“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.”
About 9 months ago God brought an amazing family into our lives. Their names are Douglas, Cinara and their daughter Anna.
I (Kevin) first met them at the rehab farm that we visit regularly. One Saturday, every month for the past 2 years, we take a group of people from our church to spend a few hours with the men at the farm. One Saturday, 9 months ago, no one went from our church except me, at least that is what I thought. Benay and our kids weren’t even able to go that day. There was a visiting pastor, Antonio, who spent about a year with our church. He and his wife are from another state but came here for dialysis for her with the hope of eventually having a kidney transplant. They got here and just jumped right in with our church including the compassion Ministry, that Benay and I lead, and the worship ministry. It was in the worship ministry where they met Douglas and Cinara who were new to our church. They invited them to come to the rehab farm. It was on that Saturday, just 9 months ago, that I first met Douglas and his family.
My first impressions of them were that they were quiet, kind, humble and just loved on the men at the farm. Pastor Antonio shared a lesson, I spoke just a bit and then Douglas and Cinara got up to sing. They were amazing. Beautiful voices. They blessed everyone that day.
Over the next couple of months we would see this couple from a distance in our growing church but didn’t really have much connection. That all changed when our pastor, Olavo, asked Douglas, and anyone fighting cancer, to come to the front for prayer. Olavo then asked his wife, Antonella, and others who had beaten cancer to lay their hands on those currently fighting it and ask God for healing. God touched my heart that day as I saw Douglas weep and cry out to the Lord for healing. I spoke to him after the service and that began our deeper walk together.
Douglas was on fire for the Lord. He wanted to be a part of Hope House. I had already asked him to be a mentor to the future residents. He was so excited to be a part of that. He visited young men in prison. He sang with the church band and in the coral. He was an incredible husband and dad. He was a role model to me.
Not long after our friendship began our family went to the states for a little over 3 months but Douglas and I stayed in frequent contact. His treatments were going well and he was feeling great. God was healing the liver cancer.
Our family got back in December. Douglas was doing great. He was excited to tell me that God was blessing them with a house. Just last month the doctors said they couldn’t even see the tumor because it had almost gone away. They were blown away. He called me one day to tell me that the follow up treatment was an amazingly expensive drug. Douglas had no way to pay it. His doctor told him that a previous patient had paid for the drug but was cured and ended up not needing it so he told the doctor to just give it to the next person who needed it. It was about $13,000 of our currency which is a little over $3000 US. Douglas was that next patient. God just seemed to heap blessing upon blessing on Douglas.
Two weeks ago he and his wife helped to lead singing. Every Sunday they were either in the coral or they were part of the back up singers with the band. This is a picture, from the church’s Instagram account, of that day. Benay was giving the welcome thoughts to start our second worship. Douglas is behind her ready to sing and Cinara is behind Carmen who is doing sign language.
He left worship that day and began to have some discomfort in his stomach. He asked for prayers.
He hurt for 2 days before taking a bus to the hospital. They told him he had fluid in his stomach that would have to be drained. They also told him that he had an infection that needed to be treated with antibiotics, there at the hospital, for 7 days. I went to see him the Thursday before last. He was doing great. Missing his family but just praising God. No matter what was going on he was smiling and praising God. He told me about some amazing ways God spoke through his daughter Anna. He speaks to her through dreams in a powerful way. I just sat in awe listening to things God was doing through this 6 year old.
The morning of my visit they went to drain the fluid but decided to do an ultrasound to see exactly where it was. The ultrasound showed absolutely no fluid. No draining needed. More blessings. We praised God together. Now he just needed to finish the antibiotics and he would be ready to go home 5 days later.
I had no idea that my visit that day would be the last time I would see Douglas awake and alert.
Last Sunday night he called his wife and asked her to come back to the hospital because they were taking him to ICU. He had fluid in his stomach again and the fluid was blood. The area of his cancer treatments had begun to bleed. The doctors said it was too delicate for them to do a surgery. They told Cinara that they didn’t think Douglas would make it through the night. Our church went to work in prayer. The prayer request was sent out through all of our churches throughout Brazil. Douglas made it through the night.
Benay and I went to see him in the hospital. Benay talked on the way there and then talked to Douglas, who was intubated and sedated, about the woman in the Bible that had been bleeding for 12 years. She just touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and was healed. I began to pray for the hem of Jesus’ robe to come down and touch the spot of the bleeding. Benay sang over Douglas with her hand resting on his chest the entire time. She left and I talked to Douglas for a few minutes. I had asked the Holy Spirit to translate as I felt led to speak in my heart language of English. I know He did because Douglas only moved 2 times as we spoke. Both of those times were when I spoke the same specific words to him but at two different times. He moved right where my hand was both times. I know he was responding as best he could because other than those 2 times he never moved.
That afternoon I called my dad to share about Douglas and to ask him to have him in his prayers. He said, “Let’s just pray right now.” He began to pray for a man he never met and knew he would never meet this side of heaven. But he prayed as if he had known him his whole life. He thanked God for Douglas and his ministry and asked him to heal him because, “we need him.” Those words brought tears to my eyes and became the focus of my prayers. We need him God. Please heal him.
The next night Cinara called and asked if she could come to our house to take a shower and sleep a bit. She got to our house around 8:30. Around 1:30 in the morning I was taking her, and another sister from our church that we picked up, back to the hospital. I am so proud of our church for the way they loved on Cinara through every step. Our church loves so well.
About 8 hours later we got word that Douglas had gone to be with Jesus. We were crushed.
Brazilians don’t embalm the dead so most funerals are within 24 hours of the death. Less than 24 hours after Douglas had gone to be with Jesus we were at his funeral. We’ve been to a few funerals in our 18 years here. I’ve never seen so many people at one before. Douglas and his family are deeply loved.
Our pastor did an amazing job sharing at the funeral. His words were straight from the Holy Spirit as they blessed Cinara and every one that was there. Benay and others in the worship ministry sang. There were occasions when everyone there sang and sang loudly. The walls were literally shaking. Here is a picture of just some of the people following Douglas’ body to the burial site.
I spoke earlier about Douglas telling me how God speaks to his daughter Anna. One thing Olavo shared at the funeral was how two weeks before his death Anna came into Douglas and Cinara’s room during the night. Douglas woke up and asked her what was wrong. She told him that God told her He was about to take Douglas to heaven. When Olavo said those words Benay gasped out loud and began to weep. Olavo shared that even that was God blessing as He was giving Anna time to get ready for what His will was.
The last lesson that Douglas heard Olavo preach was about heaven. It’s like God was getting us all ready for the coming days. One thing I know is that what the enemy hoped to use for his glory, with Douglas’ death, was used to glorify God’s kingdom.
The day after the funeral Cinara sent me a note. It said, “Look what I found.” It was a picture that Douglas had taken of us when I had visited him at the hospital. That picture was a present straight from God. It was healing for my heart.
This family has had so much suffering over the last few months but they never took their eyes off of Jesus. They have some of the strongest faith I’ve ever seen.
The day Douglas went to the hospital, in the middle of his pain, he sent a video of himself praising God to a ministry group that we’re a part of together. Click here if you want to hear his amazing voice.
Today Cinara and Anna were at church. Cinara sang with the coral during both worship times. I, honestly, don’t know how she did it. I imagine she was imagining singing with Douglas in heaven. Lots of tears today for all of us. Lots of hugs. Lots of love. Lots of prayers. It was all Jesus. Here are some pictures of those 2 being loved on and loving Jesus.
The day before Douglas went into a coma and into the ICU he sent me this selfie…..
……with these words, “With Jesus on our side everything is going to be fine.”
We’ve had a very hard week. We lost someone we loved dearly, but Jesus is on our side and no matter what happens everything is going to be fine. Douglas wouldn’t trade places with us now for anything. He had such joy here. There is no way to explain to us how his joy has multiplied since he left us on Wednesday. He’s whole now. He’s with Jesus and we will see and sing with Douglas again!
The picture we shared of them at the beginning of this post was taken just 4 days before Douglas’ death. Life can change so fast. If you need to make things right with someone do it now. Forgive, ask for forgiveness, hug more, laugh more and love each other well.
“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.”