One Saturday afternoon, I drove with my dad to uncle Lukas’ plot to drop-off the grass cuttings from our lawn. I was always excited to scramble onto the back of our trailer, dig the shovel into the cuttings and throw it as far as my pencil-thin arms could manage.
At some point during our excursion one of the farm gates swung open and pinned down my left foot. My dad rushed to help and lifted the gate to free my foot. I was 10 years old.
In the coming days my foot became so swollen that I could not even pull on a sock. I was in agony and the swelling would not subside.
One day, towards the end of that year, emergency drills were practised at school. The sirens went off and we had to immediately get underneath our tables. I barely made it onto the floor and after the drill I had to pull myself onto my chair. My hips were extremely sore and that afternoon a teacher, Mr. van Staden, had to carry me to my mom’s vehicle. I was unable to walk.
A whirlwind of visits to specialists, blood tests, medication, X-rays, hospitalisation and bedridden days followed yet the doctors were unable to diagnose the illness with certainty. During the next year I spent more time in bed than at school.
Despite this persisting illness the Lord worked in the lives of my family.
I have previously had an experience with the Lord during a Sunday school camp but did not understand it or identify it as such. All I knew was that afterwards I wanted to sing songs to the Lord, read my bible and pray.
When I was 12 years old my sister and I went on holiday with friends and when we returned our parents told us that they have visited another church during this time. They told us that at the end of the service the pastor had invited people to recommit their lives to the Lord. My parents had gone to the front of the church, recommitted their lives to the Lord and someone had prayed with them. On hearing their story my sister immediately said that she also wanted to go to the front and commit her life to the Lord. She was 9 years old when we started attending this church.
During the following year’s Passover camp for the youth the Lord touched me in a special way. I attended the morning service and we started singing. I remember the Spirit of the Lord filling my entire being. When I opened my eyes, which felt like minutes later, I was still standing with outstretched arms but the hall was empty except for the bassist on stage, who smiled at me and continued playing. I was totally unaware of what had happened around me during this time. Did someone preach? When did the 500+ youth leave the service? Shortly afterwards, while praying, I heard the evidence that I’ve been baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Throughout high school the illness persisted and I had severe inflammation in my feet, knees, hips and lower back and spent a lot of time walking with the aid of crutches. Most days were a challenge. I trusted the Lord for healing. My friends at church continually prayed with me for my healing and I distinctly remember being pulled along by my dad to the front for prayer and laying on of hands, service after service, conference after conference.
One day I read 2 Corinthians 9: 7-9: Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” By this time I’ve been in pain for 7 or 8 years but I accepted that His grace is also sufficient for me to live with this thorn in my flesh. From that time, my desperation and focus on becoming healed subsided.
When I was 19 the illness was diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis. It is a type of arthritus with long term inflammation of large joints and the spine. It is incurable and eventually the spine fuses. Further blood tests and X-rays confirmed the diagnosis and found that white growths were already visible on my spine.
Two years later I participated in a doctoral study at the University of the Witwatersrand that researched the effectiveness of treatment of symptoms in ankylosing spondylitis.
One Sunday morning, thirteen years after the farm gate incident, the Spirit of the Lord came over me during a church service. While worshipping I experienced a warm sensation throughout my body. Nobody prayed for me and nobody laid hands on me but the Lord had touched me.
It was only three months later while on holiday with friends, that I realised that I have been healed. They convinced me to join them on a 25 kilometer cycle in the hilly Knysna forests. Usually I would be in severe pain and unable to walk following any physical activity but the next day I had no pain and no restriction in movement. The following day was the same. By the third day I realised that I had truly been healed. From my previous experience, it was impossible not to have any pain after physical activity.
During a routine medical checkup twelve years later, the doctor said that I must have been misdiagnosed since it is an incurable disease and the tests did not produce any evidence of the disease. She did not know that I had previously participated in a research study at the university and was thoroughly tested to confirm that I have had the disease. To this day I have not experienced any related pain or symptoms again.
Today I know that He has healed me through His abundant love and grace, which continues, to be more than sufficient for me.
The photo is of a spine with ankylosing spondylitis – cc by 3.0 Anagoria.