling of helplessness being here as it was not being here. The false notion of being able to make things happen quicker that had danced in my head while in Alaska had suddenly buckled to its knees…literally. Prayer was still the answer. It was then. It is now. It will always continue to be.
With a tunnel to access the hospital from my office, the time Bill and I spent together helped. It helped me. The signs of improvement, including the tiny ones, are much clearer up close and personal. The emails, the tweets, the text message and phone calls continued but somehow being able to relay information seen with my own eyes made things some better. There was still hope and everyone was always full of comfort, full of faith and hanging tough…for Bill.
I kept reminding Bill…and myself, that people were praying, he was improving and that he was going to be ok. I still remember spending hours with an “Etch a Sketch” in my lap as a youngster, drawing and figuring out how to get from one line to another without making an additional mark that didn’t fit. It was a blast! Not so much for an adult and especially when you are stuck in ICU. The key-pad was not an “Etch a Sketch” but similar in that you could press letters to make full words. The Therapists were inching Bill along to start communicating and developing his motor skills. It was far from fun for him. When you look like someone ready to be launched into space for detailed work on some station or equipment next to the moon and you are on a short leash, everything is hard. Ram a tube down your throat, toss in large doses of medications, amnesia, etc., and then to put a child’s toy in your lap to communicate just doesn’t compute. Bill preferred the writing tablet (of course) to scribble his thoughts. His vertical strokes were far better than the horizontal ones. The frustration was fairly equal for him and anyone who happened to be in his room at the time, trying to communicate.
As Bill slowly climbed from the unconscious level to the confused but awakening level of the coma, movement and responses continued to increase. So did his writing skills. Scribbles began to form letters and eventually words and sentences became legible. It seemed the frustration levels of communication were keeping pace with the awakening, in a good way. Good-bye “Etch a Sketch” and hello “Big Chief” Tablet!
A Tracheostomy is usually done for one of three reasons. In Bill’s case the team of physicians determined that this surgical procedure was needed in order to get oxygen to his lungs. Joe and I discussed the risks. We did not have much time. Little did we know that in the 12 -18 hour time frame that we were consulting with family, friends and other medical professionals, the primary physicians had also determined that they would proceed…with or without our consent. They would chalk it up as “medical necessity” and move forward. Obviously we were concerned about Bill’s voice. His vocal chords, singing and ministering mean everything to Bill. But then there is…living. The doctors were informed to proceed and we in turn were informed that they were only a few hours away from scheduling the surgery themselves. Confirmation for us and relief for them. We were on the same page.
The responses were mixed as I shared with my contact list that we were going the route of a trach. The emotions were weighted much heavier towards the side of apprehension than those of enthusiasm, at least to those I spoke with. I found myself repeating, “We want Bill more than we want his voice”. As our friend Sandra put it, “This was a turning point for Bill.”
The improvement following the surgery was incredible! Little by little the 4-hook top smorgasbord of I.V. stands went down to a 4 place setting (1 pole and 4 bags versus 4 poles and 16 bags). Bill’s condition had gone from Critical to seriously critical, then to stable and comfortable in 16 days. For a guy who has occupied the same residence for almost 54 years, moving to the other end of the 8th floor in the hospital was a really big deal. It was for all of us. Bill was moved on Monday, July 5th to a “regular”, normal, non-NASA (my Blog and I can make up words if I want) room with a window view of West Tulsa. His previous room also had a window but nobody cared. This was different! The visitor’s gate (invisible but honored with respect by his friends) sounded a happy tune as more friends came by for brief visits. The Dietary staff came by to allow menu selections for the next meals. The straggly facial hair was shaven and there was renewed faith that there was going to be a homecoming…to Mounds…very soon.
One would turn 65 while the other would turn 52 on Wednesday, July 7th. Bill and Lori often celebrate their birthdays together. This one would be no different. Yet it was very different. A small balloon bouquet, cards that several had already sent…no cake, no candles…but we still had Bill. His regular hospital room was not what any of us where used to on this special day but it was better than we once, i.e., only a few days ago, had imagined.
Bill’s spirits were up and he was expressing the strong desire to go home. I am fairly certain that every guest who visited him over the next 3 days heard how that he was going home. On Friday, July 9th, my cell phone gave its familiar short buzz, indicating a new text message had arrived. The message was from Joe. His text read, “Ha…Billy is telling evry1 he’s goin hme 2morow, great huh”. It was good enough that I just had to call Joe. We talked about Bill’s progress, etc., and hung up with each other…satisfied that the road to recovery was happening before our very eyes. After the call, I reflected back on my telling Bill that I was hoping he might be able to go home sometime the following week. I did not want to give him any false hope.
There was no such thing as “false hope”. Extremely unlikely outcomes are what God specializes in! I am so glad to have witnessed the team of physicians along with their hospitalist team (4 physicians) hover over Bill earlier in the week and say, “Well Mr. Chilcoat (pronounced weird, but oh well) it looks like you are going to live. We were not sure about you for a while…”. So…just as I had predicted, the following week came along(I got that part right)…but without Bill in one of the regular rooms at the hospital. That was one of those times (rare in my own dreams) that I was glad to be wrong! Bill did in fact go home on Saturday evening, July 10, 2010. That miraculous day could not come soon enough for any of us and especially for Bill.
Bill’s buddy, “Buddy” arrived early on Saturday expecting to change the backless hospital gown for real clothes. That happened. The shuffle out the door like a fast-food order in a slow like did not happen. Morning turned into mid-day and the Mounds bound boys suffered through the patient “waiting” game typical of most hospital discharges. Somewhere around 6pm Bill phoned to tell me they were finally heading south on Hwy 75 towards Mounds, Oklahoma. A birthday cake and candles would be better enjoyed…at a later (see photo at end of Chapter 12) date. Birthdays, even “belated” are about celebrating life! It would be a real treat.
I had already told Bill, prior to his Saturday discharge, that I would have a busy Sunday at Hope Church. An afternoon singing had been scheduled and my part was to emcee and sing. My plan was to catch up on how he was feeling later that evening, once the activities were finished. Our afternoon singing had started and we were only one or two deep into the lineup that was prepared for the day. After introducing Bob, a former member of The Ambassadors, I found a convenient seat on stage. The crowd was not particularly overflowing that day so the two people entering from the back and along the side were easily noticed. As they selected their seats the microphone I was holding along with my jaw about fell to the floor. Exactly 1 week to the day Bill Chilcoat had been confined to a hospital bed in ICU. He was sitting next to Linda McNabb who had brought him from Mounds. No pumps, no tubes, no…just a much slimmer body with a broader smile that showed undeniable gratitude beyond words. God spared me at that moment. Had I been actually singing when Bill & Linda entered the church that day, all the years of composure and stage presence would have been totally undone…instantly. I managed to hold it together following Bob’s song and gave a brief “There is a miracle among us” acknowledgment before continuing on with the singing. I took the microphone to Bill and he shared his appreciation for all the prayers on his behalf. The only word I could muster then was, “Wow!” and it fits just as well now as it did then.
The desired level, according to the medical authorities, at least for Bill, is between 0.50 – 1.50. As a fairly reliable indicator of how the kidneys are functioning, Bill found out on Monday, July 12th that his 5.29 measurement on Creatinine was not where it needed to be. Although it had improved since his ICU days, there was still a major concern. The Dialysis subject was looming over Bill and it was clear that this was not a path he wanted to travel. Who does? The weekly schedule of tests would reveal the outcome and a decision. We could still pray…and we did. The following week, Bill tested at 4.35 which was still a ways off from the desired level, but improvement that was credited to answered prayer.
In between the follow-up doctor visits, finger poking (at least it wasn’t every hour), resting in his own bed and recliner, Bill received a history lesson shared from various friends on what had taken place over the last 4 weeks or so. For Bill, some of the parts were sketchy and others were unknown due to the state of unconsciousness and awakening process typical with his condition. More and more people were coming forward to share their stories. Emails described how their entire churches had assembled to pray for Bill. Phone calls confirmed the widespread affect that Bill’s sudden turn of events had made with friends and even unfamiliar people.
A double shot of espresso is good but a double surprise can be even better. The presentation for Team Alaska 2010 was to take place on Sunday, August 1st. This allowed me more time to complete the video. It also allowed time to stage the double surprise. Unbeknownst to Bill, the mission team members had videotaped special messages that would be part of the Alaska trip compilation DVD. On the other hand, the team members had no idea that I had set Bill up to preview their messages before the presentation service. They would have no way of knowing that Bill was videotaping a special message of his own to be included on the DVD as well as shared with our Blog friends.
The presentation service was a special blessing. Lost Creek United Methodist Church witnessed the prayer shawl, the anointed words given individually and more. It was a full day but evidently there was no negative impact on Bill’s Creatinine levels. The following day Bill’s tests revealed a level of 3.94…the lowest yet and still…no dialysis.
So, does God still heal today? My short answer is yes. I am not referring to some spectator sport of illusion or fanatical methodology that positions God ready to jump at our beckoning call. I believe in the gifting(s) of The Holy Spirit and I believe in miracles like the one this Blog has been dedicated to. I do not believe there are professional “healers” that carry this supernatural power in their portfolio to be used at will. I am convinced that God still uses people to carry out His precious promises and His Word will accomplish what He intendeds, no matter if it is being given through me or someone else. None of us have a monopoly on healing or any other gifts. The safest perspective for me is that I figure if God can use a donkey, then he can use me. The opposite is true as well.
Remember the healing of the lame man at the temple-gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:1-10)? Peter and John must had gone up to the temple by the same route and possibly the same hour on many occasions; but it was only on this one occasion that the Holy Spirit prompted them to perform this healing. It was a wonderful example of the use of a “sign”, after which evangelism would follow (Acts 3:11-4:4). It does not, however, set up a template that we mimic in order to achieve the exact same results. In my opinion, that is where we make our mistakes. If you read the Bible at all you will understand how God moves in various ways, His wonders to perform and seldom do these ways make any sense to us. Thus the whole concept of faith, trust and understanding Who actually sits on the throne and who does not sit there.
Additionally, there is the event when deliverance of the slave girl possessed with the spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-19) was provided. She most likely aggravated Paul for many days. He probably ignored her. But suddenly, on one particular moment of one particular day, Paul wheeled around and commanded the demon to come out. Maybe he had had enough or maybe it was more that this was the time chosen by the Holy Spirit for Paul to be empowered to deliver.
My intent here is to encourage and not to dishearten anyone who may still be praying and waiting for that miracle. We do not understand the workings of God. His way, His thoughts are all so much higher than ours but we must understand this…He loves us. He loves you. I have seen God work in my own life. I have seen him work in the lives of others just like Bill. I have also seen wonderful people struggle…waiting on their breakthrough. Please don’t give up on God. And remember that perhaps the greatest healing and truest healing of all comes in the form of salvation…forgiveness of sins.
"It was June 21, 2010 that the doctors told my family that I “might not make it” out of my unexpected and critical hospitalization, following a heat stroke, kidney failure and known Type 2 diabetes. I’m so thankful for the answered prayers of hundreds (possibly more) who petitioned our Lord on my behalf for my recovery. I give Him praise every opportunity possible and share the Good News with everyone who will listen. Thank YOU for your prayers." - Bill Chilcoat