It was one year ago today that we opened a chapter in our story that would set us on a battlefield that would rock us to our core. The first page of that chapter began like this…

On Sunday morning, January 10th while we were with our church family at Calvary Chapel Rome, we were talking with a friend who was fresh out of med school. His fiancé, a med student, had noticed that Mike looked a little jaundice. That and the fact that Mike was experiencing some serious itchiness, prompted him to insist that we come with him to work the next morning because symptoms like that could indicate that his liver might not be functioning properly.

Early in the morning on January 11th, our friend met us at our apartment in Rome and drove us to the Anagnina station where we parked and took a subway into the Center of Rome. Then we caught a bus toward San Giovanni Hospital. Years ago we had spent the first night of our very first trip to Italy in a hotel just around the corner from the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (a monumental cathedral commissioned by Constantine that was the first basilica built in Rome and for a thousand years it was considered the most important building in Christendom). Looking out the window of the bus, I reminisced about that first time Mike and I had explored the streets in this area. As we approached the hospital across the street from the famous cathedral and the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world, I couldn’t help thinking about all the events that had led up to our living in this fascinating city.

While our friend led us through the ancient hospital, founded in 1204, a growing tide of apprehension began to engulf me. As soon as Mike was checked in he was taken to a waiting room exclusively for patients, while I was directed to the non-patient seating area of the main waiting room… and “wait” is what I did… hour after hour. Time always moves slowly in waiting rooms, but this day would make anything I might ever experience seem like a piece of cake! As the hours trudged on I was afraid to leave my designated area because I wanted Mike to know where to find me and I didn’t want to miss a call from the receptionist if they needed to tell me anything. I was wishing I had brought a water bottle, yet thankful that I hadn’t, because when I went to use the restroom, I found that the sliding door to the restroom was off it’s track and anyone in the entryway to the hospital could see right in. Never mind, I could wait.

Our friend finally came to the waiting room to tell me that a blood test had confirmed there was an issue with Mike’s liver and now we would need to wait for more tests and an available bed because it looked like Mike would need to stay there over night. It was beginning to sink in that this could not possibly be good.

I spent the day talking to my Savior, the only one in the room who spoke my language. Needless to say, everyone spoke Italian and it became painfully obvious that we did not. All the hours spent with our sweet Italian tutor, Tulia, as well as Rosetta Stone and weekly lessons at a nearby Italian library, had only prepared us for greetings, shopping and traveling, but at best only offered feeble attempts at real communication. Our friend from church spoke only a little English and I understood a little Italian, so part of our conversations always involved a bit of guesswork, sometimes even charades, but by the grace of God we were able to communicate the important things.

After twelve long hours, a bed became available and Mike was checked into a hospital room with four other men. We were escorted to his room after visiting hours, so I was ushered out as soon as he was settled in.

The hospital didn’t have Internet available, so I had to get busy when I got back home. There were so many people to call, text and message, that I was up most of the night (not that it mattered because I couldn’t have slept anyway). Our apartment seemed darker and colder and the background noise of the city seemed louder and more obnoxious than ever before. As I lay in our bed in the early morning hours, staring at the ceiling, pleading with the Lord for Mike to be ok, I asked the question that would become my question of the year for 2016. “What are You doing, God?… Why are You letting all this happen?”

His answer: “My grace is sufficient for you.”

I still don’t know all the whats and whys, but this is what I do know… God was with us the whole time… He taught us things we could not have learned any other way… He brought us divine appointments that we wouldn’t have had otherwise… He led us through the dark valleys, keeping us close when we couldn’t see… Shielding us from enemy attacks… Holding us up when we felt like we might drown… And ultimately, He brought us through to see an amazing victory!

Frankly, I can’t imagine how (or why) anyone would do this without Him! Believe me, if you don’t know Him, you really need to!

We spent this past year on the battlefield of cancer, fighting with prayer through a constant barrage of enemy assaults and hidden mine fields, but now here we are, with Mike in 2017! Last week at Mike’s follow up appointment His doctor said there is still no sign of cancer! I not only feel like I can finally breath… I feel like setting up a monument – a heap of stones that say, “Praise the Lord! Look at what God has done for us!”

Never Once

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Carried by Your constant grace

Held within Your perfect peace

Never once, no, we never walk alone

Every step we are breathing in Your grace

Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise

You are faithful, God, You are faithful!

Never Once By Jason Ingram, Matt Redman, Tim Wanstall