“O Lord my God, I cried out to You and You healed me.” Psalm 30:2
This Sunday morning, I was reviewing my sermon notes to complete the last of a new series on The Ten Commandments: God's Perfect Law of Liberty, when acute back pain came on suddenly and kept increasing in unbearable intensity. My initial thought, that I must have overdone it at the gym on Saturday, was quickly dismissed as I recognised the symptoms. Acute lower back pain and an overwhelming nausea had me running to the bathroom, expecting to throw up any moment. Soon there was no doubt, I was experiencing an eruption of kidney stones.
My first experience of kidney stones was in 1972, in Rhodesia, when I was 12 years old. The school teacher assumed it was an erupted appendix and had me rushed off to the Bulawayo General Hospital. They quickly diagnosed kidney stones. This was my first experience of being a patient in hospital. The general ward had 20 patients. The nurses were friendly and efficient and the whole atmosphere was cheerful and full of jokes. As I was the youngest in the ward, they had me, almost doubled up, pushing the tea trolley around, in the morning and afternoons.
My next experience of kidney stones was in 1984, after a Mission to Mozambique. I was in Zimbabwe and a doctor at a local private Clinic dilated my kidneys, gave me anti-inflammatories. I was treated as an out-patient, discharged before nightfall.
Returning from another Mission to Angola, I suffered kidney stones in 1988 and recognising the symptoms, rode myself to Johannesburg General, on my motorbike, checked into Casualty and after being placed on a drip and treated, was discharged before the sun set.
Fourth Time Around
So, last Sunday was only the fourth time in my life that I have been hospitalised for kidney stones and the first time I missed an appointment to preach on Sunday morning. As Lenora rushed me to Casualty at our local hospital, she phoned to have one of our co-workers fill the gap. Despite the overwhelming acute pain, I remembered to take my proof-reading of our latest book, a revised and expanded version of The Greatest Century of Reformation, with. Although the pain was so intense I was not able to do anything at that time, besides suffer, I realised that somewhere along the line, I would be recovering in a hospital bed and be able to complete the book.
Intense and Acute
Both my mother and grandmother suffered from kidney stones, so it is a genetic disposition in my family. The doctors have told me that kidney stones cause the strongest pain sensations known. I can well believe that. It is excruciating!
Reversal of Roles
By God's grace, I have seldom been the patient. Normally I am the visitor at the hospital, or rushing someone to the hospital. Lenora, who has had her battles with cancer over the last 7 years and in 2005 with hepatitis (which had her hospitalised for 5 weeks, 11 days on a drip and 5 months bedridden), expressed her surprise and what a change it was for her to be the one admitting me to hospital.
Hospital Christian Fellowship
The first Missionary I ever heard speak at Pinelands Baptist, the church that I had been converted through, was Francis Grim, the Founder of Hospital Christian Fellowship. I dashed forward and joined his Mission. So I was mentored by Francis Grim of Hospital Christian Fellowship. As Uncle Francis would regularly remind us: “More people pass through the hospitals of the world than through the churches.” Then he added: “When we end up in hospital, God has our attention. At last we are looking in the right direction. Up!”
Body, Mind and Spirit
Last year, HCF celebrated their 80th anniversary. Last Sunday, I gave the sermon at an HCF service in Belhar. Hospital Christian Fellowship was born on Christmas Eve, 1936. As Francis Grim visited his elderly father in hospital as he passed into eternity, he was struck by how patients’ physical needs were well taken care of, but the spiritual needs were largely ignored. People are body, mind and spirit. We need a holistic approach to healthcare, ministering to body, mind and spirit. In the Gospels, it is clear that our Lord ministered to body, mind and spirit.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-36
Medical Mission Fields
For 67 years, Francis Grim challenged, evangelised, discipled and trained doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to form prayer fellowships, Bible study groups, ministering to co-workers and patients, to share the good news of Jesus love, forgiveness, healing, joy and Salvation. He travelled throughout the world and established Hospital Christian Fellowships in over 100 countries worldwide.
The Needs are Great and Urgent
The spiritual needs in our hospitals are acute. Yet most hospitals do not have a chaplain, or even an organised Christian witness amongst the medical staff. Every congregation needs a hospital visitation ministry team. Some members of our congregation may be healthcare professionals and work in a local hospital, or clinic. However, most of us will end up in these medical facilities, either as patients, or as visitors. We need to be spiritually aware and prepared to bring Christian magazines, books and Bibles on our visits, both for patients and staff. It would be relatively easy to help meet some of the tremendous needs in the wards if we all receive Evangelistic training and carry appropriate Gospel literature with us.
Adopt a Ward
Hospital Christian Fellowship encourages each congregation to adopt a ward. If every congregation would invite an HCF team to help train them, every ward of every hospital in our cities could be covered with spiritual intercession and intervention.
Call the Midwife
My Mother was a nurse who loved working in maternity in particular, but she always rose to a medical crisis and enjoyed her times in Emergency/Out-patients. Sometimes my Mother would make the comment: “My day is not complete if I haven’t seen blood!” I think my mother was disappointed that neither of her sons followed her into a medical profession. Perhaps one of her grandchildren will?
The Standard of Nursing
When my Father had heart attacks and strokes, I got to know Ward A1 of Groote Schuur Hospital very well. The professionalism and compassion of the nurses at that time were striking and impressive. Sad to say, I have witnessed a shocking deterioration in the standards of nursing in our state hospitals in recent years. Few today seem to have the vision and standards of Florence Nightingale. To all too many, it just seems to be a job without much concern for the patients.
This last Sunday, I encountered one of those individuals in Triage where I was to be evaluated before Admission to Emergency. Although both my wife and I made it clear to her what the problem was: kidney stone eruption and that I had had it before, this nurse did not seem in the slightest concerned and was in no rush, dragging out bureaucratic red-tape requirements, including demanding a urine sample, which a renal patient suffering urolithiasis, is obviously not capable of providing. Officially 22 million cases of kidney stones occur each year, resulting in over 16,000 deaths a year. So it is not that rare a condition.
When finally admitted, they rigged up a drip into my hand and informed me that they were going to inject morphine. Over the years, I have seen numerous patients injected with morphine and they have often told me what a wonderful and pleasant sensation that drug induces. Well, I felt absolutely nothing at all. Although it did subdue the pain quite dramatically. A CT scan revealed two large stones and a number of smaller ones in my kidneys and a second CT scan some hours later, showed that the two larger stones had managed to pass into the bladder. After 24 hours on a drip, I was discharged, somewhat pain free.
Redeeming the Time
During that time, I managed to proof read over 180 pages of our Greatest Century of Reformation book. During the hours that were not taken up with reading and writing, when pain prevented focus, I was able to think more about the significance of kidney stones. Everything in our physical life can be related to a spiritual analogy. Breathing is to our body what prayer is to our soul. Physical food is like the Bible, the Word of God, the bread of life for our soul. The role of the kidney in our life is to cleanse the body of toxins. When the kidney fails to do its duty, the body is poisoned to death.
Beating Kidney Failure
Our son, Christopher, was born with kidney failure and the doctor said that he would not be able to survive. He was also too young for a kidney transplant at that stage, born one month prematurely. However, in answer to prayer, by God's grace, Christopher did recover function of one kidney. Later, at age 14, he had a kidney transplant with Lenora’s kidney now providing him his only workable kidney. At the time of the transplant, he was down to 4% function of one kidney. Since the kidney transplant, Christopher earned his Senior Black Belt in Karate, National Colours and has represented the country overseas in the USA, Switzerland and Germany, bringing home a Bronze medal from Switzerland and has now achieved his Second Dan.
The first point of Dr. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was that Repentance is to characterise the whole life of a Christian. Just as our kidneys cleanse the whole body of toxins, so Repentance is to cleanse our mind and spirit of sinful attitudes and actions.
“So rend your heart and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.” Joel 2:13
How can one avoid kidney stones? The doctors have informed me: by drinking lots of pure, clean water. Since I was 12 years old and first experienced kidney stones, I have endeavoured to drink lots of water, an average of 8 glasses a day. I have never drunk coffee, never touched alcohol, avoid fizzy soda drinks like the plague and will choose water or juice over any other liquids. This is analogous to the living water of Christ which must wash over us and cleanse us from all sin. However, if we fail to repent and there is a block to our spiritual life, this can develop into painful experiences like kidney stones.
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Under the Old Covenant, circumcision was symbolic of Repentance and the first mark of being a child of God. When we neglect to hunger and thirst after Righteousness, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, coming unto Jesus, thirsting, to receive His living waters, we can find our devotional life hardened and the pain and suffering that that causes is well illustrated in a kidney stone eruption.
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7
Holiness is to our spirit what health is to our bodies. Few of us want to be physically sick but most do not seem to mind being spiritually sick. Holy is a four letter word in many circles. Inevitably, each of us ends up in hospitals, either as patients, or as visitors. We each must learn how to minister more thoughtfully, compassionately and effectively to families and individuals in medical crisis situations.
Hospital Visitation Ministry
Challenge your congregation to establish, or expand, their hospital visitation ministry. Contact Healthcare Christian Fellowship for training and resources (www.hcfi.info; email@example.com).
“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.’” Matthew 9:37-38
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
How Francis Grim Mentored Me in Missions