It was on this date, eight years ago, when this story ended. What’s recorded here is a synopsis. I’m writing a full version as a chapter in my upcoming book. But I wanted to share this short version to mark today’s anniversary.
When my friend, Karen, tells me she has cancer, she has not long ago returned from a holiday in South Africa with her husband, Martin. The doctors have diagnosed a huge abdominal tumour, which has wrapped itself around the vein to her heart and other her vital organs. Surgery is going to be needed, and urgently. The prognosis is not good.
Karen is kind. She’s full of humour, full of life, full of faith. She makes everyone feel special. She makes everyone laugh. It’s the straight-faced way that she tells the stories as much as the stories themselves, always delivered in her soft Welsh accent.
“It’s not of God,” she keeps saying, “I don’t believe He wants me to die.”
In the days leading up to her emergency operation to remove the tumour, Karen and Martin mobilise their friends to pray. Many agree to fast as well. People from places as far apart as Cardiff and Cape Town get on their knees and plead with God for Karen’s healing, and I am one of them.
During this time, three separate people sense God give them a word of knowledge. Located in different parts of the world, the three of them all contact Karen independently to say the same thing: They sense God saying that her cancer has been caused by a curse from a witch doctor during the time she was living in Zimbabwe.
What they say resonates with Karen. She recalls an incident from her time in Zimbabwe, repents of any part she played, and asks God to forgive her. Above all else, she declares that, if her cancer has a spiritual cause, then it must be confronted with a spiritual solution.
Armed with this revelation, Karen’s Christian faith kicks in. “We need to command the cancer to go,” she tells us, “because the power and authority we have in Jesus’ name is greater than the power behind a demonic curse from a witch doctor.”
Somehow this clarion call spurs us on. All of us. Even those with wafer thin faith. Even me. It’s as if Karen’s faith buoys up everyone else’s. Her deep down conviction carries the rest of us: Why would God not want to heal her in the name of Jesus? It’s the kind of theology I have read about in books and rarely encountered, but I muster up faith and join in.
When Karen’s stomach begins to shrink in front of our eyes, none of us can quite believe what we are witnessing.
On the day when Karen is wheeled into the operating theatre, although the team of surgeons have agreed to operate, they openly admit that they expect various secondary complications to result from the operation. They quietly doubt that Karen will come out alive.
When he opens her up, he is astounded at what he finds, for the tumour in Karen’s stomach has shrivelled and died. It has unattached itself from the vein to her heart and untangled itself from all her vital organs. Weighing in at more than an average newborn baby, the surgeons cut and lift it out. To say they are astonished is an understatement.
Karen is sure that Jesus has healed her, and she tells her testimony to one and all.
During her recuperation, Karen knows what she needs to do next, and she focuses on it with grit and determination.
Using her amazing academic aptitude, she delves into the quagmire of international quality frameworks, and produces a set of standards appropriate to the global Christian community that cares for vulnerable children, while negotiating funding deals with international donors to pay for them to be rolled out.
It becomes known as the Quality Improvement Scheme (QIS).
Throughout this time, apart from some back pain, which originates from muscles that were displaced during her operation, she seems well and is advocating for enjoying the simple things in life and appreciating the people around her.
A scan suggests that there might be some minor problems but, not long later, Karen is in hospital with breathing problems. A tumour just as vigorous as that of the previous year has invaded her lung. Her relapse happens quickly.
Few lives have left so much fruit for those who follow after.
The significance of QIS cannot be over-stated. Karen’s dedication to fulfilling the vision for QIS is second-to-none. Today, it is being used by thousands of Christian childcare projects and programmes, which together are benefiting millions of vulnerable children.
As I reflect on Karen’s life, today, on the anniversary of her death, I am asking some questions, which I share here in case they are helpful to you too:
What will my legacy be?
What fruit will I leave for those who follow after me?
And how can I live my life now, in such a way that, when I am gone, my legacy will be still be bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God?