Gaining new life at Easter

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With Easter upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice and new life. The more I thought about it, the more I felt compelled to write something that is an example – a modern-day example – of new life and how miracles still happen around us.

On February 7th of this year, my daughter-in-law, Cindi Jacobs, donated one of her kidneys to someone she had only recently met. She had heard about the woman and her need for a kidney, but had not met her until when one day this woman, Donna Wilbourne, walked into the Person County Board of Elections where Cindi works. The conversation drifted to Donna’s dire need for a kidney, and Cindi told her that she had heard about her plight and had even written the number down to find out more about it, but as happens often in life, things got busy and she never called.

Then Donna walked into Cindi’s office on Oct. 9th to simply update her address. There she was, right in front of her. There was no denying that this seemed to be more than a coincidence, but rather the hand of God moving through our lives. Cindi felt that first inkling of a calling, that first magnetic pull toward Donna that wouldn’t go away. She asked about Donna’s blood type, because she knew that in order to donate to someone, both people must have the same blood type. When Donna replied, “O positive,” Cindi’s spirit soared because that was also her blood type. Cindi didn’t say anything to anyone then, but inside she knew that God was working through her somehow and that he would continue to reveal his plan to her.

Just one night later, Cindi was reading a book titled, Love Does, written by Bob Goff, and on page 74, it read, “So the next time God asks you to do something that is completely inexplicable, something you’re sure is a prank because it requires a decision or courage that’s way over your pay grade, something that might even save lives, say yes!” Cindi couldn’t believe her eyes as she read this. Later on, she thought, “Wow! That is a big yes from God.”

After that, Cindi did some research about kidney donation, and she found that only 25 percent of people who are tested as potential donors will qualify to donate. That makes it tough to even be accepted as a donor, much less someone finding a donor who matches a recipient. This spoke to Cindi very strongly, and she felt that she might be healthy enough to be a donor. At 52, she was still very active and ran a lot, which helped keep her blood pressure low, and Cindi knew that this might increase her odds of becoming a donor.

Cindi also had been thinking a lot about my husband Joe, her father-in-law. Joe has been on kidney dialysis for more than four years, and Cindi had seen up close and personal what a tough thing dialysis is and how it detrimentally affects your entire life. Joe’s older age didn’t allow him to qualify for a kidney transplant, but Donna did qualify. In a way, donating to Donna could be Cindi’s way of showing her love for Joe, as well as for this stranger who had won her love and compassion only recently.

Cindi asked God to show her if being a kidney donor for Donna was in his plans. She prayed about it and asked others to pray. She says God responded very quickly through his word, prayer, circumstances and the people around her. He knew that Donna’s needs were dire and that her life was on the line. Donna’s body was failing. She was only 48, but her body had been through two other transplants before, and the cumulative effect was really impacting her body. Cindi knew that being the donor for Donna was, indeed, part of God’s plan. There were signs all along the way of the donation process, too many to go into here, but Cindi does a wonderful job of talking about it all in her testimony that she gladly gives at church and other places.

When Cindi told Donna of her decision to be tested as her kidney donor, Donna, of course, was overjoyed, and it was an emotional moment for both. Donna also recognized that how all of this had played out had to be God’s divine intervention. After many tests like EKGs, chest x-rays, CAT scans, blood work and more, doctors determined that Cindi was a strong match for Donna. Another emotional moment. Another yes from God.

Then Donna’s body also had to be ready to receive the donated kidney. So there were tests for her. In the meantime Cindi discovered, while doing a Tuesday morning Bible study, a footnote in the study book under Psalm 16:7 that alluded to ‘reins’ being the part of the body that would instruct you, the part of the body that holds emotion and knowledge. The footnote said that ‘reins’ was, of course, another word for ‘kidney.’ “Seriously,” Cindi thought. “Could there be a more direct message about my specific prayers?”

Finally, all the tests were done, and the transplant was scheduled. Despite Donna having some temperature problems, everything worked out, and she was OK in time for the transplant. So on Feb. 7, Donna received new life through this kidney donation, and both she and Cindi came through the donation process and surgery amazingly well.

Cindi has received so much support from her family and friends, particularly her husband and children, as did Donna. Cindi’s supervisor at the BOE, Sherry Harris, was incredibly understanding about the four to six weeks Cindi had to take from her job. Donna’s church family agreed to help with the financial costs of the transplant or else it could have never been done.

Still, people ask why would Cindi take the risk in doing this. I think unless you feel the calling yourself it might be difficult to understand. Cindi usually refers back to Romans 5:8 for an answer:

“God demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He sacrificed his blood, his life, so that we can have a relationship with him throughout eternity.” Cindi wants her donation to be seen as an act of love that God is allowing her to participate in. She wants others to see it as the love that Jesus Christ has for us all as demonstrated in her life and in Donna’s life. Cindi said, “It’s like I’m a vessel God is using to bring life to another. It’s all about his plan, not about any individuals.” Cindi has also acknowledged that it is true when people say you will be blessed because of your sacrifice because she has received such joy. Her greatest hope is that others will see this joy, will see his plan in their own lives, and most of all will see the love that Jesus has for each of us.

Yes, Easter is definitely about sacrifice. And to celebrate it throughout the year, maybe we can each think of ways we can make sacrifices. There will be times in each of our lives that we might feel a calling of our own to act on something that will make the world a better place and that will make the lives of others better. It doesn’t have to be something as bold as donating a kidney. But each calling is bold in its own way. They are part of God’s plan. I’ve been around on this earth a long time, over 90 years, and I have seen a lot of good and some bad, too. But the good outweighs the bad, and I hope that each of us will try to be a part of that good by answering calls in our hearts we feel led to accept, by making sacrifices. I know sometimes it is hard to do. But just look at this modern-day miracle and what can become of it.

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