Joy in the face of death

By Walter Eric | Kenya in East Africa

Unsplash representative stock photo. By Marcelo Leal.

SIM worker Walter serves with Life Challenge Africa in Kenya, which seeks to show Christ’s love to Muslim neighbours. He recounts his unique experience as a COVID-19 patient and the grace God provided him during suffering.

Easter 2021 will surely stay in our memory for good. During mid-March in Mombasa, both my wife, Christel, and I picked up COVID-19. And while I still enjoyed time home resting and reading, my wife was already fighting for life at Aga Khan Hospital for a week.

Our oldest daughter, who has extensive experience with doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, immediately took over crisis management, and together with our other children greatly encouraged us, gave advice, prayed for us, and informed friends and colleagues across the globe. Without their loving, sacrificial round-the-clock commitment we would both have been much at a loss what to do.

On the night entering Good Friday, my conditions deteriorated rapidly. Breathing got harder and harder, and by 5am I phoned our family friend Dr. Umar and told him: “I am suffocating.” He immediately contacted our daughter and urged her to get an ambulance that arrived around 10:30am.

Even getting down the one flight of stairs from our apartment was quite agonizing and left me exhausted. But in the midst of it all, I never panicked, but experienced the peace of Jesus who impressed on me, leading me to think: “Today is the most meaningful day in the Christian calendar. Actually, perhaps the best date to go home and be with my Saviour whose suffering and death I recall on this day.”

Aware of my sin, I felt like the repentant criminal who was so close to Jesus. I remembered the words, “Lord, remember me ...” My heart was filled with intense joy and responded with great assurance! “Praise Jesus, I am … right at his side and can hear his words, ‘Today you will be with me ...’ I don’t need to worry.”

Meanwhile, both my daughter and wife were fighting hard to find a free bed in the COVID ward. Finally, after seven hours of waiting, praying, and negotiating, I was admitted to the same ward where my wife had been fighting for breath a full week. To assure me of his love, our good Lord gave me the most beautiful window bed near Christel. That’s where I spent the next ten days, while she was there for 23 days.

On my way to hospital, I had packed a new notebook, which became my “Corona Diary” and helps me even now not to forget all his goodness during these days. Here is an excerpt of the highlights:

❖ A fortnight before we were admitted to hospital, the ward had received some special “high flow” machines, which added that much needed oxygen.

❖ Our doctor friend was supported by one of the best specialists in lung diseases, who gave

us excellent treatment.

❖ Unlike my people-oriented darling, I am usually quite a coward when it comes to speaking to strangers. I was quite surprised about myself to note the easy access God gave me to fellow sufferers in the beds near me: people with diverse backgrounds, with whom I normally would never have talked so freely about the Bible and Jesus!

❖The nursing staff was another living demonstration of God’s grace. In spite of extreme over-demands and the constant risk of getting infected by COVID themselves, the nurses showed us extraordinary love, efficient service, and fearless commitment. Most of them were committed Christians, whereas our two doctors were Muslim. Our sovereign Lord brings together truly amazing teams to accomplish his grace! We shall not forget that quickly.

Three months after being released from hospital, we can say that we have slowed down a bit, taken more time to listen to God speaking to us – mostly through the Psalms – and taken out special periods of rest with our local family.

It doesn’t come easy; even going for a walk or doing physio exercises or swimming requires planning, but we are deeply grateful to the many, many people who prayed for us. Perhaps most of them prayed we would get well quickly and be fully restored. But I believe that our loving Lord gave us special gifts during these weeks of hospitalization, watching over us, speaking to us, making us aware of areas in our life we would never have discovered.

Please pray

• For continued recovery for Walter and Christel.

• For all those suffering from COVID and for God’s intervention to stop the spread of the virus.

• For Life Challenge Africa and more opportunities to engage neighbours in discussion about faith, ultimately leading to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus.

Learn more about Life Challenge Africa

Walter’s work with Life Challenge Africa equips Christian leaders in Africa with resources and support to develop relationships and connections with Muslim neighbours. Interested in joining this network of disciples and reaching out to these communities in African countries? Contact us today.

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