Wednesday, October 7, 2015

An Unforgettable Retreat Experience

This is from one of my church retreats... Prior to knowing Jesus as my Risen Savior, I don’t know if I had a sense, let alone understanding, what could be done through His will, and I really don’t know how strong my faith life was. However, through my life experiences, overcoming obstacles has positively impacted my faith life, as today my faith is the key to any success I’ve had. It is supposed to be our engine, but we have to turn the key to ignite it; however it can sputter as well. In no small way to these circumstances, my life has become much more enriched.

I have had many situations where I have had to show a great deal of faith to overcome obstacles while being a first-hand witness to Jesus’ healing and powerful touch and, as a result I have become more aware of how He has been working through me. The first way has been my speech issues (namely stuttering). Previously, I received assistance from about 3 or 4 speech therapists all the way from pre-school to high school as we tried many strategies that didn’t work, as my face would be a deep red like an apple, especially if I was talking in front of people.

After a lot of research, guidance and prayers, my family and I decided that I should go out to Norfolk, VA to what I phrase a Speech Boot Camp for three weeks at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. The participants tried to overcome their stuttering through Jesus’ Divine Healing, as the instructor also stuttered. This is predominantly a condition men historically face much more than women. The patella blocks the air flow out of the mouth similar to a cat or dog trying to get through a door flap and is stuck. So stuttering can be deeply embarrassing for people with it, especially since it is tougher to speak in a quasi-normal way the longer it hasn’t been mastered (just as it was for Moses when he was delivering the Sermon on the Mount). The first thing we did was re-learning how to breathe by lying down on the floor. After this, we relearned how to correctly annunciate basic words and group them in sentences, such as ‘The dog ran.’ The way to determine if we were correctly speaking in a phonetic way, a different light came on compared to if it was wrong. As the first few days went on, gradually there was more advancement to more difficult words and situations. Another more advanced phase was to find businesses in the phone book and ask them basic questions, such as how much is the pizza. Once this took place over the course of a couple days, then we would go a close-by business in person and order lunch, which also helped us assimilate back into society.

Once I returned from Virginia I started to experience the real love of Christ as everyone started to notice good improvement with my fluency, as this gave me added confidence. Consequently, Jesus showed me through His intercession how lots of practice through the speech boot camp, take home material and other real life situations made my life easier. A couple of years later I went back to Virginia for a week refresher course to obtain further instruction and refine what I had learned and practiced. The next issue was my epilepsy, as I have been officially diagnosed since I was 3 months old (as I had gray skin for what is believed to be lack of oxygen from birth). I have been through 10 medications (with a variety of dosages within each) and 6 neurologists. Because this never had been controlled with my medicine, we finally started expanding our thought process to consider more ‘radical’ options including, but not limited to, brain surgery, as I went through many types of tests to see if I was a candidate. This really made me uncomfortable for a couple of reasons, as I didn’t want to relearn how to talk with all of my strides I had made and also was concerned about my peripheral vision being reduced or non-existent and didn’t know how realistic an option this would be; however, Jesus through His intervention comforted me.

I was in the hospital for 12 days in May of 1999, getting out on that Memorial Day. Probably half way through the stay, I had an EEG and they reduced my medicine to half of the normal level to try and trigger a seizure. Well, I had a grand mal seizure (the first and only one of those in my life). This ended up showing the doctor and surgeon where it was coming from, so fortunately there was no form of blockage anywhere that prevented a clean cut (which fortunately was only a pinky incision instead of across my head type of cut), so all of the area that was creating the problems was able to be removed by God’s grace. So to this present day, I have never had another seizure. Furthermore, I know that my whole reason for being who I am today results in no coincidence whatsoever to these experiences, regardless of how trying they have been then or now.

I know God placed these people in my life when I needed them most. My faith life is very much stronger as a result thanks to God’s healing touch. In the time since my medical procedures, I have had many rich and unforeseen blessings.

As deeply enriched my faith life has become from these medical situations, a true blessing that started to energize my faith life was when I was able to go to the Vatican, Rome and Assisi for a pilgrimage with my Newman Center at WIU just after Christmas of 1999 for the Catholic Jubilee, as we were there for 10 days. Among the many things we were able to do was have Daily Mass and participate in Papal Audiences at the Vatican, and also had Daily Mass in Assisi, and toured the many religious sites in both places. I will always hold very close the 3 Vatican pictures that their photographers took that I have (as I am in two of them), as this is a life time reminder of some very powerful spiritual experiences, especially since I am in a shot with Pope John Paul going by in his Pope mobile and also am in a big group shot with St. Peter in the foreground. Due to my medical history, I never thought I would be able to drive. In high school, I was able to do the classroom part of drivers ed, but I was not permitted to go any further. So in June 2002 (which was 3 years after my surgery), that all changed. I started to learn how to drive with my dad and granddad. This was quite a process, because they have driven for 6-8 decades and could tell me many things about what to do, especially since even though I was 25 years old, I was mentally just like a 16 year old in terms of driving ability. Well, in 4 months, I was able to obtain my license and then two weeks after that, I moved 6 hours from home to St. Joseph, MO as a VISTA member (which is basically like the domestic Peace Corps). This was a huge leap of faith, as I had never lived outside of my home county my first 25 years, and then all of a sudden some sort of reality set in about having to live on my own being away from my parents nest and support, even though I was oblivious to what that life was going to be like. The change hit me like a big tornado going right through my soul before I could blink an eye and rethink if I made a wise decision. Once again, Jesus through His intercession helped me through this experience. God has been present in my life through good and bad (even though I have had many signs of His tough love since then, in particular with my too many to count accidents and tickets). I realize that things happen for a reason and we do not always know what the reason may be. I feel in a sense my life has been a real blessing because even though in my teens and into my early 20s that even though the epilepsy wasn’t controlled, I never got addicted to drugs, smoking, or drank and never have had a desire to even try. Therefore, in some way, shape or form, there is always a silver lining, regardless of how easily it may be acknowledged, especially since I think most of these times I have learned something tangible from the experiences to make my faith life that much stronger as I have been much more successful than I, let alone my family would have ever imagined prior to how my medical situations gave me a new lease on life.

My final closing thought is this: The longer I live; attitude has become much more important than facts. It is also more important than the past, education, money, circumstances, failures or successes, or than what people say or do as well as appearance, giftedness or skill. My life will be enhanced or broken because of this, and my faith life is impacted similarly. I have a choice every day regarding the attitude that I embrace for that day. While I cannot change the inevitable, the one thing I can do is play the only fiddle I have and that is my attitude. Consequently, life seems to be 10% of what happens to me and 90% how I react. So Dear Lord, I am very grateful that you have shown your face in my life, as You continue to give me the courage, strength and will power to practice my faith daily, as well as helping me overcome these and all obstacles, as my life has been worth fighting the good fight for and am very grateful for the gift of life You have blessed me with. I hope and pray for many more blessings to come my way, in whatever way they may be presented. Please continue to provide me the strength & courage to face each day with the same fortitude that You have blessed me with to this day, and help me to focus on those around me and keep me mindful of the trials and challenges they are dealing with that I may provide support, understanding and encouragement to help them through their struggles similar to how You have continued to help me. Thank you!

John Fayhee

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