One bright spring morning I woke up early to go and meet a man I had been discipling. When I got out of bed I felt very weak, but I shook it off, figuring that it was nothing a little more sleep couldn’t cure. Was I ever wrong! By afternoon I found myself in the emergency room of a local hospital. I was hooked up to cardiac monitors and intravenous fluid lines, and doctors, nurses and emergency room technicians were carefully watching my condition. A combination of medications I was taking had caused internal bleeding.
When illness strikes, it is seldom on our timetable and it is never convenient! It was a very bad time for me to be sick. The New York branch had several special events planned that my wife and I were responsible for managing. Food had to be prepared and served to more than two hundred people that weekend. My feeling was, Lord, couldn’t this have waited for next week?
As word of my condition began to spread to my many friends and co-workers, they began to pray for me. My condition stabilized and I didn’t require surgery or emergency blood transfusions. Just as important was the peace of the Lord in my life; I wasn’t anxious or scared. I had a sense that everything would be all right. The Lord was with me and was watching over my wife and our two boys.
I was held in the hospital emergency room for ten hours, and that was as much of an ordeal as my health condition. Finally they brought me to the hospital room that was going to be my home for the next week. The nurse who received me was very professional and thorough. She asked me a long list of required questions, one of which was the name of my employer. When I told her it was Jews for Jesus, her face lit up and she exclaimed that this was a miracle. She said she had just been talking to a Jewish friend of hers about the faith and the friend had said he would like to meet someone from Jews for Jesus. At that time she hadn’t known any of us or where to look for us. It seemed that I was an answer to her prayer.
The nurse was a new believer. We talked for a bit about how to witness to Jewish people, and I gave her some advice about churches she could attend and the faithfulness of the Lord. It seemed unusual to me that as sick as I was at the time, I would have such an encouraging conversation.
Over the course of the next several days I had some brief conversations with my doctors, who wanted to know more about what it meant to be Jewish and to believe in Jesus. After three days in the hospital I got a new roommate. George was a man my age in very poor health. Based on past experience in these matters, I sensed that George was in an advanced stage of AIDS. The hospital was not allowed to list him as an AIDS patient, nor were they required to segregate him from the rest of the hospital population. We were together in the room for about five hours, and he was transferred out. I thought that was strange, and I regretted the fact that we had not had a chance to talk.
The next morning the nurses told me that George was coming back to my room. When I told a friend about it, his response was, I guess the Lord wants you to witness to him.” At that point I began to pray for this man and for an opportunity to share the Good News with him. I realized that this would be a sensitive matter. Not wanting to preach to a captive audience or upset someone in such poor health made my objective difficult. One thing about being in a hospital, however, is that there is plenty of time to pray. I prayed that the Lord would give me the opportunity to talk with George.
The following day, as the two of us sat in our beds making small talk, George asked me if I was a “Jews for Jesus or something.” He had overheard some of my comments to a visitor that had made him curious. His question began an hour-long session of questions and answers concerning the faith. The most telling question George had was, “Isn’t believing in Jesus too restrictive and limiting?” I answered that it was the only way God could insure freedom and salvation to a world incapable of saving itself.
The next morning I felt that there was some unfinished business. During breakfast, I asked George what he felt about this whole issue of Yeshua. He admitted that he believed the basic premise but couldn’t accept the whole idea. I told him that with his health so poor he needed peace—peace that God could supply through the Messiah. George said he would consider the whole issue further. Just at that point some hospital aides came to take him for some tests. I was discharged from the hospital before he returned.
I wouldn’t say that the Lord had me hospitalized just so that I could witness to George and my doctors and encourage that nurse. Still, it was reassuring to see that the Lord would use me even while I was sick. For a willing believer there are always opportunities to witness!