Something Leah and I both really appreciated after she became ill, was for friends to share a Bible verse with us and to pray with us.
Thankfully we know so many amazing people here in N.Ireland, that we weren’t short of people who were willing to minister to us in this way.
Therefore during Leah’s stays in hospital in N.I. we usually received some kind of pastoral support on a daily basis and we loved this.
Bristol was another matter.
We were warned in advance that the only minister who would be allowed to visit us in the bone marrow transplant unit was the ‘official’ hospital chaplain, nobody else would be allowed in.
We were shocked to discover that the hospital chaplain only visited once a week.
Three weeks into our stay, her visits in the transplant unit were stopped, on the grounds of infection control.
I went through the official hospital complaints procedures, to insist on Leah’s rights to chaplaincy and I succeeded in getting the hospital chaplains redesignated as “essential visitors” so that her visits could be reinstated.
Sadly for us, a few weeks after this, our lovely chaplain left, to take up a new post elsewhere, so her visits stopped again.
Our minister from home managed to visit us in Bristol on one occasion, as did our church Family Worker, Leah and I appreciated this so very much.
The hospital staff in Bristol were amazed at this pastoral input from our church in Northern Ireland.
Notwithstanding all of this, by week three, Leah was seriously ill and we were seriously missing the pastoral support we were so used to receiving at home in N.I.
Leah and I were virtually in ‘lockdown’ in an isolation room on the bone marrow transplant unit.
We were fortunate that on the 31st July ’13 we were given an accommodation upgrade from a small pokey room that we hated (cubicle 4) to a beautiful, airy, spacious one, with ensuite facilities, that we really liked.
I couldn’t make phonecalls or ‘FaceTime’ as the noise irritated Leah when she was so unwell. The one thing I could do though was send and receive texts and emails.
I so very much appreciated the support that we received from so many people during Leah’s hospitalisations, by text, email, Facebook and private message.
This is one very helpful text that I received at just the right time:
Gradually it dawned on me that I had no choice but to be Leah’s ‘chaplain’ myself. This is a text I sent to someone else around that time:
As evangelical Christians in N.I. I think that we are too used to the easy life sometimes – we can choose from any & every type of church and denomination.
We could go to a Gospel meeting or Bible study every night of the week if we choose to.
Most major towns have well stocked Christian book shops.
Many of us go every year to conferences like New Horizon, Portstewart Convention, Focusfest, Mandate and many others.
When and how do we put all of this teaching into practice in our lives?
The Bible says in Hebrews 5:12
‘You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.’ NLT
I had lots of devotional books with me that I read daily for my own benefit but at this early stage I wasn’t used to sharing any of this with Leah.
She had brought her own books with her but was now too ill to read them herself.
In early August Leah was so ill and so sedated that she could only listen and concentrate for very short periods of time.
I needed to pick out the most appropriate pieces from my own reading for sharing with Leah.
I was sort of nervous and self conscious at first, wondering if I was getting it right, but Leah was so appreciative.
Soon it just felt so “normal” and so nice, that every day, I read the Bible and some devotional readings to Leah and prayed with her. Leah was so “hungry” for the things of God, that even when I was having my own personal time with God, if she happened to be awake, she would say “read that out loud to me please Mummy.”
At times we as Christians can feel so very weak and inadequate, but yet God can still use us in the lives of others.
The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7
‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ NIV
Our very weakness and sense of inadequacy is what helps us to rely on God instead of doing things in our own strength.
I have learned many lessons on this journey, but if the truth be told, they aren’t lessons that I would ever have chosen to learn – or at least I wouldn’t have chosen to learn them in this way!