Our Czech Christian school is around the block from the agency that gives out free needles to heroine addicts. Most of them look young — so full of potential but so enslaved and beaten by the iron clasps of addiction. After a while you begin to recognize the faces — the regulars who come often.
Karel was like one of them when we met him in the hospital in Prague, which is an hour away from us. Our lives would have never intersected except for an email we received from a friend from my college days.
She told us of a friend in her church in Maryland who was Czech and who was looking for someone to visit her brother in Prague. And from that simple email we could sense that this was something God was doing.
The Czech friend, Daniela, wrote us about her heart’s desire to have someone share the Gospel with her brother, who was in the hospital. She would have liked to come herself but didn’t have the doctor’s approval to travel.
As was often the case, I stayed back home with our little ones, and Jimmie drove to Prague with two of our Czech friends (a mom and daughter). When they got to the hospital, they found out that Karel had suffered a stroke and could barely speak and his organs were fast shutting down.
Not a death bed prayer
The doctors did not think he would last much longer. When Jimmie entered the hospital room, Karel’s eyes grew big and did not seem to welcome the visit — especially when our translator told him that Jimmie had come to pray for him. Later we realized that he thought he was surely dying since the priest only comes to pray for a person right before they die.
The nurse reassured him over and over again that they were his sister’s friends. He began to relax and Jimmie shared his life story which included using drugs and addiction and prayed for God to heal his body.
The awkwardness and fear lifted and God’s peace came into the room. Our young translator friend told us that while it had been hard to understand his slurred speech when they’d first arrived, he improved so much they could understand him by the time they left.
Unlike what the doctors predicted, Karel ended up leaving the hospital. His kidneys did not shut down as they had said.
A few weeks later, Karel’s sister was able to come and be reunited with him after a 26-year separation. During that visit, Karel gave his life to Jesus.
God hears the prayer of every sister, brother, parent, grandparent, friend and it’s His will that none perish but have everlasting life.
As I park the car in front of the government-run facility, I offer a prayer for the young people who come there. One of these days, we might just welcome another Karel into the Kingdom of God.
Karel’s sister wrote a compelling book about her growing up years in communist Czechia, fleeing to Canada and eventually finding the life and love she sought all her life. You can find it here, On Both Sides of the Iron Curtain. (affiliate link)
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