Our Stories

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Our Stories
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Stories of Bethel's Past and Present

Learn about the Bethel community through our members' stories. For decades, the LIFEline featured stories and writings from and about our community. Some of our older stories are available our old blog here.

Below you can read more recent stories.

2021: A Year for Healing Community
Last year, we explored what a healing community looks like in our church, city, and nation.
Learn more about 2021's theme
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From Strangers to Friends to Family

By Cesar Muholeza


We came to Bethel Christian fellowship, not by a mere coincidence. As soon as we knew we were coming to America, we knew we were faced with a challenge to find a church. Before us, many of our friends who immigrated to America shared their disappointing experiences in the churches they joined. We were concerned that we would not find a good church for our family. We desired to find a church where we will worship in spirit and truth. We prayed that God would guide our steps to His church. My family and I did not want to join a ceremonial worshiping church, a church devoid of God's presence. We wanted to join a church that worships in truth and spirit. As soon as we arrived, with help from a missionary friend we met in Africa, we chose to come to Bethel Christian Fellowship. We put our trust in Him, in His promise in Philippians 4:6. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."


We arrived at Bethel in 2007, as Bethel was transforming to become an intercultural house. The calling of BCF to become a house of prayer for all nations had a profound impact on our family. We walked into BCF as strangers; we became friends, and eventually became family.


We walked in as strangers…

As a new immigrant family in Minnesota, we had limited family connections to rely on. The Bethel Christian Fellowship family became our physical and spiritual family. We were adopted into God's family as children. As we continue to welcome and extend Christ's love to strangers at BCF, we abide by Jesus's commands in Romans 15:7. "Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." After service, we were wrapped in big warm arms. The hugs we never forgot. We walked in strangers, we settled. 


 We became friends…

Just think about the nervousness that you experience as a stranger in a new environment. Now think about not having to experience that anxiety. Our first moment experiences were different from the anxiety-filled experiences we were anticipating. We felt loved and connected. We did not hesitate to come back the following Sunday. We will always be thankful to God for leading us to BCF, for giving us such a gift of a vibrant community of friends. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverb 17:17).


We became family…

It did not take long before we recognized we were where we longed to be. Our fears of missing God's connection were washed away. My wife, Elizabeth, integrated into the worship team. Later, we initiated an all-nations choir. BCF family was always welcoming to new ways of worshiping God as we introduced African songs. Because of the welcoming atmosphere, BCF became our family. Moreover, the BCF family stood with our family in good and bad times. We are blessed to be part of this loving family.


BCF embraced the mission to welcome strangers from all corners of the world and adopt them to become one united family under God. BCF has grown to become an actual house of worship for all nations. God started the intercultural movement so that BCF can proclaim his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples (1 Chronicles 16:24).

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Sept/Oct 2021 Editor's Note: God is Moving!

By Liz Kimmel


I was reading Haggai the other day. The first nine verses of chapter 2 are filled with instruction and promise. In The Message, this passage begins, “On the twenty-first day of the seventh month…” I decided to read the same words in some other translations. In the NLT it begins like this: “Then on October 17th of that same year…” As October 17th is my birthday, that phrase jumped off the page and grabbed my attention anew.


This Word of God was originally directed to the Governor, to the High Priest, and to the people. To apply that to present day, He is speaking to our political leaders, to our religious leaders, and to you and me.


He said things like, Get to work. I am with you. Don’t be timid. Don’t hold back. I will shake. I will fill. I will hand out wholeness and holiness.


Those are all words that we need to take to heart today. And the best way to start any God-given task is in prayer. This is an integral part of who we are as a congregation, as the Church of Christ. He has raised us up to be a House of Prayer for All Nations.


As you read through this issue you will be visiting many places around the world. There are articles from members who have come to us from Africa (The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda), SE Asia (Burma, Indonesia, Thailand), and from India. We know all these people. We love all these people. We pray for all these people. And we pray for these nations, as well as all those not represented here.


God is moving today. He wants us to move with Him. He is with us. Don’t be afraid. Step in with confidence even as our world is shaking. He knows the end from the beginning, and He will fill our world and us with His holiness. He will make us whole by His mighty hand!

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A Perfect Balance of Truth and Life

By Ken Holmgren


Our theme for this issue, “True to the Word, Alive in the Spirit,” became an expression of BCF’s ministry in the 1980s during the ministry of Lloyd Jacobsen, BCF’s pastor from 1972 to 1989. As I remember this, my mind also travels back to the late 1960s, when Pastor Jacobsen served as the pastor of my home church in northern Iowa.


I was in my late teens at the time, and I will be forever grateful for the way Pastor Jacobsen showed personal interest in me in those years when I was making decisions that determined the direction of my life. His listening ear and gentle guidance impacted me in a very deep, rich way. Equally important as his personal ministry to me was what he shared about his desire for our church. He wanted to see our church have a proper balance of honoring God’s Word and experiencing vital, Holy Spirit-empowered living.


One day Pastor Jacobsen told me that he was not concerned about our church falling into doctrinal error. He did not fear that we would compromise clearly revealed biblical truth. However, his prayer was that we would be a church that was also experiencing the life of the Spirit of God.


How interesting it is that this prayer for my home church in Iowa would come to be expressed as the phrase “True to the Word, Alive in the Spirit” at Bethel Christian Fellowship about fifteen years later! His cry for the church, wherever he was serving, was that we know the Bible not only as God’s divinely revealed truth for our doctrinal beliefs, but also as the “living and active” Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) that the Holy Spirit uses to create spiritual life and bring us into intimate relationship with Christ.


Last year I read the remarkable story of a hardened criminal whose heart and life were dramatically changed when he was introduced to the New Testament and hungrily read it in a season of deep despair and hopelessness. God the Holy Spirit activated the written Word of God and lovingly drew him to the cross, to give his life to Jesus and become a new creation in Christ. The truth of the Word and the life-giving ministry of the Spirit performed a great and powerful work in him.


To be true to the Word and alive in the Spirit is to love and follow Jesus. We are often tempted to read Scripture with a desire to understand it only on an intellectual level. However, God calls us to “delight” in His Word and meditate on it “day and night” (Psalm 1:2). These expressions of love for Christ and surrender to Him result in changed lives.


How do you relate to the Word of God? How much do you allow the Holy Spirit to live and work in your life? God is inviting you into a growing, intimate relationship with Him through the ministry of His Word and the life of His Spirit. He calls you to lay aside anything that is separating you from Him and surrender your heart and life to Him. It is His will that you and I be true to the Word and alive in the Spirit.

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The Spirit's Work in my Life

By Kathy Cook


COVID-19 has changed my life. I am sure most of you reading this have heard this statement. Often, it is because the virus has crippled them, or they have lost people in their life close to them. However, I am not referring to the virus striking my family. I am talking about work and how the Holy Spirit has led me to do something completely different in my life yet again.  


I started doing massage therapy because I believe God called me to this profession. With the shut down and the fear factor increasing, my customer numbers were dwindling. I prayed about what to do, and through my son Andrew I found a new job. I am currently a medical device manufacturer. Yep, I make CPAP equipment, respirator components, and COVID-19 testing equipment, and a ton more medical stuff. This is NOT where I thought I would ever end up. Was this what God wanted in my life? Why am I at this factory? 


The Holy Spirit has led me on some interesting conversations and encounters with people through my massage therapy. When I am one on one with people, God is faithful to ALWAYS show up! I would tell my patients that God has given me the ability to affect the physical aspect of their bodies, and through the Holy Spirit, He does the rest. I am the vessel that He uses, and we are a pretty good team. 


Factory work is not massage therapy, and it is loud. You are often alone and not paired up with anyone where you can have meaningful conversations. What on earth was I thinking, did I miss God? Is this where I am supposed to be? How is God going to use me here?


So, I did what only makes sense to do, I started praying. In working with the people in my department, I have found that they all need Jesus. Even if they already know Him, they need the Holy spirit in this very ungodly place. I have been at this company for over a year now, and have had some interesting encounters with people where God has shown up. He always goes before me. I am never alone. 


A recent conversation was with my coworker Shannon. She is a young 38-year-old woman who trained me in the warehouse. When we had some time to talk personally, I heard God clearly tell me to share with her about the scar on my shoulder. Long story short, this scar was from a boil that would not go away and the only reason it did is because I got prayer. The Holy Spirit showed up and healed me within 24 hours of the doctor cutting my shoulder wide open. It’s a cool testimony and it's often a talking point.


I also shared one of my testimonies with her about how God delivered me from hatred. As I began speaking about someone I knew, she could tell by the sound of my voice that I had hated this person. She was not wrong. I told her that because Jesus loves me and wants me to spend eternity with Him, He didn't want me to hate this person anymore. With His help, I was able to forgive.   


The next day she came to me and asked about forgiveness. Shannon and her husband have been estranged from her step-daughter for 5 years. While she said that she had forgiven their daughter, I mentioned to her that one of the hardest things to do is to forgive yourself. I spoke life into her and told her that even though she messed up, God restores. If she will take the first step, He will help her get through the rest. She knows Jesus and she smiled and thanked me, acknowledging that this was just what she needed to hear. We spent some time in prayer together right then and there. God is awesome.

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Written Word, Living Word

By Sylvia Agboh


God created everything with the word of His mouth, and His word is truth. How can we be true to the word and therefore alive in the spirit? Is it possible to be one without the other? Would we want to be one without the other?


Being alive in the spirit is a function of being true to the word. The word of God is the gateway into the supernatural life of the kingdom of God and it has two dimensions: The Written Word (the Bible) and the Living Word (Jesus). When we embrace the written word and consistently go to it on a daily basis, we will definitely meet the Living Word, who is Jesus Himself. Wherever Jesus is, there is abundant Life.


First of all, God has given us the word through which He created everything, in order to impart life unto us. “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life,” John 6:63. If we remain true to the word by going to it regularly, we will find the release of the quickening power of the Holy Spirit at work in our life. We will become tabernacles that radiate life and joy to our home, our community, and our world every single day.


As children of God, we are to remain true to the written word which is called the logos. When we read the word and take it to heart, we are impacted and transformed by it and it begins to reflect in our behavior. Also, as we diligently embrace and take delight in the written word with prayer and supplication, we will inevitably meet the Living word who is Jesus himself. Then we can carry His presence and glory wherever we go.


The second dimension of being true to the word and alive in the spirit is when we receive the “now” word, which is the rhema word, from the Lord and obey it. The rhema word is His still, small voice that we hear during the time of communion and intimacy as we wait on Him. Jesus said that, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The proceeding word is powerful and instructive when we obey it. We remain energized and alive in Him. 


Some years ago, the Lord asked me to make time to seek Him one hour every day. It was hard for me because of my way of life at the time. But I desired to do what He asked of me and I prayed fervently for Him to help me to obey Him. He did. The more I waited on Him and basked in His presence daily, the more alive I became in the spirit. My life started radiating life and joy to people around me regardless of my own hard circumstances.


As we remain true to the written word, we will surely become alive in the spirit. In fact, what is happening is that in God’s presence the flesh and the soulish realm lose control. Our spirit man takes control and reflects the life and the glory of God to the world.

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When Healed People Heal

By Pastor Jim Olson (Mission Update for Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation)


All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.

and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18


In 1994, a million people lost their lives in 100 days in the small East African country of Rwanda. Individual lives, families, churches, communities, the whole country was devastated. What could be done to bring healing? Where was hope to be found? How could the seeds of reconciliation be sewn in such deeply poisoned ground?


When our founders, Dr Arthur and Molly Rouner first went to Rwanda at the invitation of World Vision after the genocide had ended, these were the questions they and others were wrestling with. One morning as Molly was crying out to the Lord, asking why he had brought her there, she heard the voice of the Spirit speak to her, “I have brought you here to go to your knees before them, to ask forgiveness of these people for what your own people of the West did, to divide them from each other.” And so, she did, over and over again.


Through connection with an Ethiopian partner, they developed what is now known as the Healing and Reconciliation Retreat, a three-day journey into the heart of the gospel. Deeply rooted in the Word of God, each session takes participants on a journey into their own heart and the heart of Jesus, as the Spirit of God graciously leads them into the heart of healing and restoration. And there, miracles of transformation take place as God by his Spirit applies His healing word to wounded hearts.


How does it work? I am not sure any of us can say, but we have thousands of stories that tell us that it does! Over and over people share with us how a particular Scripture or word, sometimes a picture, and even through dreams while on retreat, God brings the needed word for relief, renewal, restoration, and reconciliation. Only God!


Since 1994 thousands of people have walked with us through the retreat journey, not only in Rwanda but all over East Africa. For the last 10 + years here in the US we have learned that wherever we go, whether in East Africa or the Eastern United States, Northern Uganda or Northern Minnesota, South Sudan or the South Suburbs, we find that everybody has burdens, bondages, baggage, brokenness, and bitterness that block them from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus promised. But God, by His word of truth and through His life-giving Spirit, does the impossible, He touches and transforms deeply broken human hearts.


Now, more than ever, our lives, families, churches, communities, and even countries desperately need hope and healing through the ministry of reconciliation. In this Year of New Beginnings, the Pilgrim Center continues to launch new initiatives to meet this urgent need. Over the last several years we have developed several new tools to help us bring this ministry to a wounded and waiting world. In addition to our 3-Day Retreat, we now have our 1-Day Heart of Reconciliation Retreat, and our Way of Reconciliation and Becoming a Reconciler Courses. Our Living Reconciliation Evenings wrestle with topics that are related to reconciliation and our Practicing Reconciliation online forum provides an opportunity for folks to receive counsel around reconciliation related challenges in their own lives.


We also continue to extend the impact of our work as God opens doors to reach new people in new places. From our beginnings in Rwanda 27 years ago, our work has extended throughout East Africa with extensive work now happening through Pilgrim Center Uganda and another new beginning with our impending launch of Pilgrim Center South Sudan. We have taken exploratory trips to other countries and regions. Everywhere we go we find that as our founder Molly Rouner always says, "He brings the people of his own choosing, and He always shows up. And surprise, surprise, it works!"


One significant development this year has been welcoming our new Pilgrim Center US Ministry Director, Anna Jeide-Detweiler. As a lifelong member of the Pilgrim Center family (Anna is Arthur and Molly's granddaughter), a recent board member, and a resident of South Minneapolis, she brings a deep passion for this work. With all that has been unfolding in the Twin Cities over this past year, like her grandmother long ago in Rwanda, Anna finds herself asking the question, "Lord, why have you brought me here to this place and at this time?" Along with our PCR Listening Team we are seeking the Lord for His direction for how to be His ambassadors of reconciliation here in the Twin Cities and beyond.


One of the phrases we have used for many years in the Pilgrim Center is, “wounded people wound, healed people heal.” When we see what is currently happening in our cities and the manifestations of anger or fear, we can easily forget that underlying those external expressions there is often deep woundedness. We are called to come alongside those seeking to address those wounds. One current example of that is that we are partnering with some African American leaders to establish a Community Healing Place in North Minneapolis. Its purpose is to provide a safe space for those who have been wounded, that they might find healing and reconciliation.


We also have a growing awareness that, “wounded churches wound, healed churches heal.” Increasingly we have found ourselves invited to come alongside to serve and support congregations and leaders who find themselves wrestling with complex and challenging internal issues which have created difficulties and division. Our role is to provide safe brave spaces where courageous conversations can happen, where repentance and forgiveness can be given and offered, and where hope and healing can once again be found. As one who has been a pastor for over 35 years, I am grateful for this growing opportunity to minister among churches in this way.


Finally, I am so grateful for the family at Bethel Christian Fellowship which nourished this call of reconciliation in my heart. Thank you for sending me out into this work and thank you for continuing to support me in this Kingdom adventure. Your prayers and your practical support are a profound blessing, not only to me, but to the Pilgrim Center. And not only to the Pilgrim Center, but to all of those whom we have the privilege of reaching with this growing movement of reconciliation.

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In Truth and Spirit

By Andrew Gross


One of Bethel Christian Fellowship’s most enduring slogans over the decades has been “True to the Word, Alive in the Spirit.” It’s a catchy phrase, but what does it actually mean?


This phrase comes out of an era in the middle of the last century. In those years, many in the broader Evangelical movement regularly accused Pentecostal churches like ours of teaching incorrect doctrine because of our special emphasis on the activity of the Holy Spirit. They would say that while we fancied ourselves “alive in the Spirit,” we were unfaithful to the truth of God revealed in the Bible. In response, some Pentecostals accused the broader Evangelical movement of being “dead” apart from the life-giving work in the Holy Spirit, despite its efforts to faithful to the Bible.


In those days, Pentecostals stood out in sharp relief from other Evangelicals because we insisted that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is powerfully present with the church today. We have taught that the Holy Spirit wasn’t only a distant memory from the stories in the Book of Acts. Rather, He is alive and active now; He continues to give amazing signs and He continues to radically touch and transform all who believe in Jesus. In summary, the Book of Acts, along with all its miracles and wonders, never stopped. It continues up to the present day.


Pentecostals still insist on these truths, but at times our insistence led us to be judgmental and even condemning of those we felt weren’t “alive in the Spirit.” Some non-Pentecostal Evangelicals responds with similar judgmentalism and condemnation because they felt we went too far in our teaching and practice. They worried that Pentecostal churches were in danger of going off the rails with false doctrine. The caricature of Pentecostals promoted by some of our Christian brothers and sisters was of wild meetings where people use “prophecy” as a cover to teach unbiblical ideas. In this stereotype, Pentecostals would say, “I’m being led by the Spirit” but only as an excuse to do and to believe whatever they wanted, even if it left the Bible in the rearview mirror.


And this stereotype wasn’t entirely unfounded. In the Pentecostal movement, there have been some people who use the idea of the Spirit’s leading to get away with a variety of abuses and wrong, non-biblical teachings. While these abuses have been perpetrated by a minority of people within the movement, whenever they happen, they added to the alarm over Pentecostalism felt by some in larger Evangelicalism.


So, in order to counteract these stereotypes, Bethel Christian Fellowship adopted this phrase “True to the Word and Alive in the Spirit.” By it, we mean that our beliefs and our practice are deeply shaped by and grounded in the Scripture. We mean that we take faithfulness to Scripture to be at the core of our belief system. But at the same time, we fully recognize the activity of the Holy Spirit among us. We mean that following Jesus includes attention to both the Bible and to the present leading of the Spirit. It isn’t supposed to be either the Spirit OR the Bible. Rather, the Christian life is about embracing both!


Since those days in the middle of the 20th Century, most of Evangelicalism has warmed up to the core ideas of Pentecostalism and has become overall a little humbler about interpreting the Bible. And Pentecostals have also been on a journey of humility, becoming more careful than ever to found our beliefs and practices in Scripture. But we still use the phrase “True to the Word and alive in the Spirit” because it reminds us of the absolute necessity of faithfulness to both.

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The Stewardship of Grace

By Jim Nash


On September 19, 1952, my Hall-of-Fame baseball career ended. The diagnosis: acute poliomyelitis, the worst case the doctor had seen (according to my mother I was completely limp). The prognosis: I’d never walk again.


However, I had (and have) a mother. She noticed that kids fared worse whose mothers couldn’t give them up completely to treatment. I also had the Sister Kenny Institute, relocated to Minnesota, whose bush treatments revolutionized the recovery process. And I had the nameless and faceless, yet competent and caring, staff of Gillette Children’s Hospital, where I was quarantined seven weeks. The result: I walked. And more than that, I ran, and was able to carry my load and then some.


However, there’s more. My ability to walk hasn’t been seen as an entitlement, but rather as a gracious gift, a stewardship to be exercised daily with gratefulness. It rests in large measure on the kindness of others. And precisely because of that immeasurable kindness I’m called to prudence and diligence to, as best as possible, retain what I’ve been given.


And there’s even more. A few years ago, while sitting at a banquet, the good knee locked up at a 45-degree angle. I couldn’t move it (turns out the poly insert was shattered). Without that knee functioning, I don’t walk. A doctor-friend present gave some unhelpful advice. So, what to do? I simply said, “What now, Lord?” Immediately the knee unlocked. I quickly got up, said my good-byes, and went home. It seems God is co-owner of this sacred trust I have, an ever-present Guardian and Advocate of my stewardship.


Paul writes, “But God,… rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, … made us alive together with Christ,…raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10 Revised Standard Version).


Notice something here? We walk precisely because of the riches of His grace toward us in Christ Jesus.


Two other elements of this word jump out as well. First, the God-prepared good works are in part (perhaps large part) revealed through meticulous study of the Book of God’s Word, and the book of God’s works (creation). One of the attributes of faith Jesus calls us to (along with moral excellence and strength) is accuracy (“You’ve heard that it was said… but I say…”). This requires intellectual diligence. The Covenant is a covenant of literacy. The “exceedingly great and precious promises” mentioned by Peter (2 Peter 1:4), by which we “may be partakers of the divine nature,” are to be learned and continually rehearsed. Stewardship demands of us a lifetime and lifestyle of study.


And second, this grace has made us alive together with Christ. It is a grace of communion of the saints, of union with God and unity in Him, all mediated through the redemptive presence of the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of our inheritance. The abundant repetition of “I” in Romans 7 yields to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. His job, as Paraclete, is to lead us, in all we do, into all the Truth, who is Christ Jesus Himself, and to illumine and guard our path toward Him Who alone is the perfect summation of all that is wise and just and beautiful.


May the Lord help us to continue walking in such a manner, worthy of the stewardship with which we’ve been called.

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Jehovah Rapha

By Liz Kimmel


Can He heal?

          Based on Scripture and testimonies from around the world – YES!

Has He healed someone I know?

          Many times – both instantaneously and over the course of time.

Has He healed me?

          Sometimes yes, sometimes no – why is that?

                     Don’t I believe hard enough?

                     Does He want me to learn perseverance?

                     Is there someone suffering who might be encouraged

         by the way I have handled my difficulties?

Will He heal me?

          I hope so . . .

          I believe He can . . .

          Can I believe He will?

Can I ask Him to heal me?

          Absolutely – as many times as it takes!

          Don’t be shy about going to the throne yet again about the same issue.

Don’t be afraid to step into the healing waters a second or third or fourth time.

          Ask and you will receive . . .

                     Is that in this life or the next?

          “Oh Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony!”

          “The Lord has heard my weeping . . . The Lord accepts my prayer.”

Can I believe Him?

          He doesn’t lie.

          He isn’t mean.

          He doesn’t tease.

          He sometimes allows things of this world to adversely affect me.

          But that doesn’t mean He has stopped loving me.

Can I trust Him?

          Yes, I can rely on His strength to heal me

                     And I can rely on His strength when He doesn’t.

Yes, I can confidently expect that He will answer – though maybe not in my time frame.

          Yes, I can hope in and be assured of His deep love for me.

How does trust differ from acceptance of my lot?

What if He says no to me like He did to Paul concerning the thorn in his flesh?

                     Would I be able to trust in His all-sufficient grace?

          What if I live through years of pain?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – even if it hurts.

          What if I end up dying before I experience complete healing?

Jesus said that He would prepare a place for me and would take me to be with Him.

That’s what I want – to be with Him,

          Whether that means here with a healed body or with a hurting body,

          Or there with a new body.

I just want to be with Him, Jehovah Rapha, my Restorer!

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