Your local church: A healing place
By Stuart German
Our son Nathan’s first seizure came just before his fourth
birthday, while we were en route to the Philippines for our second term of
missionary service. Intensifying and growing more frequent, the seizures
eventually gained control of his life and our focus.
The effectiveness of medications waned, allowing multiple
breakthrough episodes, and Nathan’s responsiveness steadily declined. By the
time he was 9, the cumulative results of EEGs and CT scans forced three
separate neurologists to conclude he would not outgrow the disease. We returned
home so we could seek better medical help.
Nathan had his last epileptic seizure on Aug. 1, 2002. Even
though we and countless others had prayed for Nathan over the years, I’m
convinced his healing is a direct result of one prayer in particular. We had
been attending James River Assembly of God in Ozark, Mo. One Sunday my wife,
Jeanie, sensed an urging of the Holy Spirit to get our 9-year-old from his
Sunday morning class and take him forward to the altar for prayer. Jeanie
Following the event at James River, all of Nathan’s EEGs
continued to reveal consistent spikes in his brainwave activity, but we
returned to the Philippines, and he went year after year without any seizures.
Nathan would occasionally ask if we thought he was healed, and we would simply
answer that we didn’t know, but that we believed it likely. It was too
dangerous to take any risks on reducing his medication. So we waited and
prayed, along with family, friends and churches, while Nathan went without
seizures for three, four, five, and now more than six years.
On our return from the Philippines in May 2007, we
approached Nathan’s doctor in Springfield, Mo., about reducing his medication.
The doctor agreed to take another EEG and see if anything had changed. A few
days later he presented us with a totally unblemished reading, a first for
Nathan, and set us on a schedule for reducing Nathan’s medication — heavy
doses of Depakote and Keppra. Nathan is now completely off both medications,
and family and friends remark on how much more alert, responsive and energetic
My stress level soared during our 2001-02 missionary
itineration cycle, worrying about my son while traveling across the country
raising ministry funds. I sought prayer for Nathan among all of the churches I
visited. To this day the first question dozens of pastors ask when I contact
them concerns Nathan’s health, assuring me their congregations have kept him in
I am so grateful for the multitude of prayers offered for
Nathan over the past 11 years and believe they have all contributed to his
healing. But I find it most interesting that the prayers of our home church,
James River, were the last he received from a specific group before he ceased
having seizures. Not because it was James River, per se, or a particular
pastor, but because it was our home church.
I came to this conclusion when I sought God for a compelling
answer on how to pray for Nathan. God directed me to James 5:14-16, where I
realized something I had never contemplated before.
This is the only passage of Scripture in the New Testament
specifically instructing on the method of healing in the church. Every other
New Testament passage regarding healing is primarily evangelistic. Consider the
healing of the blind beggar at the temple in Acts 3. Look at Jesus’ empowering
of His disciples to heal the sick in Matthew 10, and Peter and Paul’s healing
the sick during their ministry in Acts. All these examples highlight healing
for the sake of communicating the gospel.
Only James teaches directly how followers of Christ should
seek healing. What are his instructions? He points them to their local church.
Interestingly, James does not encourage the sick who are sitting under local
pastoral care to seek out anyone else in order to make certain they receive
their healing. I’m convinced this omission is purposeful, not negligent. When
healing takes place in the church, under the ministry of pastors and elders,
the church gains its rightful authority and recognition in the community, and
Christ is more readily exalted.
I believe Nathan’s healing transpired as it did to instill
in me a renewed faith in the ministry of the local church. This is what Christ
gave His life to build. My challenge is to reinvigorate local leaders and
fellowships in the ministry God assigned to them in Scripture. I need to stand
by them, encourage them, and believe in them as God’s servants, neutralizing
the tendency toward hero worship in our faith.
In the days and weeks following the results of Nathan’s last
EEG, and occasionally still, I break into spontaneous weeping over God’s
goodness. Yes, Nathan’s illness was a difficult season for our family, but I
can see God’s hand in what that illness brought about. Nathan is gentle,
loving, respectful, humble, joyful, intelligent and a genuine pleasure to be
around — all qualities I would love to recognize more in myself. I
couldn’t be more proud of him, and am persuaded that his personal qualities are
at least in part due to the trials he has faced with epilepsy.
In junior high, one of his public school teachers once
encouraged the newspaper editor to interview Nathan about life as a missionary
kid. A query form question presented to him read, “Do you think you’ll be a
missionary when you grow up?”
Nathan penciled his answer: “I think that I’m already a
missionary.” Enough said.
STUART GERMAN is an Assemblies of God missionary to the
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