Thankful in all circumstances:
He is good and he heals
Maria Oliveira, with Adele Konyndyk Gallogly
When I walked into a workshop called “Healing Jesus Style” at the 2014 Day of Encouragement event by Diaconal Ministries Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, my husband Matt and I were five years into a difficult journey of infertility.
This journey was full of heavy emotions – anger, embarrassment, disgrace, brokenness. After researching, discussing, and praying about a number of options we decided to see a naturopath who specialized in fertility. If that failed, we were willing to consider adoption. Yet even after genetic testing, a regimen of vitamins and drastic changes to our diets, we had no clear indication if our efforts would lead us to have a child.
But I didn’t sign up for this healing prayer workshop in search of a connection to our struggle. It simply sounded interesting to me, since I have always been captivated by prayer healing, and had a strong desire to learn how God works miracles in our lives.
The workshop was led by Emily Vandonk, Associate Pastor at the Journey Church in Kitchener. Emily started out by sharing a testimony of her life and how she became involved in healing ministry. She told of how more than 20 years ago, she was healed by Jesus of chronic fatigue after four years of being sick. She has been involved in healing ministry ever since. Her ministry has taken her to 30 different countries and given her the chance to see God heal many people – from babies with AIDS in Brazil to cancer patients in Canada.
Emily’s workshop was steeped in scripture that talked about the power of prayer, such as John 14:12 and Mark 16:17-18. As Emily talked about how God has been using her as a vessel to heal others, she mentioned that she had seen Jesus heal couples struggling with infertility through her ministry. This, of course, got my attention.
At the end of the workshop, there was an opportunity for healing prayer. One the people prayed for was Alfretta Vanderheyden, who had been struggling with crippling joint pain as a result of rheumatoid arthritis for many years. Alfretta told us that in that moment of prayer, she felt her pain lift for the first time in 25 years. It was incredible!
A note of faith
I felt God calling me to give voice to our struggle and request prayer. I broke down in tears as I spoke, sharing our journey. Everyone in the room gathered around my chair. Emily placed her hands on my hands, which were over my abdomen, and began praying. She prayed that God would bring healing to my body and take away our grief. After she finished, others joined in and also spoke prayers for Matt, who wasn’t there. It was a beautiful, overwhelming experience.
On my way out, I received a note from a couple that attended the workshop that read, “Here’s our email, let us know when you are due!!” I was astounded by their faith and excited to see the work of God’s hand – especially given what I had witnessed with Alfretta. I later learned that, after the workshop, she ran down the stairs and then up again – something she had not been able to do for many years.
As the weeks passed after the DOE, frustration began to set back in over my hope. Why would God take me through that experience only to leave us in our struggle? Matt and I were confused, but he reminded me that God’s timing is different than ours.
As it turned out, God’s timing was not far away. On January 4, 2015, just two and a half months after the conference, we finally received the news that I was expecting! Jesus, our Saviour and King, had brought healing into our lives.
On September 21, 2015, our son Malachi was born. Malachi means “my messenger” and we chose this name because his birth is a message of God’s love for us and a reminder to be faithful to him.
Present and obedient
I returned to the Day of Encouragement prayer workshop with Malachi in October 2015 to share our testimony. Alfretta was there too, and we were able to share our stories of healing and celebrate the grace of God together.
Emily gave the group practical advice about being involved in prayer healing, reminded us that the focus needs to be on the kingdom of God and the whole person, not just on the healing itself. Faith needs to be present – and an obedience to God’s will.
“Every time I pray for healing, I expect Jesus to do it,” she said. “I do not see everyone healed. However, if you pray for some, some are going to be healed. If you pray for none, none are going to be healed.”
I have learned that God’s timing can be mystifying and his ways can be hard to comprehend. Why are some people completely healed, for instance, while others are not healed at all? I do not know.
But as I look back on our chapter of infertility, I do know that I can trace God’s ever-present faithfulness. He gave us constant reminders to trust him – from silver-lined clouds that spoke to me of his presence to the words of friends who wanted us to know they were praying and hoping, too.
I know that God hears us. I am grateful for leaders like Emily, dedicated to helping others step out in faith and obedience to Jesus. I am encouraged by the words of Alfretta, who is so filled with thankfulness and trust, even after experiences of difficulty. “I still have all the joint deformities, so I’m not sure what that will mean for the future,” Alfretta said. “God can fix all that and make it new or he can say live with it. But I have no pain. And I remember God’s call to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). God is good and Jesus heals!”
Yes he is, and yes he does.