From H1N1 to COVID-19: Rachel finds purpose in suffering
By Brian Yung (Video) and Tianna Haas (Words) | Ecuador in South America
Rachel Wilson’s younger brother Jason died unexpectedly at age 24 from the H1N1 virus in 2009. The turbulence of a new pandemic has reminded Rachel of God’s prevailing presence through her suffering.
Rachel’s oldest sister found Jason semi-conscious with a high-grade fever and immediately took him to the hospital.
Rachel said: “Like most people, you think, ‘Oh that’s not going to affect me personally. I’m healthy; I’m fine. And we just went on with life [when the H1N1 pandemic began].
“But my brother, who was almost 25 years old, went to the doctor two weeks before for his yearly checkup and got a clean bill of health. Then two weeks later he was lying in a hospital in a drug-induced coma on a ventilator.
“You’re just like, ‘What? How is this possible? He’s healthy. He’s young.’ We don’t always think these things will touch us.”
While Jason was battling the virus, Rachel struggled with the possibility of her brother’s death, even though she was confident in his salvation.
She said: “To say I didn’t have any fear or wasn’t anxious would be a lie. I didn’t have fear necessarily of what would happen to him if he died because he did know the Lord. He was a Christian.
“I think it was more the fear of how to deal with death, how to confront death. It does put a little bit of fear in you, but at the same token, God reminded me, ‘I have you and I have your brother, and there is purpose in this.’”
Each day her brother was in the hospital, Rachel would visit, and as she left, pray over him. She prayed: “God, you’re bigger than this virus and you’re in control over it, so just help me to trust you with this.”
"God, you’re bigger than this virus and you’re in control over it, so just help me to trust you with this."
Many surrounded her family in prayer, which was a profound comfort. She said: “I’m so thankful for the Word of God and for the prayers of so may people around the world who were praying during that time.”
The Lord placed Isaiah 26:3-4 on Rachel’s heart as she waited on God. Rachel reflected: “And I love it because he’s my rock. He’s sure. He’s solid. He’s dependable. He’s someone I can cling to…
“I love verse three because it talks about giving me perfect peace. It’s not just peace; it’s perfect peace. But we have to keep our minds stayed on God.”
Assurance in God’s character anchored Rachel as she grieved her brother’s death. She said: “We have to remember that God is a God of love and suffering has a purpose.
“I know for me personally God used taking away someone I loved for me to grow in a deeper love of him and a deeper level of my faith and my commitment to God.”
Rachel now serves with SIM in southern Ecuador, primarily in women’s ministry on the team for planting and strengthening rural churches. She also facilitates Trauma Healing Groups and disciples young women.
She joined SIM USA in the summer of 2008 after teaching at a Paraguayan missionary school for 8 years. In 2011, she began serving in Ethiopia as a classroom teacher at Bingham Academy. During her last term, she was an educational consultant for homeschool families and ministered throughout East Africa until 2018.
Rachel learned in her mourning what Romans 5:3-5 says: “… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
She said: “Although it’s not enjoyable – suffering is never fun and it’s never something we welcome – we need to welcome it because there’s purpose in it. There’s purpose in the pain.
“And that’s a beautiful part of my story that God has been writing, because now, I can step alongside somebody and can say, ‘I understand that pain. I wish you didn’t have to go through it, but you have to. So, let the God of all comfort comfort you and let him heal you in your hurts so you can have that hope.’
“I’m here today because I have that hope in Christ and he has healed my hurts. Now I don’t walk in pain but in the purpose that God gave me through that pain.”
• Rachel’s ministry to the suffering. Pray her testimony touches many and points them to ultimate peace.
• Those hurting deeply during the current pandemic to turn to Christ for relief.
• Healing for the sick and for their families.