I would like to tell you about my grandson Emile. Emile is 8 years old and is so loving and caring (especially with his new baby sister), and I believe God has a great purpose for his life.
My daughter Natalie had a normal pregnancy with Emile, and as a family we had no idea there was anything wrong. Emile surprised everyone by arriving two months early, and at first the doctor thought he might have a blockage in one of the tubes leading to his stomach.
However, as the doctors did many more investigations, they discovered that Emile actually had Vacterl Syndrome, a genetic condition which affects multiple areas of the body. Emile had a hole in his heart, problems with his spine, his oesophagus was fused to his lung (instead of his stomach), and he had only one kidney. In addition, he had a problem with the thumb on his hand and one of his eyes remained shut, as there was no nerve in the eyelid.
At the beginning of his journey, when we were first told of Emile’s diagnosis, our family was devastated. Having lost a child of our own, my wife Jackie and I did not want to see Natalie and Antoine go through a similar heartache. I remember spending a lot of time with God, and I felt Him tell me clearly that He would not lift us out of the situation, but He would lead us through it. All around the world, other ministries and friends were praying for Emile and his parents, and we felt so lifted by their prayers, knowing that we were not alone.
Emile was finally released from hospital, and Natalie and Antoine had a wonderful first day as a family at home with him. For the first time, they felt like real parents, but that evening, Emile choked and had to be resuscitated and rushed back to hospital. It felt as though we were facing yet another setback, and yet through it all, we sensed that victory was coming.
Emile remained in hospital till he was four months old and had many operations during that time and over the following years.
The doctors said that Emile would probably never sit unaided, and if he did, he would probably never stand. And if he was ever able to stand, he would never be able to walk or run. And yet, Emile has done all of those things and much more.
We wondered if he would ever be able to eat normally. At the time he had a button fitted in his stomach to allow tube feeding. When he was five years old, Emile started to eat and finally this year he had his button removed, as he is now eating enough on his own. I remember the weekend that Emile came to stay with us and ate a whole plate of spaghetti. For Jackie and I, it was an incredible event, and even now when I sit at the table and see him eat, there is a silent cry of thanks that wells up inside me. Thank you God, thank you Father for ALL you have done in his life.
God has been so faithful, and although Emile faces many challenges, we know that God has been true to His word when He said he would not take us out of the situation, but He would lead us through it.
Did I ever doubt? I can honestly say I do not think I did. However, there have been times that have been overwhelming. Seeing someone you love in so much pain is devastating and stressful, and yet even through pain, God has been there.
On one occasion, I felt God tell me to ‘talk to the mountain’, and so sitting with Emile as he was in his hospital bed, I asked if he could feel any pain. He said yes, and I told him that in Jesus’ name, he could tell the pain to go. As we prayed and Emile told the pain to leave his body, I wish I could have taken a photograph, as a huge smile lit up his face. Even now, several years later, our daughter tells us that Emile will shout out ‘Pain, go, in Jesus name!’
His simple faith has been such a blessing to us, and God has spoken to us so many times.
On another occasion, I was with Emile at a physiotherapy appointment to help correct a malformation in his thumb. The physiotherapist explained that in order to get the thumb into the right position, they would need to ‘stretch and pull’. This would be a repeated process until eventually the thumb stayed in a more natural position. It would not be pleasant, but as the physiotherapist explained, ‘when the thumb stays in the right position, we will know we have won’.
It spoke to me so clearly of how God works in our lives. Sometimes our lives and purposes need to be realigned, and we need divine physiotherapy to put us into the right position. It is rarely a pleasant experience, but God uses this stretching and pulling to shape us into the people He wants us to be.
Today, as we look back on all God has done in Emile’s life so far, we are overwhelmed and so very grateful. There is much physical healing still to be done in Emile’s life, but we know that the God who has brought us this far will continue to see us through.