Monday, October 31, 2011

Listen to My Heart

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Sara and Justice (Photo courtesy: The Perry Family)

Friday, October 28, Sweet Baby Justice went Home to be with our Lord Jesus. I invite you to visit the Facebook page, Pray for Justice Micah Perry and read what his parents, Troy and Sara Perry, have written about this baby's 28-day lifetime. Read how Justice impacted so many lives with the Gospel.

Five years ago, when Troy and Sara's son Noah was born with a heart defect, these two Christ followers were quick to recognize that they were on a journey with choices to make: Live what you believe, or live as those who have no hope. In truth, we face that choice every day, but never more so than when we are in the midst of suffering. I wrote an article for ParentLife magazine that detailed this couple's journey then, and I'm sharing that with you today. Five years later, as they both grieve the loss and celebrate the life of Justice, they have once again made it their intent to bring glory to God. I ask that you say a prayer for this family as they bury Justice this week, and especially for Noah, five years old now, as he grieves for his baby brother.

The beeping drone of a heart monitor. The mechanical gulps of a ventilator puffing noisily on behalf of incompetent lungs. The brisk echoes of a nurse’s loafers rushing down the hall. This describes the sounds of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) on a hospital floor dedicated to heart babies. But there is no way to describe the feelings. “Until you are a parent of a heart baby, you do not understand,” says Troy Perry, minister to youth at First Baptist Church in Madison, Tennessee. When his son, Noah, was born with the heart disease Tetralogy of Fallot, everybody asked why. Troy and his wife, Sara, seemed to be the perfect Christian couple. Why shouldn’t they have a perfect baby?

In 2004, Troy was a lay youth leader at Lindsay Lane Baptist Church in Athens, Alabama. He had only been a Christian for a year when he met Sara Stamps, but he knew how important it was to set an example for the youth in his ministry. On their first date, each knew the other was “the one.” They also knew that their first kiss would wait until their wedding day.

Before they met each other, both Troy and Sara had made a commitment to purity, a radical decision in a 21st century culture. There would be no intimacy, not even a kiss, until marriage. Confident their stand would glorify God and influence their observant teenagers, Troy and Sara took the utmost precautions to protect each other’s purity while they prepared for marriage.

Fast forward a year later. Sara is pregnant a month after the wedding! Troy immediately began praying for the baby. “I just prayed that people would be impacted by his life,” he says. “I didn’t care how.”

But when Sara was six months along, test results revealed the unthinkable: a heart defect. “The hardest part was telling our mothers,” Sara says. “We hurt so badly, but we knew we had to be strong for them, especially Troy’s mom.”

“When I was born I had a hole in my heart,” Troy explains. “I had to have two surgeries to have it fixed.” Troy’s brother, Lance, was born four years later with a more complicated heart ailment. He lived only two months. Yet doctors said that Noah’s heart defect was not passed to him genetically.

“We never stopped praying for God to heal Noah,” Sara notes. “But our ultimate prayer was, Whatever Your will is.”

“I guess we had the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayer,” Troy adds, remembering the Old Testament story found in Daniel 3:8-18. “Our God can heal, and our God loves us. But even if He chooses not to heal, He still loves us. We surrendered to His power to give and take away.”

“We had one big cry, and after that, we turned our thoughts to, How can this be used to glorify God?” Sara shares.

When Noah was born, he was taken from Alabama to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. The doctors there elected to send Noah to the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital for his surgery. Noah was life-flighted while Troy and Sara made the ten-hour drive. Both admit to initial feelings of anxiety and even fear, but they soon began to feel the prayers of family, friends, and even strangers.

“That peace enabled us to not worry about ourselves,” says Sara. “We knew everything was in God’s hands. It then became our mission to say, What can we do for somebody else? There were so many people around us who did not have that same peace.” Sara especially felt God’s personal touch on the morning of Noah’s surgery. “It was like God just opened the heavens and poured out an amazing shower of grace and love over me, and all I could do was praise Him.” Noah’s surgery was successful, and as he recuperated, the Perrys stayed busy serving others in the PICU.

Troy and Sara were careful to respect the needs of the hurting parents around them while seeking ways to share the hope of Christ. Every day they were in Michigan, Troy wore a Christian T-shirt. “That would open up doors,” he says. “People asked questions, such as, Why does your shirt say, ‘Jesus is my hero’?” He would answer with a brief explanation of the Gospel and his own personal testimony. He and Sara also had cards printed up listing Noah’s CarePage website and their cell phone numbers. They invited people to call or contact them with questions about Christianity.

Often, Troy began conversations with other parents by asking, “What are you in for?” Parents would easily open up to talk about the issues their children were facing, giving Troy an opportunity to ask, “When my wife and I have our prayer time together later, would you mind if we prayed for you and your family?” Often, people would want to pray right then and there.

Word began to spread throughout the hospital, and soon Troy and Sara found themselves on call as prayer warriors throughout the PICU, praying with many different families. Because Troy wanted to be real whenever he offered prayer, he explained to parents,
“I’m going to pray for your child to be healed, but if for some reason your child is not healed from this disease, still know that God loves you. Still know that God has a bigger plan for your child and for you.”

God put Troy and Sara in unique places to minister to the very people who were there to minister to them. They became involved in the personal lives of the hospital personnel, supporting some through broken marriages and other stressful situations. “Everyone there was open to some kind of comfort,” says Sara. The Perrys wanted to offer people the true comfort that comes only from Jesus Christ.

Noah will face a few more surgeries as he grows up. “When people ask me, ‘Why didn’t God heal Noah?’ I tell them, ‘God wasn’t finished,’” Sara says. “I share our story. We’ve had so much more of an opportunity to glorify Him and to see Him be glorified through Noah.”

First published in the December 2008 issue of ParentLife magazine.

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Kris said...

I'm so sorry to hear of this family's loss. I'll be praying for them.

Lindsey Davis said...

I love this. Wonderul family... What an amazing God we serve.

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