I have the privilege of calling Debbie my friend! She loves the Lord and serves Him faithfully in our church and community. She has made an incredible impact in our student ministry, pointing gals to Christ and encouraging them in their walk with Him. She serves with Young Life and partners with her husband, Curtis, in taking our youth every summer to serve in ministry with Trash Mountain to provide a summer camp and help with projects in the Dominican Republic. She has two wonderful sons, Chandler, who will be a sophomore in College ,and Spencer, who will be a sophomore in High School. Both boys love the Lord and serve on our Worship Team at Church.
When Debbie shared her story with me, I wanted to make sure it was featured as an Inspiring Hope Story because this is what we are supposed to be doing…Advancing the Gospel and sharing the Good News, so that all people will know the HOPE they have in Christ!
Here’s Debbie’s Story…
My dad is the middle child of five. He has an older sister and brother and a younger sister and brother. His older sister, Janet, lived nearby in an apartment, so growing up, we spent a lot of time swimming over at her place.
Her mother, my grandma, would always have Christmas eve at her house every year, and once she sold her house and moved in with my Aunt Janet, it soon became my aunt’s responsibility. Christmas eve was a huge celebration in our family. Lots of people, lots of noise, lots of kids, and a whole lot of food! It became a tradition for my husband Curtis and I to travel to Haysville, KS, to spend Christmas Eve with family and head home late that evening.
Whenever we traveled to Wichita, we would try to get out to Haysville to visit my aunt. When Grandma died, I remember just sitting with Janet at the end of her bed, crying over the loss of someone we both loved dearly.
Janet’s husband passed away suddenly a few years ago, and it seemed after that, she went down hill in her own health. She became less mobile and eventually couldn’t move at all on her own. Her two sons agreed to place her in a nursing home in Abilene where her sister lived, so she could have someone take care of her and have family close to visit.
Janet was a very independent person, so I think this was very hard on her, even though it was the right decision. She had plenty of visitors, but all she wanted was to go home. Eventually, her sons moved her back to a Haysville nursing home close to her youngest son.
As far as I knew, Janet was not a Christian. Her mother was, but had accepted Jesus late in life, and I don’t think my aunt ever saw the need for a Savior the way Grandma had.
In March of this year, I received a call from my dad saying Janet was not doing well, that she was in the hospital, and that they thought she had a stroke sometime in the last few weeks. They were going to move her to Hospice care.
I didn’t make it down to visit and had not heard from anyone for a while, so for some reason, I was under the impression Janet had gotten better and was back at her nursing home. She was back at the nursing home, but Hospice was visiting her there. She had been in Hospice for about 3 weeks, was no longer eating, and had not had water for about a week.
I had felt since Janet was not doing well, that I should go visit her. I felt I was supposed to share the gospel with her, although I had no idea how or what this might look like. I had never talked anything spiritual with her, so I had no idea what I would say. I talked to Curtis and said I had planned to just go for the day. As I went to bed that night, I felt God was planning out the words I should say to my aunt. I got up the next morning and felt I should pack my bags for a longer stay. And, while I’m at it, pack funeral clothing. It felt strange to do that, but I did it anyway.
My mom decided she wanted to go to the nursing home with me to visit Janet. At this point, I still didn’t know when I was supposed to talk with my aunt, but I felt it was supposed to be a conversation just between the two of us. So, with my mom sitting next to me at her bedside, I just reminisced with my aunt. She no longer spoke, she barely moved (her hand twitched a little when I held it), and I could tell she was forcing her eyes open while I talked to her.
Even while I was sitting talking to my aunt, I was thinking to myself, “when am I going to be able to share Christ with her?”
My cousin (her son) arrived later and had told me they used to stay the night with her, but no longer did. When I asked if I could stay, he was happy to allow me that time with her. The door had swung wide open for me to share the gospel!
My cousin went out to his car and came back in and handed me a box. I opened the box and inside was my grandma’s Bible. I had been thinking about asking for this Bible for a long time (she had passed away 16 years ago), but had never asked. Now, my cousin was handing to me the very thing I had wanted and needed!
I left for a while and came back to stay the night with Janet. I brought in Grandma’s Bible thinking I may have a few minutes to look through it and see what notes Grandma had written in it. On the very first page, my grandma had written, “Soul Winning Bible References” and listed under that title was the gospel spelled out in her handwriting! Here is what she wrote:
1. God loves all sinners. – John 3:16
2. Call upon him. – Romans 10:13
3. Turn away from sin. – Luke 13:3
4. Believe in Jesus as Savior. – Acts 16:31
5. Confess Him. – Romans 10:9
6. Assurance of Salvation. – John 1:12
I looked up the verses, underlined them in my Bible, and highlighted them on my phone. Then after some prayer, I went in and sat with my aunt. Even though I spent a lot of time with Janet growing up, even lived with her for a short time, this was definitely out of my comfort zone!
I sat with her and felt God was telling me to get the Bible and begin reading what I had just read. So, I did. I began by telling her that I had Grandma’s Bible, and shared what was written at the top of the page. I went on to read what she wrote, read the scripture reference and explained what that meant to me and what it would mean to her. The entire time I shared with her, I didn’t know if she could hear me or not, because she was unresponsive at this point. But I prayed with everything in me that God would allow her to hear me, that He would open her heart to Him, that she would feel His presence and that He would use me for His purpose. I also began to pray that if she did hear me that He would take her quickly.
In the middle of the night, her lungs began to fill up with fluid. I had the night nurses adjust her so that she was more comfortable; then I sat with her again, held her hand and just prayed over her for probably an hour. I talked softly with her and told her Jesus was waiting for her, that Grandma was waiting for her and that she could finally let go.
I fell back to sleep and my cousin came in about 7:50am. I told him her lungs were filling up with fluid and could no longer be cleared out. He talked with her, then picked her up and held her, weeping. I had to leave the room because I couldn’t watch. It was too much to take in. I called his brother to come quickly. I went back in the room around 8:15am and my cousin said she had not taken a breath for about 45 seconds. Then, on April 16, 2014, she took one more breath, and she was gone.
While it was a loss for our family, I couldn’t help but rejoice in knowing in her last moments, God gave me an opportunity to share His love for her and usher her right into His presence. It gives me peace and joy knowing that one day we will meet again.
Every once in a while, God places us in a situation we are uncomfortable with and feel unequipped. This was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I was obedient and allowed God to work through me to bring my aunt to Him.