"By His stripes we are healed, and that means an awful lot to me. Do you believe in miracles? Well I do, and if this testimony can help one of you, and keep you believing when the whole world is saying no, then it will have been worth it." - from the testimony of my father, Leonard Stigen, 1978
It was June 4, 1976. I was in school, my mom was working in the kitchen and my dad was working outside on the car. It was a day just like many others. We had no idea that this day would be the beginning of a very long difficult summer. Within a few short moments, our lives would be turned upside down.
It was a fairly hot day, so Dad stopped working for a minute and went to the back door to ask Mom for a glass of milk. Shortly after drinking the milk, he felt very nauseated and went to the bathroom where he began to vomit blood repeatedly until he passed out on the bathroom floor. Mom immediately called an ambulance, but none were available. She called the pastor of our church who came to the house and revived Dad enough to get him in to his car and race him to the Emergency Room.
At the hospital they informed Mom that Dad was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. His liver was malfunctioning, which led to a series of problems. His condition was grave, and the chances he would survive were fairly remote.
After 14 days in a local hospital, Dad's doctor picked up the phone to call Dr. Frederick Reichle, a vascular surgeon at Temple University Hospital in Pennsylvania. He simply told Dr. Reichle, "This man has cirrhosis of the liver. He has no insurance. Are you going to take him, or let him die?"
Dad was transferred to an experiemental ward at Temple University Hospital where he spent three months. During that period of time, he underwent several major surgeries. The most extensive surgery lasted for 14 hours, and Dad was given a 50/50 chance to survive. Although the operation was considered a success, Dad's life still hung in the balance. Following the operation, his lungs collapsed, his heart stopped and his bile count rose to as high as 31 (0 to 1 is normal). Every day for months, my father lay in between life and death.
In 1976, I was just a little girl. I cannot honestly say I have a vivid recollection of all the events that took place. My mother sheilded me from most of the painful realities. What I saw was a woman with incredible faith that rarely wavered. Mom spent a lot of time on her knees. In the face of every negative report from the doctors, Mom believed the report of the Lord. They would say, "he will die," and Mom would say, "NO! HE WILL LIVE!" In the beginning, many Christians agreed. They would pray for God to perform a miraculous healing, but as the days passed and Dad did not appear to be getting any better, many of them started to change attitudes and prayers. So many of the brothers and sisters in the Lord that once stood by Mom's side praying for a miracle began to pray, "If it's Your will Lord, then heal him...if not, then take him home." This broke Mom's heart. She KNEW deep in her heart that God had promised Dad would not die, but where were the people to stand with her and agree in prayer for a miracle?
One particular evening the hospital called and said Dad would not live through the night. Completely exhausted, Mom prayed, "Lord, I just need one person to agree with me for a miracle. Please just send me someone who will stand in faith with me and truly believe Leonard is healed." Not long after praying that prayer, the telephone rang. My brother Ken picked up the phone and brought it to Mom, telling her that Brother Jim Barnett was on the phone. Mom picked it up, and Jim told her, "God told me to call you. He said hold on to your miracle, because he is healed!"
Not only did Dad live through the night, but he walked out of the hospital just in time for my birthday that September. The doctors called him "a walking miracle." Indeed, that's exactly what he was.
Dad went home to be with the Lord on June 4, 1986. Although the doctors were amazed at Dad's incredible recovery, they still gave him only between 1 and 5 years to live. God gave him EXACTLY TEN more years with us. I thank Him for those ten years. I also thank Him for a praying Mom with unshakable faith, and the prayers of just one man who followed God's leading and picked up the telephone, encouraging my mom to "Hold On To The Miracle."