Friday, May 25, 2018

A Chance to Live - Pancreatic Removal and Islets Transplant

You may have watched the BBC 2 documentary recently about the wonderful work of the International Transplant Unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, and perhaps passed over this scene. The screenshot above is my actual operation now 11 months ago.  You can see Professor White and Miss Logue, the surgeons, working over me, assisted by the anaesthetist on the left and theatre nurses on the right. I am the patient (not smiling I can assure you!). They worked on me for 16.5 hours. They changed my life.

I am so grateful for the technology, skill, commitment, kindness, persistence, pride and professionalism of the whole team that worked on me. I am their poster boy now and am glad to be so! Thankfully, NHS England have recently held a long consultation on offering this surgery to patients like me in England and Wales as part of clinical trials, and I really pray this will come off. Meanwhile, I feel so indebted to those who prayed and supported Diane and me as I underwent this radical new surgery.

This passage in the ancient hymnal of the people of Israel stood out for me recently: "we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance." (Psalm 66:5). For 22 years the fire and water of the most intense agony known to human beings alternately roasted and then sloshed over me, threatening to engulf me again and again, but God has heard my cry for relief and I am grateful.

I also feel so moved for the plight of my fellow-sufferers, and the brave people who are featured in this documentary about heart transplant, some of whom died in the making of it. Thank God that medicine and surgery have advanced so far, but the human condition remains fragile and much more needs to be done. At the end of the day what we see on the screen here is a tribute to compassion and human competence. Standing behind and beyond it is a God who loves to fix and redeem, and where damage is so great that fixing here on earth may not be an option, to redeem and receive us into his eternal, loving care.

We plan to celebrate the anniversary of this great mercy in somewhere very sunny, where the sea is warm and the food is hot! Yippee!

Friday, May 11, 2018

House of Hope on the Camino

A recent television fly-on-the-wall documentary followed several celebrities as they walked part of the renowned Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. It was so interesting to witness the changes that occurred among them and in their individual thinking as they contemplated spiritual realities on this gruelling walk. The Camino comes from a tradition or way of doing church that is very different from mine, but I found it compelling to see the large numbers of people involved, especially young folk. It is also clear from the programme that those who undertake the arduous challenge do so mostly out of a hunger or desire to find God, or to walk more closely with the spiritual side of their nature. In this cynical and secular age that can't be a bad thing.

I have some very close friends who are doing a wonderful work on the Camino, offering love, friendship, spiritual help and Christian witness to pilgrims as they walk part of the way. They have been led to do so over the last couple of years by renting a house they call Hope House, which is now available for purchase. This video, in English, gives an overview of their vision and ministry. Alfonso and Debee (a Guernsey girl) have spent their long ministry with Youth With a Mission in Spain and are endorsed by YWAM in this new project.

This lovely, short video, contains a financial appeal, which if you are not happy to see please don't view the piece. No pressure, of course, but if you are minded to pray for them I know they would value that so much, and - do visit their wonderful home if you are walking the Camino!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Potato Peel Pie Discarded - Free at Last!

The Guernsey Flag
The movie "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" is doing well in cinemas around the globe. In UK it is the second most successful box office release in May. It coincides with an important date in Guernsey, May 9th. It is surprising how few people are aware that part of the British Isles were conquered and occupied by the Nazis. 73 years ago this month saw the islands set free at the end of the German Occupation during the Second World War. The final few months of the Nazi presence in Guernsey were the worst, especially after D-Day. According to one eye-witness, Mrs Irene Dunk, who was the wife of Rev Gilbert Dunk, minister of Eldad Elim Church in the island's capital St Peter Port, both the local population and the occupying forces were cut off from outside supplies in a siege situation and starving. Only the occasional arrival of the Red Cross ship the Vega bringing food parcels from Canada and New Zealand for the local people brought any degree of relief. In a small booklet published some years ago, Mrs Dunk, who went on to live until aged 100, tells of surviving for three weeks along with their small child, on a diet of parsnips alone before those vital supplies were received.

Finally, the Allied Force 135 arrived off St Peter Port on May 8th, 1945, but even then, things were tense and frightening. The Commandant, a fervent Nazi named Admiral Huffmeier, had vowed that he would never surrender. There was a real possibility that the Allies might need to fight their way ashore against an opposed landing. Thankfully he was over-ruled by his subordinates and the next day British troops poured into St Peter Port to be mobbed by grateful islanders.

We should thank God for the freedom we enjoy today. When Gilbert Dunk stood cheering in the crowds at North Esplanade that first Liberation Day, a local preacher whom he knew grabbed his shoulder and yelled excitedly “this is the Lord’s doing and it is truly marvellous!”. God had heard their anxious appeals for deliverance and had brought them through great trials to eventual liberty. Through all the long years of deprivation and loss there had remained that hope for freedom, and a heart cry of prayer for its fulfilment. Early in the Occupation an RAF plane had dropped leaflets over Guernsey containing a personal message from King George VIth promising “We will return...”, feeding the hope that would be finally fulfilled.

Christians today face many trials and sometimes great suffering too, but we have a hope that underpins our determination to keep the faith. The King is coming back, and in Christ we are truly free. We should treasure this freedom and share the news of it as widely as we can. Meanwhile here in Guernsey, our home is already decked with flags as we get ready to celebrate our national day.