But God gave joy in a time of trouble

Acts 8:1, 4-8, 26-39 A great wave of persecution began that day [with the stoning of Stephen], sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers were scattered. … But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. Philip, for example, went to Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. … So there was great joy in that city. … [Then God sent Philip to walk down a desert road.] He met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority … Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. … The Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch ever saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.

“Karis my joy,” Dave used to call her, since we’d named her Karis Joy. And bringing joy to others delighted her.

“I wonder who God has for me in the hospital this time.”

Karis loved, loved, loved being home, having “a life.” So each time she had to be hospitalized she was bummed—if she was still conscious, that is. Usually, by the time we arrived at the ER, she had shifted into anticipation of who she might meet. Her dozens and dozens of hospitalizations were peppered with special encounters. As soon as she was well enough to be out of bed, she’d be out discovering who was there. Fellow transplant patients from a variety of nations, their children and other relatives, nurses, doctors, therapists—I could tell a thousand stories.

December, 2008 with one of Karis’s favorite doctors. She had been in the hospital for weeks. Finally we celebrated her homecoming, but the very next day she had to return, with bleeding from her intestine too severe to manage at home.

This attitude was not unique to Karis. Other patients also reached out, sharing life and encouragement. I remember Crysta’s little girl bringing Karis brightly colored and stickered cards. Angie shared a movie with us. Carissa brought modeling clay and books and what Karis called “intelligent conversation.” Some patients were one-timers, in Pittsburgh for special procedures. But the “regular” intestinal transplant crew, because most of them were long-term-care patients, became a family. Again, I could tell a zillion stories.

I’m smiling as I think about this. We laughed and wept, rejoiced and grieved for each other. Our nurses and doctors and therapists were wrapped into this community of love. Each loss—and there were so many—was cushioned within the blanket of comfort and understanding of others facing the same overwhelming challenges.

Karis had her eye out particularly for the international patients. With her five languages she could communicate with almost anyone, and the intestinal transplant world was truly a “united nations.” Everything we faced, they dealt with through the confusion of a foreign language and perplexing customs, far away from their usual support systems. Karis befriended them, in the hospital and out.

Joy.

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