UPDATE 10/17/2014: Joshua passed away peacefully with his wife by his side 11:45 PM last night at Ross Manor. Please continue to pray for his family, especially his wife Lindsay. Grace and Peace.
UPDATE 10/20/2014: Here is Joshua’s Obituary in the BDN.
The following blog was first published before Joshua passed away. For my additional thoughts since his passing, go to ‘The Lord has raised him up’ below…
— Here is his Joshua’s story as I originally published it on October 1st with the title “Praying for a Miracle” —
A Spiritual Brother
Joshua was first diagnosed with brain cancer — a malignant tumor — in 2010 at the age of 25. He endured multiple surgeries and treatments over the past several years, including several rounds of chemotherapy and two rounds of radiation, making frequent trips to Boston for care. It seemed like whenever they removed the tumor, or shrunk it in size, it would slowly come back.
Through it all, he and his wife Lindsay have displayed tremendously positive attitudes and a trust in God that has been an inspiration to all of us.
Joshua has been a spiritual brother to me as I’ve grown in my Christian faith. Years ago, he helped teach me how to pray out loud by literally forcing me to do it. We have talked theology, church strategy, and future ministry.
He has also helped me with basic projects such as installing a new pellet stove, as seen here less than a year ago.
A Turn for the Worse
Over the last few months Joshua lost the ability to communicate effectively as he became unable to form sentences or put thoughts together. He would still attend church and my in-home small group (bible study), and you could tell he had plenty he wanted to say to be part of the discussion, but he had been unable to find the words.
Then he took an even more sudden turn for the worse. Lindsay shared news that he had lost the ability to use his right arm effectively, and had begun dragging his right foot. That progressed further to an almost complete loss of the use of his right side, making him prone to falls, and was now in such a condition that he was no longer able to sufficiently care for himself without assistance.
By Tuesday September 23rd, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, he was in palliative care at EMMC.
Praying with Expectation
But in a moment when hopelessness began to take over, the church has rallied around Joshua and Lindsay in a massive outpouring of prayer and support. As doubts entered our minds, we knew we had to continue to expect God to provide the miraculous in what was seeming like a dire situation.
As Spirit-filled believers, we wholeheartedly believe the miraculous healings described in The Bible not only happened then, but can and still do happen today. As a result, we pray with expectation that God can and will heal, even though we know it doesn’t always happen.
We concede that if God answered every healing prayer then there would be no sickness or death. There will come a time for that beautiful reality — when there will be no more tears, and no more pain — but that time hasn’t come yet.
In short, when Jesus came 2,000 years ago to begin setting up the kingdom of heaven here on earth he opened the door for the Holy Spirit to breakthrough and heal people. But until he comes again, the Holy Spirit wont always breakthrough, and as a result not everyone will be healed.
Back to Joshua’s story…
On Thursday, September 25th I went with a friend to visit Joshua in his hospital room at EMMC. The purpose for this visit was to simply show our support, and to pray. To pray boldly, and with expectation. We did just that.
The irony, of course, was not lost on me that I was now praying out loud for God to save the life of the guy that had first taught me to do just that — pray out loud.
Two days prior, I had stood in my church parking lot and was told by our pastor that Joshua had maybe weeks to live. Later, I learned doctors said his condition could “persist for months”. Well, by the grace of God he will continue to “persist”, and ultimately be restored to health.
I learned during my visit that Cancer Care of Maine has decided to stop chemo treatment. However, the doctor Joshua had seen down in the Boston area was still willing to continue the same experimental chemo treatment that they had him on previously. At this point, though, he is not being treated for the tumor and his life hangs in the balance.
As a result of the cancer center not continuing treatment at this time, EMMC administrators made the decision that Joshua should be moved to a “skilled nursing facilility.” In Bangor, this means a move to Ross Manor was in order. While they waited for the move, the insurance company said they would no longer cover his stay at EMMC — adding up to at least $1,500 per night. Even at Ross Manor, only 80% of the expenses would be covered.
To help ease the burden, a fund has been setup for Joshua’s care. If you are financially able and willing, you can give online here.
Moving a Mountain
Two days later, on Saturday evening September 27th, a large group of mostly women from our church planned a similar trip to the hospital to both pray for Joshua, and lend their support to Lindsay. It turned into such a massive gathering, about 30 people, that an impromptu prayer meeting poured out into the hall on the 6th floor at EMMC.
As one participant described it —
About 30 of us converged on the room of a friend and I’m pretty sure we moved a mountain.
By Monday, Lindsay had this awesome news report —
"I've been at work this morning but have heard from Joshua's brothers that he's been more responsive, has been sitting up more, and is more steady on his feet today. He was able to get up with less help than before, and the occupational therapist is working on getting a walker... which wasn't even an option a few days ago. I'm trying to be realistic, but I also know that prayer can change things... could this be the start?"
We all prayed this could be the beginning of a breakthrough!
On Tuesday evening, Lindsay was shown digital pictures of friends from church holding signs of encouragement and prayer. The idea is that through these pictures Joshua would be surrounded by his friends 24-7 — a tangible prayer wall of sorts.
Lindsay promised not to show Joshua the pictures until the printed copies could be delivered to his new room at Ross Manor on Wednesday.
A Step Back
But the next morning, Lindsay shared this dire sounding update —
Prayers needed... Joshua slept a lot yesterday, so by nighttime he was very agitated, bored, and wanted to be up. I finally fell asleep around 11 pm, and I woke up to the nurse asking him at 3:30 what was wrong. He was clearly bored of sitting there, not tired enough to sleep, and seemed to have a stomach ache from all he's been eating coupled with constipation. The nurse asked if he was in pain, and for the first time he said yes. Granted, I asked follow up questions and truly don't think he was in any real pain beyond a stomach ache, but all it took was that one "yes." They immediately gave him Morphine, and he was completely knocked out within minutes. I was explicitly told that when a patient is qualified as hospice, as soon as they make any indication that they're in pain, the hospital or nursing facility immediately begins morphine and then continues it regularly, regardless of whether the person is actually still in pain. Once the first dose is given, they're pretty much required to continue until it results in death. Essentially, many hospice patients don't die of the disease - they sleep constantly and eventually overdose on Morphine. Regardless of what the patient or their family may want. If you choose to do hospice at home (which really isn't an option), they give you a ton of Morphine to use at your discretion. You can choose to never use it, or you could use it all at once and get it over with quickly. I doubt most people realize that, for lack of a better term, assisted suicide is fully legal and basically encouraged in this case. I get that this is "humane" when a person is seriously miserable... but when Joshua was up walking and doing better two days ago... when we're praying for healing... forced Morphine to thwart all of that is beyond discouraging. ***
I’ll refrain from adding commentary to the concerns Lindsay shared, but that is definitely some scary realizations.
A New Room with ‘Friendly Faces’
Despite the setback, by Wednesday afternoon Joshua was moved to Ross Manor. While he was “still resting” from all the morphine, the pictures were delivered and hung on his wall. Here’s what he would later wake up to:
As I see those pictures on the wall my heart overflows with joy, and my eyes well up with tears. I immediately think of the John 13 verses that can be paraphrased, “they will know us by our love for one another” as I envision not just Joshua waking up to those pictures, but also as I think of the staff at Ross Manor seeing them as they care for his needs.
We love Joshua and Lindsay, and we pray by the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Name for a miracle. Will you join us in prayer?
*** UPDATE 10/20/2014 ***
The Lord has Raised Him Up
Joshua passed away Thursday Oct 16th at 11:45 PM. We mourn because we will miss him, but rejoice because he is now with Jesus pain free.
The following is an update I shared on my Facebook wall immediately after learning of his passing:
Our hearts are heavy and tears are flowing upon hearing news of your passing tonight, but we are so thankful that your pain and tears are no more... You will be missed, but not forgotten. I'm praying if I get to sleep tonight, you'll stop by in a dream and tell me what it's like. But I'll understand if you don't, since I'm sure you're having the time of your life right now... Love you, brother.
Our prayers for healing may not have resulted in an earthly miracle, but you can rest assured he is now fully healed in his glorified body with his Creator.
If we look closely at the Book of James where believers are told to pray for the sick, there is a spiritual dynamic that is often missed. In James chapter 5 we read:
15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. — James 5:15:16 (ESV)
What struck me while reading verse 15 is the phrase “the Lord will raise him up”. While there are many times the Lord can raise us up physically, and we are to pray for such, there’s no doubt this verse could also be referring to being spiritually raised up upon our earthly death.
Notice also, verse 16 uses the phrase “may be healed”. Again, while this means we “may be healed” physically by our prayers, when connected to the spiritual aspect of verse 15, we realize our ultimate prayer for the sick is that they be healed spiritually so that “the Lord will raise them up” — for eternity.
Due to his belief in Jesus Christ, there is no doubt that the Lord has raised Joshua up and that he is now fully healed!
As recorded in the Book of John, Jesus made this promise clear —
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” — Jesus (John 11:25-26 NIV)
I believe this, as did Joshua, and therefore I know we will meet again.
Note: Lindsay’s updates were shared, and this story was published, with her permission.