Jacarandas and Bougainvillea


Monday, June 6, 2011


A story of three Jameses
("But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7 King James Bible)

As a slightly different version of this story has previously appeared in Sharing – the Order of Saint Luke magazine – I was reluctant to comply with requests for its re-publication. However, upon reflecting on the many things that have gladdened my heart, I am happy to submit this once more — for the encouragement of anyone who is sick and may not believe! But first, for the benefit of anyone who is not familiar with the OSL, I must explain that The International Order of St. Luke the Physician is an ecumenical organization dedicated to the Christian healing ministry.

Before leaving on a mission trip to South Africa some years ago, I had been given permission to translate the St. Luke Order of Service into Afrikaans, as I was heading to the Diamond fields of Kimberley in the Province of North Cape, where about 70 percent of the people are Afrikaans-speaking. Although I had begun to make quite encouraging progress before I left, I needed to know that I was not simply producing an accurate translation but was, at the same time, preserving both the spirit and the beautiful language which are the essence of the service.

Shortly before setting out on my journey – Vancouver to London/Heathrow (stand-by), Heathrow to Johannesburg (firm-booking), and then Johannesburg to Kimberley (again stand-by) – I left the door of my dishwasher open one day as I dashed to answer the phone, and, having forgotten about it, ran full-tilt into the corner of the door as I re-entered the kitchen. The deep hole this left in my shin seemed to have healed with remarkable rapidity until, only two days before I was due to leave, my leg began to swell.


(Not my leg!' For illustration only. Never leave the door of the dishwasher open!)

Initially antibiotics appeared to be working, but on the day of my departure the infection flared up so alarmingly that my doctor friend, who looked in on her way to her office early that morning, tried to dissuade me from undertaking the trip until I was better. However, when she realized that I was absolutely determined, she said I could only travel if I used a wheelchair, did not stand AT ALL, and promised to stay over in Johannesburg with my foot elevated for some days before attempting the last leg of the journey - the ‘standby’ for Kimberley.

She then kindly made a few phone calls, and arranged for me to be met at the Johannesburg airport by members of her family, and so I ended up staying from Thursday to Monday in the home of a Dutch Reformed pastor (her brother-in-law) who became so intrigued with the idea of an Anglican from Canada wanting to undertake such a translation into the language of his denomination, that both he and a fellow pastor - a recently returned missionary, who also happened to be a language and liturgical expert – became my advisers/proof readers.

The Reverend James

Fine men of God, they seemed eager to help me, but the pastor – whom I shall call James, (the English translation of his name, prefixing it with ‘the Reverend’ to distinguish him from our Lord’s brother – made no secret of the fact that he did not believe in the laying on of hands and “all that stuff”. He clearly found it hard to understand that I could accept that James 5:14-16 should be taken literally, and was honestly of the opinion that what had been written 2,000 years ago was meant to apply ‘then - but not now!’ Nonetheless, he and his hospitable family were very graciously prepared to indulge me in my convictions and, despite my odd beliefs, invited me to stay with them again on my way home.

My leg healed, I then went off to my mission in Kimberley, and when that had been completed, gratefully accepted the invitation to return to Johannesburg, to rest up again for a week or two in that delightful home, basking in the warmth of the Highveld sunshine and the friendship of a loving and closely-knit Christian family: the Rev. James, his beautiful wife, and equally gorgeous 21 year-old daughter, Chris -- a university student in her final year, who had been running a bit wild of late. Sadly for his family, their engineer son, another James, was working in a place far away from home and was greatly missed; but, as it happened, he would be drawn home sooner than any of us knew.

The phone rang and our lives would never again quite the same!

I returned from Kimberley on a Saturday, and on the Wednesday evening, which was unexpectedly cold with heavy rain, just as everyone except Chris – who had not yet come home from her part-time job – sat down to one of the sumptuous dinners for which South Africa is famous, the phone rang. None of our lives would ever be quite the same again. Chris had been involved in a dreadful accident. Another car, traveling at high speed in less than favourable visibility, had struck the one she was driving, with the full force of the collision on the driver’s door.

I doubt if I shall ever be able to forget the screams of pain as we arrived at the trauma centre. Her pelvis had been broken in several places but, worst of all, the ball in her hip joint had been jolted to the extent that it had not only shattered the socket but had been forced right through it to touch her spine. Her body was bent over to the right, almost in an arc. Blood in her urine raised the suspicion that her bladder could have been injured and, because she was having trouble breathing, her aunt – my Canadian physician friend – when telephoned, feared an embolus.

Since I am not a doctor I can only proceed to describe in layman’s terms what followed. On the Friday, the first of two operations was performed; this one to try and draw the hip bone out of the damaged socket. This was accomplished but, when it kept slipping back again, the leg was put in traction. After that, results of further X-Rays and a scan were emailed to experts in Canada, the USA and elsewhere, only to have them confirm what the South African surgeons already believed. – The cartilage had been destroyed. Once the broken sections of the pelvis had been surgically repaired (this procedure would, as it turned out, take six-and-a-half hours) there would be the long months of waiting before anything further could be done and even then Chris would not be able to walk without a hip replacement, for the destruction of the cartilage meant that bone would rub on bone.

A hip replacement at 21! And meanwhile Chris was now too sick even to panic about missing her final examinations. The family and their friends were shattered. I kept trying to talk about how good God was and how nothing was too difficult for Him, but no one seemed to be able to derive too much comfort from my words (which, rang hollow even to me) until the Rev. James was provoked to retort with some bitterness and a tinge sarcasm: “But of course Marie believes in miracles!”

Because that stung, I was goaded to respond vehemently. “I do,” I said, and suddenly knew that I meant it. “And, what’s more, I am going to pray for one!”

Early on the Tuesday morning, the mother and I went to see Chris in the ICU. Wearing an oxygen mask and hardly conscious, she had a fever, and her eyes were ringed with yellowish bruises. On the wall above her head, monitors reflected, among other disquieting things, low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. I felt awkward, and self-consciously waited to be invited to pray, while wondering what on earth had possessed me to voice my faith in miracles in such a boastful manner… secretly hoping I wouldn’t be asked because that would let both Jesus and me off the hook. All at once I wasn’t too sure how I would go about it anyway. How should I pray, in English or in Afrikaans? What words should I use? Not even a vestige of the St. Luke’s Order of Service with which I had been occupied for so long remained in my head.

Too soon it was time to go, but I couldn’t leave without doing something!. The child looked so awful that my heart turned over, and I knew that Jesus trusted me because I had said, back in Canada, “Here I am, Lord, send me. Even if it’s only for one!” Feeling completely inadequate, I got up, laid my hands on her, and silently began to pray in the Spirit. Chris opened her eyes and looked into mine (she says she felt that I was praying for her). Somewhere near me the mother exclaimed, “Just look at the monitors! Everything’s normal!”

When I left, it was temporarily without a clear recollection of what had transpired - and I did not want to talk about it!

For when the surgeons repairing her pelvis were able to see inside of Chris, they found that the cartilage had been restored. Eleven days later, having just arrived home in Canada, I went straight to the telephone and called Johannesburg, to be informed by Samson, the gardener: “They are at the hospital, 'Miss Marie. Miss Chris walked as far as the door today!' ”

Two weeks later, having learned that Chris was home, I called and was able to speak to her. She told me that the experience had brought her close to Jesus once more. A few months later, seated on many pillows on a chair to be taken especially to the university for by her adoring father, she planned to be writing her finals.
Isn’t Jesus wonderful? … Come to think of it, wasn’t there a time when His brother, James, didn’t believe either?

This has indeed brought me great joy !
Since then, Chris has established two very successful optometric clinics, has supervised the building of her own home, married the sweetheart who visited her so faithfully in the hospital, and despite having been told that — because her pelvis was virtually held together with pins — she would never be able to have children, has an enchanting three-year-old daughter. The family home became a ‘Bed and Breakfast’ and, over the years, numerous urgent prayer requests from visitors from all over the world, have been passed on from there to the prayer team at my home church … St. David’s. There have been many miracles.

Personally, Pastor James did not fare as well, however. He was prayed for on many occasions, throughout his battle with Prostate cancer, and then for many of its unfortunate involvements – every one of them healed, until, at the end of 2004, tumours in his lungs were found in places where they were considered to be inoperable. His condition had been exacerbated by frequent exposure to asbestos at one stage. Even his sister-in-law, the physician told us it was hopeless; nevertheless the St. D’s team was once again asked to pray. And there would come a happy day when I would receive a note in which the Reverend James informed me that he was writing a book on “Miraculous Healings!”

A tribute to Ruth Fazal
What joy her music has brought me, ever since I first heard it in Toronto some years ago. I am indebted to her for permitting me to take to it to South Africa with me and, furthermore, the “license” to translate the songs into Afrikaans. Kimberley, like many other places in the country, was hardly a safe place at the time I went on the mission, but I was unafraid as I set off on my ‘prayer walk’ before 5am every morning, singing at the top of my voice: “Come Holy Spirit, come to this place!”

Back home in Canada, as I got out of my car to enter the hospital where I was a lay chaplain in those days, the song I unfailingly sang was “Send me out in the power of your Spirit, Lord”. I have already chosen which one I want at my funeral some day. — “Here I stand before your throne!”


Anonymous said...

Very nice, but the LEG HAS TO GO.

Regards.. from a very close relative.

Marie Warder. said...

Regards to you too. I appreciate your comment,but, after giving the matter sincere consideration, I've decided to leave it where it is. Looking at it (hideous as it is)it reminds me of how important my own injured leg was in the scheme of things. If that had not happened to me, none of what transpired after that would ever have occurred.

Another anonymous relative. said...

I agree. That gross leg has GOT to go!

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