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Pastor Has His Own Lazarus Story

Mark Morrow, a pastor, just knocked out a time on the treadmill better than any he had since high school. Even though he was a day away from turning 58, he was in the best shape of his life. And then at 5:15 am, he was dead. Victim of a massive heart attack. Those at the gym performed emergency CPR as they waited for paramedics. First Responders found Mark completely lifeless.

“He was completely gone at that point,” said Landon Morrow, Mark’s son. “There’s a paramedic straddling over top of him, slamming on his chest, trying to get some sort of response.”

The EMTs had to shock Mark’s chest six times before they got a pulse. While trying to jumpstart his heart, they scorched his chest. But while they were able to resuscitate Mark, they weren’t able to intubate him. For 33 minutes, both on the floor and in the ambulance, Mark was without oxygen. He flatlined, twice, on the way to the hospital.

“There was no life in his body at that point,” said Landon. “And that was probably the hardest sight to see through the whole experience.”

The ICU staff revived Mark and placed him on a ventilator. But there was only so much they could do, so they airlifted him to a Level Two Trauma Center twenty miles away. 

“We were thinking this could be the last time we see our dad,” said Landon.

Landon and his mother, Pam Morrow, followed behind in their car. Shell-shocked, they prayed for Mark’s healing. “The prayer at that point was just a prayer of desperation,” said Pam. “God spare him. Save his life. Don’t let this be the end.”

Mark was placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors told his family that he might not wake up. Even if he did, the time spent without oxygen made it likely that Mark would suffer significant brain damage.

“That was a very hard conversation,” said Landon. “I appreciate that doctor telling us the truth, but it was hard to hear that.”

Landon and his family kept crying out to God on Mark’s behalf. The following morning – Mark’s birthday – Pam says she felt the Holy Spirit speaking to her.

“The Holy Spirit said, ‘Just stand,’” Pam said. “And I knew that I could stand on who He was: He was the healer. He was in control.”

“And from that point on, we were going to believe that God was going to heal my dad,” said Landon. “We were going to believe that God was going to bring him back to us. Everything was going to be okay.”

Outside the hospital, members of Mark’s church gathered for a time of praise and worship. Other congregants hosted prayer meetings in their homes. “Seeing the faith of the people of our church and the people of the community was such a comfort to us,” said Landon. “It encouraged us and it caused our faith to rise up.”

The prayers continued throughout the week. Then, at about 72 hours after the initial heart attack, the doctor called Mark’s name. To everyone’s surprise, he opened his eyes.

“It was kind of like a Lazarus Moment,” said Pam. “I knew at that moment he was going to be raised up.”

A few days later, Mark was awake and alert. When Pam told him what had happened. Mark scrawled out, “God must not be finished with me yet.” 
That morning, he was up and able to watch church online. That day, the doctor told him the unbelievable news. Mark had no signs of brain damage or any sort of residual damage to his heart. In fact, they expected a full recovery.

“It could only have happened by the healing touch of our Great Healer,” said Pam.

Not even ten days after he dropped dead, Mark was cleared to go home.
 “Right before he was released, the ICU doctor looked at my dad in the eyes and said, ‘You are a miracle,'” said Landon.

Just a few weeks later, against all odds, Mark returned to the pulpit. “I know Jesus healed me,” said Mark. “He touched me.”

Since then, Mark’s church has hosted Encounter Nights where he and his staff pray for healing. “Everyone wants to know the story,” said Mark. “You’re the ‘Miracle Man.’ If he can heal you, I’m sure he can heal someone else that we know. And so we pray for them and lay hands on them and see them healed.

These days, Mark is thankful to be back with his family and his church. He’s even back in the gym. He’s since completed the work to get his doctorate. And he’s grateful for God giving him the second chance. “God is not finished with me yet,” he said.


Temptress Chooses God’s Path Instead

“I had decided, in that moment, that I would never be a victim again, that I would be the predator. I remember at 16 years old I was still counting my sexual partners. And at 16 I already had 50.”

Once a sweet, church-going girl, Michelle Caswell’s life was upended when she was six and her parents divorced. Michelle prayed desperately that God would make things better again. She says, “I knew that He was a miracle-working God and I knew that if you prayed then he would answer your prayers and I didn’t understand why He wasn’t answering my prayers. Like He could make my mom and dad get back together and He didn’t. So, the feelings were definitely like a hopeless feeling, a helpless feeling.”

Then a short time later she was molested by an older boy she trusted. She recalls, “I knew it was wrong and I started looking at myself in a bad way, like I was his dirty little secret. And that’s when I started feeling like God started getting more and more distant, and I started feeling like He was also very disappointed in me.” 

Her confusion and hopelessness spilled over into anger and she started acting out. By middle school Michelle was drinking, smoking marijuana, and flirting with boys. Then, after she was date-raped at 14, Michelle decided to turn the tables and vowed she would never to be powerless again. She recalls, “I started becoming the predator. I looked at men as just something to be used and abused. I looked at them as something to be conquered and I wanted them to fall in love with me so that I could make them feel the way that I felt in the past. The attention was actually, a real drug for me more so than any of the drugs that I took.” 

When she got pregnant at 17, Michelle decided to head back to church to try and get her life straight. However, by then she felt she couldn’t measure up. She says, “They seemed perfect and they seemed happy. But I felt like I didn’t fit in there. And so, I would just try to get good. And that’s what I thought I was doing when I went to church, is to get good.”

By now, Michelle’s addictions to sex and drugs were stronger than her good intentions. Throughout her 20s she continued to drink, took harder and harder drugs, and still used men for sex. Michelle recalls, “I didn’t call myself a sex addict but I called myself a nympho. I didn’t call myself an alcoholic or a drug addict or anything like that, I called myself a party girl. Didn’t even know I had a problem.”

After countless sexual conquests, a couple of failed marriages, being unemployed with two kids, and as many abortions, Michelle realized how out-of-control her life was and decided she needed to fix herself. So, she signed up for a Christian women’s retreat as a gift to herself on her 30th birthday. Michelle says, “You know, I’m trying to get good so that’s why I signed up for it. I was trying to crawl my way out of my addiction. I just thought, just like any other part of my life, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

Even then, she arrived at the retreat a day late and drunk. She expected they’d make her leave and judge her. Instead, they listened intently as she shared her story. She recalls, “Instead of them looking down on me, they all like got up spontaneously and walked straight over to me and started laying their hands on me and praying for me. And they were praying for the baby I just aborted 12 days before. They were praying over my sons and our future and it was just like – it was just weird because here they were actually touching me, and loving on me, and praying for me and believing in me when I just told them all this horrible stuff that I had just done and who I was and so that was really surprising.”

The outpouring of love softened her heart. The following week Michelle started a Christian rehab program where she started to address her anger and addiction issues. Then, four months into the program, Michelle discovered something unsettling. She recalls, “The Lord showed me like, 'Actually you have no gifts. You have nothing to offer but yourself.' And it was gut-wrenching because it – that doesn’t feel good when so many parts of your identity has been stripped and now you find out, and you’re also not a good person, you know, so He knew all my stuff and He actually forgave me. And when I received His forgiveness that was the meaning of love for me.” 

Michelle soon accepted Christ as her savior. She also got clean, and over the next year focused on pleasing the most important person in her life – God. She says, “I was so ashamed of who I had become and so angry at myself for the choices I had made. It was like, 'I don’t want to be this girl anymore. I don’t want to be a seductress, a temptress, a harlot, you know, I don’t want to be this person anymore.' He showed me how to just purify my thoughts and purify my feelings towards other people, to view men as brothers and not as sexual objects. He showed me how to be a godly woman.” 

Six years later, Michelle met and married Bill and the two have a happy blended family. She says, “He didn’t look down on me for my past. He was proud of me for what I had gone through and overcame. It made me really feel loved by God and that I just feel like he was perfectly designed for me.”

Michelle wants to share the hope she’s found in God’s relentless love with everyone she meets. She says, “God went after me and loved me enough to choose me, use me, and forgive me, that filled me. My life is radically different than it used to be, and you know, if there’s hope for me, then there’s hope for anybody.”


Freed from Unbearable Pain

45-year-old Shirley suffered with a hernia for over a year before she had money to confirm the diagnosis. She is a single mom raising two children in a remote part of Mexico. To make ends meet, she worked 12-hour shifts at a store waiting on customers or carrying heavy boxes to keep the store stocked. She said the pain was the worst in her leg. “If I would squat down too far, I could not get up,” she said. “There were times when I sat down because I no longer had strength in my leg to walk.”    

Shirley finally scraped enough money together to see a doctor. He confirmed that she suffered from an inguinal hernia. “He said I needed an operation because it could get much worse. He said it would cost $600 US dollars. I was in shock because I didn’t have that kind of money.”  

Shirley quit the job at the store and sold cosmetics on the streets. She said that allowed her to work at her own pace and allowed times to rest her leg. Then the hernia got worse. “It swelled and pain was terrible. Sometimes it was so bad I couldn’t sleep. About a month ago I was in bed for three days because the pain would not leave.”   

Yet she continued to work through the pain. “There came time when my leg no longer wanted to move. But I forced myself. I ended up walking really slowly. Eventually I had to drag my leg.”  

Then Operation Blessing arranged for Shirley to receive a free operation to repair the hernia. The surgery was successful. After she recovered, she said she no longer suffers from the debilitating pain that she lived with for over a year. “I feel like I got my life back! I can work and take care of my house and my children.”

Shirley feels so good that she has been able to sell twice as much makeup as before, doubling her income. “Thank you to all the people who helped me! And thanks to Operation Blessing. I don’t know how I would’ve done this without you.”   


Wrestling Coach Struggled with Death of Young Son

“The sport of wrestling is about chosen suffering. It’s choosing the hard thing time and time again, being able to execute under the toughest conditions,” said Tom.

Ohio State wrestling coach, Tom Ryan, knows wrestling. He’s a two-time NCAA coach of the year, and in 2015 led the Buckeyes to the National Championship. He's also well-acquainted with suffering.

In 2004, Tom was the wrestling coach at Hofstra University in New York. At the time, Tom and his wife had four children. Their five-year-old son, Teague, was a healthy boy who loved to wrestle and loved his family. On February 16th, everything changed.

“We were at the dinner table,” recalled Tom. “We were laughing and talking about the day. Teague got up from the dinner table and he starts running around. My wife starts chasing him and we’re laughing, ‘Get him! Get him!’ and she hides behind a wall, and he comes around again. She startles him and picks him up and within seconds she was screaming. So, I take him, I put him on the coffee table and I check his pulse. My wife calls 911 and see he’s unconscious. He’s not breathing. And I started to do CPR on him.”

Still in shock, the Ryans followed the ambulance to the hospital where they would receive the heartbreaking news.

“I’ll never forget when the doctor comes walking out of the emergency room and we’re waiting and his head is not up and he’s looking down and we knew, right? We knew. And he just said, ‘Hey we’re sorry. We’re just sorry.’ I was lost. Yeah,” Tom emotionally recalled.

Teague had suffered a fatal heart attack due to a genetic anomaly. Now the Ryans had to deliver the news to their other children. That’s when Tom’s son asked him a pointed question. “Jake asked me a commonsense question. When my wife and I opened the car door he was right there and he said, ‘Where is he? Where is Teague?’”

The question caused Tom to think deeply about what happens after death. “The fact that I couldn’t answer a simple question like that. It rocked me. And it became the start of my journey.  And it wasn’t necessarily to find God. It was just really for me the search of the truth. What is the truth?”

Still grieving, Tom considered every option. “I took a piece of paper. On side one there is God and on side two, there is no God, that we are here by chance. There is divinity or there is chance. And, and that was the approach I took to answering the question my 8-year-old son wanted to know where he was. I have average intelligence. Right? So, let me go to the smartest minds on the planet. What do they think? I studied evolution. I got deep.”

Tom began reading Christian authors as well. "The Case for Christ was one of the first books I read, and I read The Case for a Creator and The Case for Faith, and A Purpose Driven Life. And ultimately, the facts. The facts were overwhelming on the side of God!"

While in his car, eight months after the death of his son, Tom prayed. “I knew that Jesus was real, so I just in my car I just prayed the prayer that, ‘Jesus, I cannot do this without you. I need you and I know you are who you say you are.’”

Tom found comfort in his bible, specifically the Gospel of John. “When I read John I fell in love. Ultimately, it was love that drew me. I felt the deepest love I had never experienced before in reading John.”

For years the grief still remained. However Tom began experiencing a new peace in place of the suffering. “There's no way, there's under no circumstance would I have ever sacrificed a child. Right. And the fact that our God did. That was something that really drew me even further to the faith. Like you took the most precious thing and you gave it for ransom. For what? For someone you didn’t even know.”

Today, as Tom leads one of the nation’s best college wrestling programs, he takes in joy being able to confidently answer the question his son asked him so long ago.

“The good news and this is a love story, that's the good news. I know exactly where he is and I know without question, I'll see him again. There's no...there's no doubt in my mind. And I would say to anyone that lost a child that's struggling, ‘Yeah, it's hard, and it's painful, and it's not going to go away. And it's 19 years removed. I can drive down the street, think about a time we had in the restaurant, and I'll just break down crying. It never gets easy, but God's real. I mean, God is real. Who am I? Look at all the blessings I have. I have so many blessings. I'm so grateful for what I have and He's been the center of all of it.”

Tom Ryan is the author of, "Chosen Suffering," a guide to how to become great through "unchosen suffering."


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