Search
  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.

What is this? Scan it and see!

Pages
Social networking
myScoop

 

Join 100 Million Christians in taking a stand on Corruption and Poverty! Click here for more information.  Follow @EXPOSEDCAMPAIGN on twitter, like EXPOSED on Facebook - visit the EXPOSED website.

Entries in miraclegirl (20)

Friday
Sep232011

Please join us in giving thanks! A year after Courtney's surgery

On the 23rd of September 2010 Courtney went into to surgery have a tumor removed from her brain.  She is 100% perfect today! We would like to invite you to join us in thanking God for His wonderful grace and mercy to us! Please could you also pray for the doctors and nursing staff that treated her?  Please ask the Lord to bless them and continue to use them and all other persons in caring professions who do so much to bring hope and healing?  

As I drove to work today I was overcome with a sense of gratitude for this year that has passed. Courtney is healthy and perfect in every way.  What an immeasurable joy for us as a family.

You can read about her diagnosis and the journey from there to healing on the following link (you'll have to click through to the first post - the posts are arranged in reverse order).

On Friday's Megan and I continue to fast and pray for parents and children who are facing challenging times - we have maintained this discipline for the last 5 years since the birth of our son Liam who faced some challenges of his own. Today is a very special Friday indeed!

Thank you for sharing in our joy!

Wednesday
Mar162011

The courage to be a parent

Of all of the 'offices' I hold there is no office more important than being a father to my two children, Courtney and Liam.  Before I am a priest, before I am a scholar, before I am a servant to society I am a father.

I do not take this responsibility lightly.  Professor John Volmink once commented in a talk that "Just about anybody can give birth to a child.  Very few people have the courage to be a parent".  I tend to agree with his sentiment.  Having children and being a parent are very diffirent things!

Liam and Courtney are precious gifts from God.  I give thanks for them today.  Liam survived a very shaky start to life, having being born premature at 27 weeks.  Courtney survived a brain tumor at 11 years of age.  However, these are not the things that define these two precious people.  They are unique, special, gifted, beautiful individuals - created uniquely in the image of God.  Their lives lie before them, filled with endless possibilities and opportunities.  Of course there will be challenges, dissapointments and dangers along the way.

My role is to love them.  My greatest desire is to place within them a perspective of the world that says "The world is a good place.  God has made it good.  It is good to be alive.  I live in love and joy.  My life is full.  In fact it is full enough to spend it on others".

I will not lie to you, it is frequently a great challenge to create this space, this 'shalom', this fullness of life (John 10.10).  Sometimes I suffer under scarcity - I have a scarcity of financial resources, a scarcity of time, a scarcity of energy, a scarcity of love.  At other times I suffer under reality - we live in a poor nation, we live among people who are not 'good', we live in a society that values things more than people.

But, the great hope is that we know a different way!  That way is the way of a person, a person named Jesus Christ.  He is the one who established a Kingdom that is more powerful than the economic, political and social systems of the world.  His way is a way of grace, a way of acceptance, a way of inclusion, a way of transformation, a way of fullness, a way of abundant life.  His way is a way of love.

And so, the following quote from Stanley Hauerwas challenges me to be a parent to my children.  Pray for me. It takes couarage:

What must be said, and said clearly, is that the refusal to ask our children to believe as we believe, to live as we live, to act as we act is a betrayal that derives from moral cowardice. For to ask this of our children requires that we have the courage to ask ourselves to live truthfully.

- Stanley Hauerwas (via @invisibleforeigner's tumblr blog).

Today I celebrated with my friends Gary and Ilene whose daughter Madison was born - a healthy young princess!  I also remember my friends Zdzislaw and Heilie whose son Christopher passed away 4 years ago.

It is an immeasurable privelage, and responsibility, to be a parent.

Saturday
Jan012011

The Sugar tastes nice because of the spice!

Last night we celebrated the arrival of 2011 with a few friends. Of course it does mean, at very least, that I shall be signing the wrong date on letters and forms for the next few months (it always takes me a little while to catch up to dates). But, it was good to have a chance to reflect on 2010 and look forward to 2011.

2010 is one of those years that will live on in my memory as 'the best of times' and 'the worst of times' (to misquote Charles Dickens)!  The sugar tasted nice because of the spice.

The very best of 2010 is the fact that Courtney is alive and well after being diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor. It is difficult to describe the panic and despair we experienced for those few weeks.  Somehow it seems like a distant memory, perhaps even a bad nightmare.  We thank God for bringing us all through and we anticipate such blessing in the year ahead!  How wonderful it is to know that she is well!

Another great highlight of 2010 was the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization that I had the privilege to be be a participant at, and also to be one of the staff. It was fantastic to see the delegates from all over the world arriving at the Cape Town International Convention Centre after almost three years of work.  The congress itself was an incredible experience in so many ways, not least of which are the many new friends that were made.

The publication of 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' was another very significant event in 2010.  It has changed my life in many ways.  I never expected that this little book (that I was writing this time last year) would do quite as well as it has. As a result of the book's success in South Africa, Asia and America I have had invitations to speak at conferences and events, I will be doing some traveling to Malaysia and America for that reason this year.  The royalties from the sale (which I signed over to the Unashamedly Ethical campaign) have made it possible for values and ethics to spread a little wider in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.  I have received hundreds of encouraging emails, stories of 'transformed lives' and testimonies of how God is using people to make a difference where they are.  I am truly thankful, and humbled, at what that book has achieved.  Of course the book would not have been possible without the incredible example and courageous faith of my friend Graham Power.  His life story is the thread of testimony that runs through the pages of the book allowing me to draw on texts from scripture, insights from Christian history, and practical ideas for ministry in the 'world of work'.

And, what would a reflection on 2010 be without some mention of cycling!?  It was the year of the Wines2Whales that I rode with my friends Greg Long and Philip Collier. In total I have done almost 4000 km's of riding (mostly offroad) on my trust Mongoose Canaan Team mountainbike.  I have had a few falls, but so much fun!  I feel fit and strong at the start of 2011 as a result!

In a few days time I shall be returning to work.  This year has many exciting events planned, quite a lot of travel (in South Africa and abroad).  So do look in here from time to time - perhaps there will be some 'uncommon inspiration' among the posts on this blog...

My life is filled with grace because of God's goodness.  It is filled with hope because of the possibility of doing some small things to make a difference in the world.  It is filled with joy because of my wonderful wife Megan and our children Courtney and Liam.  And, it is filled with excitement because there is so much left to see and do!

May 2011 be a truly blessed year for you and your family!

Sunday
Nov212010

Don't cherish your pain...

This week Megan and I went for a session with a local play therapist. It too the form of an interview to prepare the therapist for some time that she will spend with our little girl Courtney.

After Courtney's diagnosis, surgery and treatment for her brain tumor we considered that it may be a good idea for her to have some help in processing what she has been through.

Cancer can be scary for a person of any age, can you imagine what a challenge it is for an 11 year old?

Also, we have picked up that Courts is asking one or two difficult questions and has been working through the events of the past three months.

It was a tough meeting - Megan was quite emotional. It broke my heart. We spoke about our own sense of helplessness as parents. How we had wished to be able to remove the pain, calm her fears, and take the hardship upon ourselves. We also spoke about the joy, and guilt, that we felt with her diagnosis. She is better! Yet, there are some who are not.

But, I do know that this is part of the process of dealing with the wound. It will be better. Nothing worthwhile comes without some struggle. We certainly experienced this, first hand, as we celebrated Liam's 4th birthday this week. Indeed, the first four years of his life have also had their fair share of difficulty.

Then, on Friday evening we visited with some friends. Etienne Piek, a close friend who currently heads up the Global Day of Prayer (he is leaving to work with 24/7 Prayer in London in a few weeks), was there. And so was my friend Cois, the head of Pneumatix (a media and arts training academy in Somerset West). The three of us were sharing some of our challenges around the fire. Etienne is having to be away from his family quite a bit. Cois has faced some challenges with the credit crunch. And I spoke about the session with the play therapist.

Etienne made a remark that has stuck with me. He said 'Be careful that you don't cherish your pain too much.'

These are wise words. I think if I understood his statement correctly he was warning all of us not to become too dependent upon the sympathy that comes from suffering, and the sense of 'righteous suffering' that we often feel when we face hardships. Indeed, I have experienced both in abundant measures. People have lovingly care, and I have felt sorry for myself and my family.

Of course the reality is that there does come a time when one must 'turn one's face into the storm' and sail forward. I feel that this December will be a time for me, and our family, to connect, have fun, and look beyond the challenges of 2010 towards 2011. I doubt that we shall ever be completely free from the hollow feeling that we felt as we went through the last few months, but I do know that we cannot allow that to stop us from enjoying the blessing of life in abundance! We need to be careful that we don't get stuck in the past, stuck in our struggle, and in so doing miss out on our glorious and blessed present!

I know that there are many others out there who have faced far greater struggle than we have, perhaps the death of a child, the suffering of a wife or husband, or the personal struggle with a terminal illness. How have you coped with the emotions, and fears, that go along with these events? I'd love to hear your input and feedback!

Thursday
Nov042010

Thank goodness for YouTube and Long Division!

Yup, this evening the inevitable happened... I turned to google to find a video that explains how to do Grade 5 long division.  Sure, I did Mathematics as part of my first studies at in a Bachelor of Science degree at WITS many, many, many years ago... And, yes, I devoted quite a substantial portion of one of the chapters of my doctoral research (in fact a critical part in the argument of my PhD) to a complex set of mathematical equations that have to do with Strong Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Neuroscience... Yes, yes, yes... 

BUT, these are different times!  The dendrites in my little old brain are calcifying and Mathematics is more difficult in the 5th grade than it was in my PhD... Ha ha, either that, or I have complete forgotten how to do Mathematics without a calculator!

The task was simple - write 1/8 as a fraction...  Mmmmmm... It took me a while to remember how to do that.  Of course the answer (which took me a while to work out) is this:

1/8 = 1/8 * 125/125 = 125/1000 = 0.125

I know some of you are laughing... But, when you pick yourselves up off the floor you might want to watch this little 'refresher' video long division (without a calculator) to help your kids get their homework done!

Seriously though, it is SUCH a blessing to help Courtney to catch up with her Maths after the 8 weeks she had off from the time of hear hospitalization, through her surgery, up to her recovery and return to school!

I do, however, praise and thank God for YouTube!

Tuesday
Oct262010

Overcome with gratitude and grace - Courtney returns to school!

This morning Megan, Courtney, Liam and I gathered for a little prayer of thanksgiving and praise.  

Today Courtney went back to school - and she is well!  She has recovered from her surgery, the cancer is gone, and she is a happy, healthy little 11 year old girl!  We are so thankful!  

Our whole lives have been changed by this series of events.  We have a renewed appreciation of God's gracious love and care, and such confidence in the love and grace of our friends, many family, and our local Church.  Truly, we are overcome with gratitude and grace today!

It was two months ago today that our journey began (you can read the whole story as it unfolded in a series of posts here.  It starts with the most recent post, so you will need go back to the first post to pick up at the start of the story) - Megan went into hospital for a surgical procedure, and on the same day Liam fell ill. It was a very stressful time for us as a family.  Little did we know what would happen in the weeks to follow.  

That weekend I was speaking at a conference in Johannesburg when Megan phoned me to say that Courtney's eye had swollen closed as a result of a bad cold and sinus infection.  Courtney was hospitalized for the first time on Sunday the 5th of September.  The next morning when they did a CAT scan to see where the swelling was, and in there was any damage to the eye, they discovered every person's worst nightmare - cancer.

The doctor called us aside and told us that they had found a 3cm growth (unrelated to the eye infection), located in the 4th cerebral ventricle.  We were devastated!  But the love of family and friends, the support of our Church, and the care of our doctors gave us great hope and encouragement.  Our little girl spent a few days in hospital recovering from the infection and we waited for her brain surgery which eventually took place on the 23rd of September.  She spent more than 3 hours in surgery.  The doctor was very pleased with the procedure, but the following day he told us that what he had seen was not good news.  He felt confident that Courtney's cancer was malignant and that she would need some further treatment from a pediatric oncologist.  We braced ourselves for that.  However, the next day he called me (while I was still in the ICU with Courtney) overjoyed to tell me that the histology had shown that Courtney had an extremely rare form of brain cancer which is completely benign!  The surgery was a cure - she was free of cancer!

I cannot tell you the sense of relief and gratitude that we experienced on that day, and many times after that in the days that followed!

Well, after a few days in ICU, a couple more in the general ward, Courtney came home to recover.  She had a massive surgical procedure that cut into her brain - we knew that her recovery would be slow.  At first she simply slept (sometimes up to 22 hours a day), and when she was awake she was constantly vomiting.  Her mood was very low.  However, we prayed for her every day, encouraged her and did our best to be patient, supportive and loving.  With each day that passed the pain grew less, the nausea settled and her lovely little personality returned!

This morning as we prayed together she was just like the little girl who turned 11 in August - full of fun, excited about the opportunities of the day, a wonderful daughter who loves the Lord and has a zest for life.  She had a hair cut last week (just to be sure that the bit where her head was shaved was well covered for her return to school).  Megan had prepared to take her to school and help her to get her bag to class and get her settled.  But, when she arrived at the gate a number of Courtney's friends were waiting there to help her and welcome her in!

That makes my heart so glad!

So, first, let me say how grateful we are to all of you that prayed for us and have helped us through these trying times.  We are thankful that God's love has brought us through stronger and with more faith! Second, please continue to pray for our family - we certainly need it!  Please also remember Courtney in your prayers from time to time.  She has some catching up to do for school work that she has missed.  But more than that our heart's desire is that she will know just how precious she is to God and to us, and that her life is an immeasurable gift!

Friday
Oct012010

The journey is drawing to a close! An update on Courtney 1 October 2010

We cannot thank and praise God sufficiently for His unending mercy and grace to Courtney and our whole family!  

We love our girl so very, very much!  Her life is an immeasurable gift to us, and we know that God has such a special plan for our princess.  He has carried her through this last tough month, offering her courage and wisdom well beyond her tender age. We are so proud of Courtney - she has faced her fears, endured pain and uncertainty with courage, and through it all been a shining example of a young Christian woman whose faith is in our God!

Today, on the 1st of October, Courtney's journey with cancer has come to an end!!

This morning we took her back to Dr Wessels at the Somerset West Mediclinic for a final checkup and to have the 24 staples removed from her neck and head.  While she will bear the physical scar from this month on her body for some years, we are praying that God will completely remove any emotional scars there may be!  We know that she will soon return to her vibrant love of life!  The signs are already there!

Courtney is such a brave little girl. Her courage has blessed and inspired me. 

Sure, she cried a little today as they removed the staples, but in the end she managed a great smile!  We're hoping that she will return to school next week (for part of the day to start with, and then ease her way back in).

She received some medication to deal with the last of the blood and tissue that is in her brain and spinal fluid (this is a bit like a mild meningitis).  But this will clear and soon there will be no more headaches, vomiting or nausea.

All glory to God who not only creates in magnificence, but also re-creates, sustains and perfects His creation!

You can read about Courtney's journey through this illness to the miracle of healing by clicking here (or on the tag 'miraclegirl').

You may recall that our journey began about a month ago when Courtney fell ill with a cold.  This quickly spread into a sinus infection and later she was hospitalised with a swollen face and eye. Because there was some concern about the damage to her optical nerve (and to see where the infection was) she went for an MRI.  At that point it was discovered that she had a 3cm tumor in the 4th cerebral ventricle.  She was treated for the infection to her eye and her surgery was scheduled for two weeks later.  The operation was a great success and the neurosurgeon was overjoyed that he had completely removed the tumour. There was no damage to her brain at all.  

Whilst the worst was feared about the histology of the tumor, the best results returned a few days later!  Courtney's tumor was benign - she had a very rare form of brain cancer called a Choroid Plexus Papilloma (accounting for between 0.4-0.6% of tumors in that area of the brain). Even the doctor assured us that this was an answer to prayer since the Medulloblastoma (which is a much more agressive cancer) is the more likely growth in that region.  God in His grace had healed her!

All in all we have experienced anew the wonder of God's loving grace and power, it has been emphasized through the wonderful care and love of the body of Christ.  As family, friends and colleagues - and even people we don't know - have prayed for Courtney, sent notes, cooked meals, sent messages and loved us on behalf of Christ!

I want to encourage you about the certainty of God's love in every situation (as Romans 8.28 says).  Moreover, God's mercy and compassion is a source of great power and strength in such trying times (please read Lamentations 3.21-26 and Psalm 33.18-22).  

If you come upon this post in the years after October 2010; and you find yourself struggling with the diagnosis of a loved one, perhaps a child or a spouse, then please be encouraged by what God has done in Courtney's life.  Feel free to drop us a line.  It would be our joy to pray with you and offer you encouragement and care.

This unfortunate event has renewed our faith in God's power.  It has also caused us to have to reconsider our priorities in life!  Our children truly are our most precious gifts from the Lord - nothing is more valuable.  Work, ambition, material advancement, personal fulfilment, all of these things must rightly take their place behind the priority of creating a loving home to safely nurture our children towards their great destiny.

As you know both Liam and Courtney have had their fair share of health challenges in life - we thank God for all He has done in them and for what God wants to do with Courtney and with Liam.

Courtney's whole life lies ahead of her - please pray for our princess and ask God to bless and protect her in the many years that lie ahead!  Please pray the same thing for little Liam! May he too come to grow into all that God has destined him to be!

With inexpressible gratitude for God's loving grace,

Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam.

Wednesday
Sep292010

Thanksgiving prayer service for Courtney - 29 September 2010

Dear friends,

We continue to experience God's lavish grace and love as Courtney recovers from the surgery! She came home on Monday evening and is doing better and better each day!

She will for a checkup on Friday and also have the 'staples' removed from her neck and skull. She's a little nervous about that - but, we believe this will be the last of the discomfort.

We want to praise and thank our Lord for healing her, and for carrying us all through this challenging time.

Please join us in a time of prayer and thanksgiving for God's goodness!

If you're in Somerset West this evening our friend Greg Long has arranged a time of prayer at the Coronation ave Methodist Church. Please see the map embedded below for directions:


View Larger Map

 

If you're elsewhere in the country or the world please do offer a prayer of thanks with us! We would be truly grateful!!!  God is so good and we want to celebrate God's goodness with thanks!

God bless you, and once again thank you so much for all of the wonderful prayer, care and support!

Monday
Sep272010

Thank you for your prayer and support! Update on Courtney 27 September 2010

Dear friends,

We wanted to send out a brief update about Courtney today and express our thanks to everyone who has so faithfuly prayed and lovingly supported us!

Megan, Courtney, Liam and I want to thank you so much for your love, prayers and support over the last few weeks.  

We rejoice to tell you that Courtney’s surgery went extremely well, the tumor was removed entirely, and that the biopsy showed that the tumor is benign!  

There is no cancer and no further treatment is needed!  All praise to our wonderful Lord for His Grace and Power!

The surgeon said to us that this truly is an answer to prayer!

While he had anticipated something worse the histology came back with wonderful results.  If you’re interested you can see the following link which describes the kind of tumor they found:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choroid_plexus_papilloma

Courtney came out of ICU on Saturday afternoon and is currently recovering in the children’s ward.  She has been struggling with nausea and is still a little sore.  This morning the doctor came to see her and has said he will do a lumbar puncture to remove some pressure from her brain.  However, she is on a great recover path and will be home in the next day or two!

Praise God!  Thank you so much for sharing in our joy and bearing us up through the tough times (it seems like a distant memory!!)  God’s grace is truly so magnificent!

Our friend Greg Long has arranged a time of prayer and thanksgiving on Wednesday evening at 18.30 at the Coronation Ave Methodist Church. If you’re able to join us that would be great, if not please do offer God all praise and thanks from wherever you are.

May the Lord bless you and your families even more richly than He has blessed us – truly God is able to do so much more than we can think, hope or imagine (Eph 3.20).

With much love and blessing,

Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam


So please spread the word! God bless you.

Saturday
Sep252010

Update on Courtney 25 September 2010 - Praise God! Histology results are back.

Our neurosurgeon phoned me a little while ago with great excitement! The histology results for Courtney's tumor came back and the tumor is benign! The operation removed the tumor and there is no evidence of further cancer! He was very pleased to share the news! And of course we are overjoyed to share it with you!

The histology showed that she had a 'Choroid plexus papiloma' - you can check this link for details. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choroid_plexus_papilloma

At first they feared it was a Medulloblastoma - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medulloblastoma - but praise God that it is not!

God is so good to us! We cannot thank you all enough for your prayers, care and love!

Please join us in thanking the Lord for His mercy and grace!

Courtney is out of ICU and in the pediatric ward. She is resting well and should be home within a few days!

Praise be to God!

Saturday
Sep252010

An update on Courtney 25 September 2010 - we're getting there!

Courtney is still sleeping most of the time. But, when she does wake up she is much more responsive and alert. She is certainly on the mend - we can see a marked improvement each day. She is still a little nauseous, particularly after any movement, but that will pass.

This morning the Doctor allowed her to walk to the bathroom (naturally the nurse and I had to help her), but she walked just perfectly! A real milestone along the journey.

If she manages to eat something today and keep it down she'll be transferred to the children's ward.

We still don't have the results of the histology. But, that will come in due course.

In my quiet time this morning I read Psalm 33.18-22 which was a great encouragement and comfort. I am dreading the end of the weekend. But the normal rhythms of life are a necessary part of not being 'consumed' by a series of events such as this.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, care and love. Courtney, Megan, Liam and I appreciate it a great deal!

The photo above shows her feeling much better! Not quite a beaming smile, but she's getting there!!

Thursday
Sep232010

Update on Courtney 23 September 2010 - after surgery

We are so thankful!  Courtney's surgery went very well!  We saw the neurosurgeon a little while ago - he was confident that he had removed the tumor effectively!  The surgery took 3 hours to perform.

We have just been with Courts in the ICU where she will stay for a day or two.  She woke up and was able to move all her limbs etc.  She is quite nauseous (both from the anaesthesia and from the trauma to the cerebellum).  But, they have her well medicated.  They will keep her a little sedated to reduce the swelling to the brain.  She is also in a bit of pain, but I think that is quite understandable and normal.  We are so blessed that we know a number of the doctors who are treating her personally (some belong to our Church, others are friends with whom I cycle on Lourensford).  This has been quite comforting because they are able to 'interpret' the news of the surgery for us and offer us some good practical and reassuring advice.

We will only get the results from histology of the tumor in a few days.  As soon as we have news on that we will let you know.  But, we are trusting for a perfect bill of health.

They had to shave a fair amount of the back of her head to do the surgery - she's not going to be too happy about that when she wakes up!  But, that is the least of our worries!

Thanks once again to everyone who has called, sent text messages, facebook messages, tweets and helped with food etc.  We are truly grateful.  It is likely that either Megie or I will spend the night at the hospital again.  Courts will be in ICU for the next 2 days and then into the general ward.

Unfortunately our phones have to be kept off while were in the ICU so we may not see, or respond, to messages as quickly as we would like.

For regular updates please either follow my twitter feed (see the twitter feed on the right hand side of this page, or go to @digitaldion on twitter.com.

God bless,

Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam