I met Sam four years ago when he attended a Thanksgiving dinner I hosted.
Sam was in LA to pursue an MA in philosophy at Talbot, and I was teaching at Biola two mornings a week, so after that Thanksgiving dinner, we occasionally ran into each other on campus. We also attended the same church, and when I was well enough to go to Sunday service, we would see each other. With time, I observed enough of Sam to learn he was kind, generous, and diligent in prayer.
About two years ago, Sam emailed me. He'd read a recent blog post about the nightmarish turn in my health, and he wanted to tell me he was praying for me daily. He also shared that he was in New York City getting treated for a rare and especially deadly form of cancer. He wondered if he could encourage me in my battle with health problems since he was fighting his own.
A google search of Sam's form of cancer revealed he had a very slim chance of survival. In fact, yesterday his best man shared that when Sam was first diagnosed, he asked God to withhold the funding to start treatment if he wasn't going to survive. He didn't want his family to shoulder the financial burden of his medical bills if he wasn't going to live.
I have learned from mutual friends that Sam looked like a Holocaust victim as he lay in that hospital room, enduring round after round of chemo. His parents refused to leave his side during those months of treatment, and his closest friends wondered if the next phone call from New York would bring grievous news.
Somehow, as Sam underwent chemotherapy, surgery, and experimental treatment, he found the fortitude to send me almost daily messages of encouragement. He sent me poems, songs, and Bible verses to buoy my spirits; he offered financial help for my medical bills; he suggested prescription medications when our symptoms overlapped; he offered to connect me with people in the area who could run errands for me; and he offered to forward my recent test results to his doctor friend. I often felt that I was the one who should be encouraging Sam, but looking back I can see that God wanted me to learn from Sam what it looks like to be bread broken and wine poured out for those in need.
When Sam first emailed me from New York, I felt trapped in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Some days, the darkness of that valley made me quake in fear; other days, it made me want to die. But then Sam reached out, and he came alongside me in that valley, and he said, "With God's help, we will pass through this." Everyday, again and again: "God is with us, and he will carry us onward and upward." His presence and courage were God's astonishing grace to me.
My dear friend Sam is cancer-free today. He will finish his philosophy degree next month, and he and his new bride will move back to India where they will minister together as he begins work for Ravi Zacharias's ministry. I do not know Sam's wife well, but I know she is beloved by many. She is a nurse with a heart for India and a reputation for kindness, faithfulness, and generosity; and I am delighted she and Sam found each other.
Yesterday I kept trying to find the words to express what Sam and Amy's wedding meant to me, but I couldn't. I felt I was watching Sam stand on the mountaintop, his vibrant bride at his side, their families and friends hemming them in, their future full of hope, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death down below, behind him. The wonder that swelled inside of me was too big to be constrained by words
Dear Sam and Amy, what a joy it was to watch you embark on this new marriage-adventure together. I pray God's best for you, and I thank him that I get to be one of many who will be blessed by your union.
With much love,
© by scj