My mobile phone rang. It was my doctor. "Where are you?" he asked.
"In town." I replied. "Why?" "I want you to go straight to the hospital. They are waiting for you. Ask for Dr Natasha and be prepared to stay overnight!" Two days before, I was playing tennis with friends when I felt dizzy and lethargic. I thought I had eaten something that had upset my system. The next day I visited my doctor who found nothing wrong but added, "Just to be on the safe side, go and have a blood test done." As I turned to leave, I asked the technician when she expected the results back. "Two to three days," she replied. Several calls to my home number a couple of hours later went unanswered. Eventually my doctor taped a "Call me urgently!" notice on my house door, returned to his clinic and continued to try to contact me. His diligent search was finally rewarded when he found a relative who gave him my mobile phone number. "There's nothing to worry about. It's just an irregularity that is showing up in your blood that needs further tests," the doctor reassured me. "Doctor, give it to me straight. I can handle it," I said as I tried to remain calm to hear what the doctor already knew. "Have you heard of leukaemia?" he finally admitted. Leukaemia was the last word I remembered. My mind was now racing to find a way to break the news gently to my wife, Heta. "My name is Eddie Erika. I'm here to see Dr Natasha." Fifteen minutes later, I was flat on my stomach as the doctor stuck a huge needle into my hip. "We need to do some more tests to find out what you have. It will take awhile, but in the meantime we just need to keep you alive!" Three weeks later the doctor confirmed, "You have cancer! And the rate this cancer is developing, if we don't do something quickly, you will not last three weeks!"
I do not know why or how God called me to be a minister. However, I have no doubts about His call. As a young man, I never had any plan or desire to be a minister. However, one day, my pastor called me to his home and simply told me to fill in some forms. To my amazement, which also caused me to quietly question my pastor's sanity, the forms were an application to study for the ministry! The questions continued to mount when Avondale College accepted me to study theology.
As I stood in front of my first church, I prayed, "Lord, if You haven't made a mistake here, then You have to show me how to do Your work. I have absolutely no idea what to do. And when You have finished with me, then let me go, or give me something else to do other than being a minister!" Year after year, God did exactly that.
But when the doctor said, "You have cancer," my prayer was: "Lord, this is not what I meant when I said, `Let me go!' Lord, what next? You have led me and worked through me all these years. What are Your plans for me now? If this is it for me, then please take care of my family. But if You have other plans, then please help me discover them."
What happened next was a real eye-opener and caused me to ask the question, "Lord, why me?"
Literally thousands of Adventists and Christians of other denominations prayed for my recovery. My hospital cubicle was like a florist's shop; get-well cards and envelopes containing money arrived each day, not to mention scores of phone messages. Relatives and friends came from America, Samoa and Australia to visit. As this was going on, three of my friends with cancer passed away. They were all Christians. Two were in their 60s, the other 18.
As I was trying to understand what was happening, God's desire for His people came to mind: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). I believe God used me--though I do not know why--to call His people back to their knees in prayer.
My younger brother was my donor. And after two years of tests the doctor finally admitted, "We have not found any more trace of cancer in your blood. It is very unlikely to return but there are no guarantees."
We do not have clear answers to many of our questions, but God still works. My gracious favour is all you need. My power works best in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Eddie Erika is associate director of church development for the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference, based in Auckland, New Zealand.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God