“What a beautiful sunset!” I pointed to the western horizon and we could
see the orangey red sky through the winter woods behind the open shelter where
we were. “The thing about beauty is that it inspires. The Bible says the very feet
of those who bring people the good news about Jesus Christ are beautiful. I
remember the people who brought me the message of God’s saving love and
power, and those people will be forever beautiful to me.”
The microphone slipped from my left hand and landed in the bend of my
left elbow. My words began to run together and I couldn’t separate them even as
I continued to try. The microphone hit the floor. My wife, Sharlene, ran up to me,
hugged me tight and said, “”Gabe, you may be having a stroke.” She turned to our
guests, “He’s had a headache all day and he never has headaches.” Several of the
guests rushed to me, led by my son, Nate. Nate voiced a prayer calling on God for
protection and the others spoke in hushed syllables that combined to make a
rumbling sound of agreement. They lifted me up and sat me in a chair. Then some
men lifted the chair with me in it and carried me to the beginning of our driveway
while Caleb, my daughter, Janna’s, fiancé, called 911. Soon I was in an ambulance
and in the ER before I knew it and almost immediately in surgery where a
neurologist inserted a stint in my right carotid artery. After surgery, he told
Sharlene that I’d had the worst dissected carotid he’d ever seen. He said I may not
live, and if I did, I may not walk again.
That was three months ago, the beginning of the hardest three months of
my life. If the feet of those carrying the message of Jesus’ love are beautiful, then
so are those who continually show His love to people who need it, like I have over
the past ninety-one days. I thank God for the beautiful, inspiring people He’s used
to comfort me with love and care! And I thank those people too! Thank you, Lord
for protecting me by having many people around me when it happened, so they
could respond quickly, and for the hospital staff of physicians, nurses, therapists
Thank you for Sharlene! Sharlene, you’re the greatest blessing of my life,
besides God Himself. You always love me and you have treated this situation as
an opportunity to show your love to me again; you always do everything well and completely, and you’ve taken care of my every need – physical, mental/emotional without complaint, and you won’t ever even let me apologize. I love you, baby!
I’m so glad you’re the one for me!
Lord thank you for my oldest son, Tres, and his wife, Paizley! Tres, you and
Paiz were standing at the foot of my hospital bed when I woke up the morning
after the stroke. You had come on the earliest flight you could get from your
home in Kansas City. You walked over to me, put your mouth to my ear and called
on God to heal me, raise me up and strengthen me so I could preach His Word.
You stayed until you had to return to work. Then, Tres, you found a way to come
back again and spend time with me in the hospital, and you’ve continued to pray
for me. You’ve called me two or three times a week to encourage me and just to
chat. I love talking with you!
Lord, thank you for my son, Nate, wife Haley, and their boys, two-year-old
Titus and one-month-old Leo! Nate, you and Haley have prayed for me, visited
me, and phoned or texted when you couldn’t visit. I’m thankful you’re only fifteen
minutes away, because seeing you guys often has been very strengthening to me,
and you guys bringing the boys over has made many of my days. Titus’s little
(actually, huge!) hugs and kisses have been like salve to me. You guys’ faith is
strong and I appreciate you exercising it on my behalf and helping me keep my
attitude positive and my faith strong!
God, thank You for my oldest daughter, Kristin! Kwi, you drove here from
your home in Richmond the night of the stroke as soon as you heard. You stayed
as long as you could, and you’ve returned several times, offering all kinds of
comfort measures whenever you’ve been here. And thank your boyfriend, Alex,
for helping me with my (pitiful) attempt at a beard during my recovery days.
You’ve also made multiple visits, being very generous with your time, and you’ve
stayed in touch when you’ve been in Richmond and been a huge cheerleader for
me. I’m so thankful for your loving personality, Kwi-girl!
Lord God, I give You thanks for my son, Jacob! Jake, you came from your home in
Boise on the first available flight and I saw you the day after the stroke. You
stayed as long as you could, encouraging me the whole while. After returning to
work, you came again once I went home and helped me with therapy and to keep
my spirits up. After going back home, you’ve sent me a selfie video every day
encouraging and challenging me, and you and your wife, Karissa kept me lifted up in prayer. Thanks Jakey!
Lord, I give you thanks for my youngest son, Luke! Luke, you came from
your home in Brooklyn ASAP and were there the day after the stroke with words
of love and comfort. After returning for work, you came back again and stayed as
long as you possibly could. I hated to see you leave again, but you have kept in
touch with words that let me know you love me. Thanks, buddy!
Finally, Lord, thank you for my youngest daughter, Janna! Janna-girl, you
have postponed returning to Boston, so you could stay and help me. And help me
you have, assisting me with therapy and whatever else Mom and I needed every
day. You’ve been a selfless, caring person, and I’ve been proud to see it and
honored to be the beneficiary of it. Thank you for such loving sacrifice! And
thanks to Caleb for calling 911 for me!
I also thank God for little Leo, born to Nate and Haley on February 29 and for
Tristan, due next week to Tres and Paizley
More beautiful little Tew feet!
It’s an awesome thing to feel so loved by my wife and kids!
I thank my siblings! You guys have poured out your love in all kinds of ways!
You make me proud and I know our parents would be so very proud. They both
passed five years ago this weekend and you have honored them with your lives at
I also thank Sharlene’s family! You are always the model Christian family,
and you have been again, setting the example with caring visits, thoughtful gifts
and words of encouragement.
CJ Blankenship, you have been my very intimate friend for several years
now. We’ve been ministry partners and just plain good buddies. I appreciate your
advocacy during this time. You’ve stood for me in prayer, found a way for me to
receive pay during my recovery time, and counselled me in some of my most
trying times. You’ve been a source of wisdom for my kids and continued to hold
high, in every way, your standard for friendship and brotherhood! Thank you, my
CJ & I work together in the Christian Recovery Houses ministry. Several CRH leaders that we work with visited me and prayed for me diligently. I’m very appreciative of the support that they showed me.
828 Church, you are our church family and I’ve been so impressed with
your response to me and my family. Your generosity of time, money, food and
other resources has been inspiring. Thank you! And a special thanks to our life
group! You have demonstrated what the Body of Christ is supposed to be!
Friends in Wilmington, like, Jody Eason, Darrin Stacy, Richard and Beth
Marks, Lania Kelly, Holly Maxson, and Geraldine Parreno, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! You have given me your services as professionals, and
insisted on not being compensated!
There have been many other beautiful people for which I’m grateful. Elizabeth Baptist Church, you were my church family as I was growing up and you have always been there for me.
You have prayed for me and sent cards and messages. I thank God for your love
for me and for Him!
My friends from Lakewood High School, I haven’t seen some of you for
forty years (wow!), and it means so much to hear your kind words and to know
you are praying for me and thinking of me!
I’ve had friends from the Wingate University family reach out to let me
know of their love and prayers. Ted Bryan, my college roommate and dear friend,
I texted you to let you know I’d had a stroke and you and wife Cindy were beside
my bed within two hours. And you live two hours away! Much thanks and love to
you both! What friends you are!
Thanks to our friends from Grace Harbor Church, Gospel Tabernacle, Clinton
Community Church, Roseboro First Baptist Church, Pleasant Union Baptist Church
and the North Carolina Conference of IPHC. You’ve all been part of our journey
and are forever in our hearts! Thank you for your prayers, your love and your
I’m surrounded by friends from every phase of my life, and the love that extends
to me from so many is overwhelming! Thank You, God, for such richness!
The Wavering and the Faithful
I want to share some of my spiritual journey. I’ve been on quite a roller coaster, in
a spiritual sense and emotionally. I hope you find it helpful, somehow, and can
benefit from knowing about my mistakes, failures and triumphs.
I’ve been surprised by some of my weaknesses. I’ve never been a person to
worry, doubt or fear very much, but I’ve struggled with all three of those foes on
this journey, Some of the reason for that, I’m sure, is that the stroke actually killed
part of my brain, and the mind must have a well-functioning brain to, itself,
function well. The ability to control emotions is compromised when that part of
the brain is either absent or not fully restored. Still, I know I could’ve carried on with a stronger, more victorious attitude than I have at times. I’ve had many great
days when my thoughts were only of God and His wonderful works. In fact, a
typical day has been filled with praises and thanks to the Lord, motivated to work
through the pains of therapy exercises by the vision of God having answered my
prayers and my living out the life of serving Him and enjoying Him and His
resources – the life I’ve asked Him for.
However, there have been days when I’ve wavered. But God has been faithful
every day. There have been three major battles of my faith during this period of
my recovery. The first was when I allowed myself to become confused. Here I was
a stroke patient all of a sudden, and it was a huge surprise. This wasn’t supposed
to happen to me. I didn’t have high blood pressure or diabetes, I wasn’t
overweight, I exercised regularly, and my diet was pretty healthy. I didn’t drink or
smoke, and I played basketball every week or two with guys thirty years younger
than I was, and I thanked the Lord each time as I drove home from that pickup
game that He enabled me to play. I remember lying in my hospital bed calculating
that I had been in the condition of someone the age of twenty-seven and was
now in the condition of a seventy-seven year old. That’s a fifty year swing!” I
thought. I was in a state of disbelief, utterly surprised. If the element of surprise is
used effectively in military strategy, it can throw the enemy into confusion; that
was me – confused. And that’s not a good place to be. I needed to be clear that
God was going to take care of me, that He was going to completely heal me. That
was my prayer and I had thousands of people joining with me in that request of
our Almighty Healer.
My discouragement came to a head about seven weeks after the stroke. I had
been home from the hospital a couple of weeks when Sharlene’s brother, Jeff & his wife Lorrie, offered their Myrtle Beach place to us. We spent several days there resting and rehabbing. On the way home, Sharlene, Luke, Janna and I stopped for brunch. As we sat eating, I became very emotional. I sat crying trying to explain to them my thought process and why I was discouraged, but I was so distraught I couldn’t articulate it.
After several minutes of embarrassingly weeping in public, I pulled it together
enough to get out to the car. As we got down the road a piece, I told Sharlene, Luke and
Janna I needed some alone time when we got home. We pulled into the driveway
and parked. I went into the house, grabbed a blanket and a box of tissues and got
onto our bed. I intended to pour my heart out to God and cry myself to sleep. But
I only got out one word. “Lord,” I prayed. As soon as I spoke His name, He flooded my mind with the awesome works He was performing in my life. He was making
me wiser, more compassionate with a greater capacity for empathy, tougher,
more patient and more dependent upon Him. He and I would walk more closely
than ever now and for the rest of my life. He was drawing all my kids to Himself;
those who hadn’t surrendered to Him yet would come to know Him and those
who did know Him as their Lord would know Him better than they had. Our family
would grow closer together. My story would be a testimony of His love and power
and would inspire many to seek Him. The list of His intentions and works went on,
flooding my mind. Finally, all I could say was “Thank You!” I said it a dozen times
or more and faded peacefully off to sleep. My confusion was turned to gratitude,
an all I did was come into His presence and call His name. My gratitude intensified
when I woke and realized that, despite my wavering faith, He had been faithful to
A few weeks later, my faith wavered again. My left shoulder and hand were
at a standstill. I hadn’t seen any progress in weeks, and my shoulder was in
danger of freezing up. I researched complications of a shoulder after a stroke.
One of the possible answers was that there could be neurological problems. It
could be that the brain wasn’t restored fully enough to send the correct
information to the shoulder, so the shoulder wouldn’t heal properly. I wondered
if God might be choosing to take me home before long. I mean, was He going to
take me to Heaven instead of healing me? In all my wavering, I never doubted
that Jesus had saved me from my sins and that I would spend eternity with Him.
My wavering was whether He would answer my prayer to be completely healed. I
told God what I wanted: Lord, I’m so thankful for Your salvation and that You have
a place for me with You forever. But I don’t want to leave this life yet. I ask for
more time to run this race. I want to experience more with my kids and grandkids,
and I want to make more of a contribution of ministry before I leave. I submit to
Your will, Lord. Your will is best. But that’s what I want. Lord, please grant it. I
didn’t know what God would do, but the idea of leaving my family now took me
into some deep discouragement. I talked with Sharlene, Nate and Haley, Janna,
Kristin, and CJ each about what was going on in my head. They all gave me good
advice and I got comfort from every one of them.
But what finally brought me out of that darkness was a Messenger text from Vadim Elovick, a good friend from Belarus. In the course of our texting conversation, I texted, “Thanks for all your prayers, Vadim! I still have a pretty good ways to go, so please continue trusting God with me for a complete recovery. Love you!” He replied, “I will. God will restore every muscle in your body and every cell. I trust Him.” After reading that, I thought, “That’s so simple. Why don’t I just keep it that simple?” I made up my mind right then that I would. I would simply trust God to answer my prayer. Jesus said “Whatever you ask in My name I will do.” God promises elsewhere in His Word that He will hear the prayers we pray and give us what we ask for. I searched the Gospels and couldn’t find a single occasion when Jesus didn’t do a miraculous work for someone who asked Him for one. I remembered other
promises in God’s Word and thought, “There’s much more reason to believe that
God will answer my prayer than that He won’t.” The Holy Spirit had gotten me back on track once again.
It wouldn’t be long, though, a couple of weeks, before I would waver in my faith
again. In the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic, I aspirated a couple of times while
drinking something. I coughed a couple of times and the idea came into my head
that there could be something developing in my lungs, a concern for stroke
patients because of swallowing issues. I made the mistake once again of allowing
a seed of doubt to grow. That evening, Nate and Haley were having dinner with
us. As I interacted with my little buddy, Titus, the thought of God taking me away
dominated my mind. Tears came and I left the room, went into my bedroom and
hit my knees beside my bed, sobbing. Sharlene, Nate, Haley and Titus followed
me in there and began praying for me. After they prayed, I explained how I’d
fallen into that pit of discouragement. They understood, but they didn’t excuse it.
“You’ve got to stop entertaining such thoughts,” and, “God is going to heal you.
That’s already settled.” were a couple of the many comments they made to me. I
got straightened out, apologized for being such a poor example of faith, and
thanked them for helping me out of my latest pitfall. God had, once again,
showed me His faithfulness. Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness to keep Your
Word and Your patience with me even as I’ve faltered in keeping mine!
I’ve learned the secret to overcoming confusion. Military training exercises
teach trainees to look for the one thing that will reorient them when they become
disoriented and confused. For me. That key is God’s promises.
Here are some of the promises vital for me:
Jer 29:11-14 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will
seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be
found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.
John 14:13-14 – And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father
may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
1 John 5:14-15 – Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask
anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us,
whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
1 Peter 5:6-7 – Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that
He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Isa 40:31 – But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
And here are some songs that have gotten me through some valleys:
Thank You – Jesus Army https://open.spotify.com/track/1etEtoewwBygCeVD34yEcM
I’ll Find You – Lacrae https://open.spotify.com/track/05hdZ0YRqAg6qsgV1ee3LE
Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well) – Torri Kelly https://open.spotify.com/track/3p5z6hZE4twttR81jsbwKa
So many people I couldn’t mention have prayed for me and I am forever grateful! The Lord has done miraculous work thus far. I ask for your continued prayers for these specifics:
· That I’ll gain full control of the fingers on my left hand
· That God will restore my singing voice