Our Family...

January 06, 2014

I know this story is a little long, but I think you will find it very worthwhile reading...

First of all, it's probably appropriate to tell you a little about our family. Depending on how you found our site, you may already know that we are a typical American family consisting of myself (Gail) my wife Charlotte, and our two sons Stephen and Sean. Although both of our sons are very special to us, Stephen was born with a mental deficiency that has left him with the mind of someone you may think was in their early teens. although he is over 40 years old. We have always considered ourselves blessed by having Stephen in our lives and know that God has used him to shape our lives over the years.

I was actually born in a small two room (wooden) house located in Ocala Florida. My dad and mother moved down from Illinois in the late 40's looking for a new start and were not rich by any means. My mother was from a Polish family and was raised as a Catholic. My dad, well, that's another story. As far as I know, he never did believe in God and never took part in any church activity. Shortly after moving to Florida, my mother asked a number of the local Pastors into their home to talk to her regarding the church. It was at that time that she was introduced to the Church of Christ, became saved and then remained with the church her entire life. Thank God she remained strong in her faith and tried her best to raise her four children in a Christian environment.

My wife was a little more fortunate in that she had parents who were both very strong Christians. She was born in Columbus Ohio where her dad worked for North American Rockwell with whom he stayed for nearly 40 years. He was a hard worker who always put God first, his wife second and his family third and it showed. When they moved to Orlando in the 60's, they became part of a local Church of God where they spent much of their time and energy.

I had moved to Orlando in 1970 to attend the engineering college of a brand new Florida university, Florida Technological University (now The University of Central Florida). It was at this time that I met Charlotte who actually lived just across a small field from were I rented a home with 3 other guys. To say the least, it was love at first sight and a year later we were married. in a Church of God in Longwood Florida and continued with the church for a number of years after we were married.

Charlotte was actually in school when we met and got her LPN license about the same time we got married. This came in handy in that she started to work for a local hospital while I was finishing my last year in college and supported us over that period of time. She learned a lot during that time about caring for others but once I graduated and was hired by a local aerospace company, Martin Marietta Corporation (now Lockheed Martin), she was able to stop work and concentrate on the arrival of our first son, Stephen. We were never sorry that she quit work and as it turned out, she has been a vital part of Stephen's development over the years. During his early years, she was a leading advocate for the learning disabled even to the point she was on several state wide committees which passed vital laws in this area. As for me, I was truly blessed with a great job which I loved and worked for Martin up to 1994 (more about that in a minute).

While at Martin I was regarded as a pretty good engineer reaching many company goals well before my time. Being an aerospace company, I had the privilege to work on projects like the development of the Patriot Missile Defense System (used by Israel to protect their homeland), the space shuttle’s external tank (I was actually responsible for the control system to put the foam on the tank), and the development of brand new electronic components such as Very High Speed Integrated Circuits (VHSIC) and high density multilayered printed circuit boards which helped to revolutionize how electronic systems are built today. These are only a few of the things that I was involved in which took much of my time not only performing the tasks at hand but also becoming an industry expert which required many, many days of travel each year, writing papers, giving lectures, etc. both across the US and in Europe. It wasn’t uncommon during this time to be working 60 – 70 hour weeks along with trying to stay faithful and taking care of the family.

Our second son (Sean) was born 4 years after Stephen and he also turned out to be a very special young man. In his case, he was a little laid back when he was younger but once he got to middle school, it was clear that he was gifted as well. I say as well because Stephen, even with his difficulties, was always very smart and could do almost anything including operating computers at a very young age (when most children his age didn’t even know how to turn one on), excelling in math/numbers, and many other areas. His problem is that he never did understand how to connect all the dots or how to communicate to his peers. Sean on the other hand graduated as the Valedictorian of his class, got scholarships to college (which totally paid for his studies) and went on to achieve many great things since.

I know all this has been quite lengthy, but I wanted to set the scene for the rest of the story on how we came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior and how it has affected our lives over the years…

Both Charlotte and I came to realize at an early age (early teens) that we were already sinners, we were destined for Hell, and that our lives were going nowhere fast. Even though we came from two very different backgrounds, we realized the importance of God’s word in our lives giving us direction and the fact that Jesus Christ came to this earth in the form of man to die on the cross for the atonement of our sins and to give us the opportunity for everlasting life with Him. We both prayed to God to forgive us of our sins and were baptized in our local churches.

We started off as most new Christians do in that we became heavily involved with our local churches and telling others about our new life in Christ. Of course, as time went on and we became more involved in things like education, family, etc., our commitment started to decrease. We never left the church, staying with the Church of God for a number of years after we were married, but during that time I had already started to travel for extended periods of time which also included relocating to Michoud Louisiana with the family for a year and a half. During this time we were not very faithful as for church attendance, etc., and I’m afraid it started to show.

The devil started to move in quickly and take advantage of the situation. With my work and travel I started to do many things that I knew were wrong such as socially drinking with the guys, hanging out with the wrong (non-Christian) people, etc.. Because of our lack of time in God’s word and fellowship with other Christians, my wife soon started to pick up on some of the same traits. It didn’t bother us then primarily because we were not being reminded that sin was starting to control our lives once again.

However, about 2 years after our son Sean was born we found a new church, a Southern Baptist Church, and soon fell in love with the people and more importantly started to renew our relationship with God. However, even being a Southern Baptist many of our sins remained. We tried to be faithful in our worship, became actively involved with the children’s programs as well as other ministries within the church. But even as we tried to put our Lord first, the earthly things still haunted us.

Before I continue, I need to tell you a little more about the churches we grew up in. Prior to my leaving Ocala, our local Church of Christ had split due to differences between the leaders of the church. Then, soon after we were married, the church that Charlotte and I were attending also split due to similar differences. Both of these were very big blows to us and at the time and I don’t think either of us really understood what had happened. Unfortunately, the split at the Church of God took an even bigger role in changing the lives of Charlotte’s parents. They stopped going to church all together for many, many years, relying solely on TV evangelism for their spiritual needs.

Then around 1987, this same thing happened to us once again in the Baptist church. This time we were right in the middle of the issue that split the church. It was a church of 2000 plus members and we seemed to have everything going for us. However, the desire to grow bigger and better seemed to affect the leadership and their judgment and it was at our peak that we fell. The church sharply divided, many senior members left one by one and finally the Pastor and all the staff followed. Charlotte and I had left early in the crises since we were intimately involved in the decisions that split the church. It was so bad that the Pastor of this church even told other local churches in the area that we should not be allowed to join their congregations. As a result, we also stopped attending church all together in late 1987 and never joined another church until 2003.

Now it’s not too hard to imagine that this was the worst thing that could have happened to us. The sin in our lives thrived and although we thought everything was great with my job reaching new heights, moving into a beautiful new home in a very exclusive neighborhood and having almost everything we wanted.

But God wasn’t through with us yet. In 1993 as I was entering work very early in the morning, I collapsed at the front entrance and only by God’s grace did someone come along to find me. My heart rate had accelerated to over 250-300 bpm and basically the blood was ceasing to flow. At the time it was only Ventricular Tachycardia (VT), but once they got me to the hospital, it had gone into Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) which kills in seconds. Of course, I was in the right place at the right time and they did revive me, not once, not twice, but seven times in one week’s time.

Well, after a month in the hospital and after having a cardiac defibrillator installed (one of the early ones using some of the same technology I helped develop at Martin), I returned home to recover. After a short period, the doctors gave me the OK to return to work and I did so late that year. However, that did not last for long. Continuing changes in my system and the stress of work soon started to take its toll. The defibrillator started to go off repeatedly shocking me out of VT & VF day and night. It soon became so bad that I couldn’t function at all. I would end up falling to the floor after an attack and had to be wheeled out of the facility at work on more than one occasion. It didn’t take long and in March of 1994 I took full time disability from my job. And it didn’t stop anytime soon. Actually, it was over three years before I would even sit behind the wheel of a car.

Now during all of this you would think that I would have turned to God asking for His forgiveness and mercy. But I didn’t! I continued to resist and finally we ended up selling our dream home at a loss after we had spent our entire life’s savings and finally moved to a small town just west of Orlando called Clermont. Again, almost penniless, we were able to find a nice piece of property and arranged for a builder to build us a house for an extremely good price. Again, blind to the fact that God was in control…

This was 1996. We soon had our modest home completed and moved in around February of 1997, again with things starting to look normal and still refusing to seek Him in our daily lives.

Then came 1999! Stephen had an intestinal blockage which required surgery to repair. Now this should have been no big deal and he should have been in and out of the hospital in a few days. However, it wasn’t that simple. On the day that he should have been leaving, his temperature shot up to over 104 and he basically coded in a matter of hours. Yes, he was infected with the most terrifying strains of MRSA that one could have. Extremely resistant to every anti-biotic ever made, it usually turns out to be fatal. Now I have to tell you, God finally got our attention! No, it wasn’t God who gave him this infection, but we knew it was only God that could heal him…

We fell to our knees in prayer, praying day and night for over three months while Stephen’s life was in the balance. Minute by minute they did not know if he could survive. His lungs were failing, his kidneys were failing, his heart was failing… We even had one doctor suggest to us that he thought Stephen would be better off if we simply let him go. But we didn’t give up and neither did those that were praying with us. Stephen continued to fight and the doctors did everything they knew how to save him. They finally had to give him an experimental drug that would keep the blood around his heart allowing the extremities to slowly but surely die off.

After about 3 weeks, they finally decided that the high temperature that continued to plague him was being caused by the dead tissues in his legs. Charlotte and I came into ICU early one morning when the doors opened and were told they had to amputate his legs. We almost hit the floor. No one had even brought this to our attention as being a possibility and we really had no idea. We had seen the circulation go from his fingers and from his hands, but we had no idea regarding his legs.

We sat down with the surgeon (who was not a Christian) and told him that we believed God would perform a miracle and we wanted to give Him every opportunity to do so. The surgeon told us if they did not go ahead, Stephen would die. So we agreed but asked him to be aware of the Grace of God. After the surgery, the surgeon told us that he really tried everything he knew how to do to ensure that it was necessary. But in the end, there was no doubt that the tissue deep inside his legs were dead and they had to be removed. We thanked him for all his efforts.

Soon after that, the temperature started to drop and it looked as though he might be turning the corner. I might add that during this time they operated on Stephen 7 times prior to the amputation trying to find the source for the infection. They also had to infuse him with fluids which made his body swell up to over twice its size. Because of this, they could not close up the abdominal opening and finally ended up taking a skin graft to temporarily close him up.

The doctor monitoring the dying tissue in Stephen’s hands started to tell us that there would be a time when they would probably have to amputate both of his hands evident by the black dead tissue now reaching up almost to his wrists. However, he was willing to take a chance and wait due to the fact that they could monitor his hands much easier than his legs and that as long as they were kept clean, he would wait as long as possible. Now I’ve got to tell you, to watch the dead flesh and tissue die and fall right off his bones was painful.. We even started to help the nurses wrap and care for his hands because many of them had no idea of how to do so. And finally, there started to be signs of pink back in his lower hands. The circulation was starting to return, Praise the Lord!

Well, after about 2 ½ months, they did end up amputating his fingers. By this time there was nothing left except for dead mummified tissue that had not fallen off. They amputated all his fingers except for one thumb on his right hand where they only had to take off the outer tip. It was truly a miracle…

Of course we were thankful for what God had done but we just knew that he would be unable to function ever again. How could anyone without legs and without fingers ever be able to function in the outside world? Well, it wasn’t long before we got our answer. Within two weeks of the last surgery he was home, still not mobile and still oozing MRSA from around multiple sites on his body. Yes, the MRSA was still active, but it was no longer in his blood stream.

We continued to care for him and after a couple of weeks he actually started therapy. That’s right, therapy. He was fitted with prosthetic legs while in the hospital and even while his hands were still bandaged up and healing, they tried to teach him how to use a full sized walker to support himself. This didn’t last long before his legs started to break down and we had to temporarily keep him in bed and in a wheelchair.

It was interesting that during all this time (over 3 months), we kept on telling Stephen that we were going to rebuild him better than ever, something like the bionic man. But for him, it was more like Inspector Gadget which he had just seen prior to going into the hospital for the original surgery. And in all his innocence, he actually believed it. We just kept on telling him everything would be OK.

Then one morning approximately 2 or 3 weeks after being at home, he took one of the canes that were given to us at the hospital and actually stood up beside his bed. It wasn’t long after that that he was walking up and down the halls of rehab, climbing stairs and just simply blowing the minds of everyone working with him. At about 3 months after leaving the hospital we took him to a New Years Eve event for '2000 where a young lady dj from a radio station actually asked him if he would dance in the New Year with her, which he did! Charlotte and I sat at the table and cried our eyes out with joy. Stephen was going to be OK.

Stephen then went back to work in February with me at his side. I did not know how he would function (he works for a local Arby’s which couldn’t wait until he got back) and had made him some tools that he might use to help him in his duties. I even designed a robotic hand with articulated fingers driven by a motor that he could use to pick up simple items, etc.. However, he did not want to use it and it still remains on a shelf. Instead, he went right back to work with things like putting together the dispensers for the Arby sauce, ketchup, etc., that had to be cleaned every night. The first obstacle that I saw was for him to put a small nut onto the pump of the dispenser. But you know what he did? He grasped the nut in the palm of his hand, slid it over the dispenser tube and proceeded to tighten it using his partial thumb. After a week or so, he was on his own and continues to work for them to this day…

Now what do we do? Well, you can only imagine what we promised God we would do only if he would spare Stephen’s life. Yes, we finally started to change our life style. We found us another local Baptist Church and started to seek Him once again. But the church was dead. The people were not friendly, they were allowing things to occur in the church that we truly believed were not right and it didn’t take long before we were looking again. It was really hard trying to find a church we could call home. Nothing seemed right.

Then in 2003, we tried a small church that we had seen many times along the side one of the main roadways in Clermont. It turned out that it was an Independent Baptist Church which basically means they are autonomous, i.e., they don’t belong to any association such as the Southern Baptist. And that’s not the only way they are different by any means which we will share with you later. The bottom line is that we have found a home that was long over due. Our Lord not only gave us another chance, but we truly believe He has led us to the church He wanted us at. We have since given up most of the sin in our lives and have given it over to Him. No, we are not perfect, but we strive every day to walk closer to Him. We’ve never been happier, more alive, more vibrant… His mercy and grace was more than sufficient!

So what have we learned so far and how will it shape our lives in the future?

First of all, I have to tell you that both my wife and I look back now and regret letting all that years go by without living our lives the way Christ wanted us to. Yes, we were caught up in sin and regret doing many of the things we did, but we have asked God to forgive us and we know that he was just in doing so. We now focus on each individual day, doing what we can to walk closer to Him through prayer and study, continually learning as we go. We have also recommitted ourselves to His service and to trying to tell others about His love, mercy and grace wherever we go.

We also regret the impact it had on our children and those who knew us. It’s funny how you don’t think of these things at the time, but it can have a dramatic impact on those you love. For instance, we always had a hard time believing that young children could truly understand God and the sacrifice that His son made for us on the cross. Yes, we all knew the story but is it really possible for children 6 and 7 years old to understand sin and its consequences? Well, for that very reason we never gave proper council to our son’s while we were active in the church and consequently Sean never came to accept Jesus as his savior as far as we know.

One day he was home visiting when we got into a discussion regarding religion.  We had started to send him material from the church, recordings of our favorite sermons, etc., and had been praying for him for some time realizing he probably was not saved. He had started to attend a Methodist church in his area and was getting all types of counseling, etc., from his Pastor and from friends. Well, to make a long story short, we got into a discussion regarding a young man Sean knew who happened to be a homosexual and who had got so desperate that he had considered taking his own life. He then found the church that Sean was attending and they readily accepted him with open arms.

The discussion continued and I expressed to Sean that this was great news as long as this young man had realized his sins and had asked God to forgive him. In other words, he had given up his past life. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Well, Sean went on to say that Jesus loved everyone and that he died for each of us. He couldn’t believe that God would condemn anyone to Hell as long as they were making an effort to live a Christian life. He then went on to point out that even I, the one having this discussion with him, still had sin in my life and he pointed out two very simple examples. One being that I broke the law every day by driving over the speed limit and secondly, that I continued to use illegal copies of computer software on our personal computers. What a blow to realize that my actions, even at this time, were still affecting him and were a stumbling block to him accepting Jesus! But you know what, he was right…

Well, to say the least, I immediately asked for forgiveness once again, committed myself to drive the speed limit every day and went on to order thousands of dollars (which we didn’t have) worth of legal software for every computer in the house. It wasn’t as much that this would make a difference to Sean, but I realized that I could not be a stumbling block for no one. I had to work harder…

Many people that I talk to today, including other Christians, think that my example of driving the speed limit is ridiculous. But let me tell you, I will never forget my own son facing me, telling me the things he did and then realizing I was part of the reason he may never accept Jesus Christ as his savior.

 

Well, Sean went on to marry a great young lady and they now have two beautiful young daughters.  His wife also happens to be a Methodist and we continue to have regular discussions with them regarding their salvation.  It turns out that the churches they have attended are quite liberal and can basically believe almost anything they want much of it being "tradition".  For instance, we are told that the Bible is not really the Word of God and cannot be taken literally, that God would never send anyone to Hell, and even the place referred to Hell doesn't necessarily exist. 

 

Of course it is sad that churches like this exist but it is not unbelievable in that we were warned in the Bible regarding false profits going back to the early days of the church.  There are still many out there that want to hear nothing regarding judgment and how it will affect them for all eternity, only what makes them feel good such as we are all going to end up in Heaven, etc..  I won't say much more on this other than we continue to pray and and point out to them what the Bible says on Christ, salvation and our personal relationship with Him.  One day hopefully their eye's will be opened to the truth before it is too late for them and their children...


One thing my wife and I strongly agree on today is how important it is to remain faithful in the church and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not that the Devil won’t come in and still do everything that he can to destroy you, but at least you are, or at least should be, exhorted by your pastor at every turn and admonished by those who love you. This is not the case when you are living your life in a worldly fashion…


I don’t know how this story will end while we are here on this earth, but I do know one thing and that is that my wife and I are forgiven and we will live eternally with the King of Kings!  We also believe that God makes special provision for those like our son Stephen and that one day, prayerfully, our entire family (including our son Sean and his family) will all be rejoicing and praising our God in Heaven!  No guessing, no second thoughts, for Jesus himself promised us “…that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”   John 3:16