Despite A Devastating Disease, She Still Sings!
“Praise be to…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
In late February, high school sophomore Rachel Stokes experienced the pinnacle of her young life when she sang with a youth choir at Carnegie Hall in New York. A little over a month later, Rachel – a pillar of the FCA leadership team of Luella High School in Locust Grove, GA – was taken by ambulance to the hospital after not being able to sit up and get out of bed.
Many excruciating, painfully long, trying days and medical tests later, Rachel has been diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, a rare neuromuscular disorder where her nerves do not communicate with her muscles. She is currently bedridden, unable to get up and function without the assistance of her parents.
The news obviously hit her school, her FCA Club and chorus extremely hard. FCA Luella and the Chorus have “Rallied Round Rachel” with the selling of purple armbands with that inscription to help offset medical expenses that continue to rise but more to encourage her that what she gave so faithfully to LHS is being returned. Their prayers, phone calls and visits have been a testimony to who she is as a leader.
In the care of a neurologist and, at this point, with physical therapy, home health treatments, and probable surgery this summer, Rachel along with her parents Bill and Anita Stokes are praying for a full recovery.
My wife Amy and I, along with our six-year-old son, had the opportunity to visit with Rachel and her parents recently. We laughed, cried, reminisced and prayed together. What struck me most about Rachel was that same beautiful and bright smile, a source of inspiration for so many, that lit up her FCA Club every Wednesday morning has not diminished one
bit. As you come around the corner from the hallway into her room, the evidence of God’s grace, comfort and mercy are
everywhere. It’s evident from the cards, well wishes and bible verses on her walls. It’s evident from the love and support from her two wonderful parents and it’s evident in Rachel’s smile as well as her radiant spirit that has not diminished.
Are there tough days for the Stokes family? Absolutely! Do they shed many tears? Absolutely! Have there been moments when Bill and Anita have cried out and asked God why He would allow this to happen to their only, beloved child? Absolutely! But their faith and trust has not been moved nor shaken. The Stokes family knows and trusts, as does Rachel, that the Lord is going to use this mighty struggle for His greatest glory.
Recently, Steve Gaines, the senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist in Tennessee, reached out to Rachel. Pastor Gaines oversees one of the largest and influential churches in the country and what makes his testimony personal to the Stokes family as he too was stricken with Myasthenia in 2000. The illness forced Pastor Gaines to suspend for a time his ministerial duties and made walking difficult. He has regained his strength through the same medication, treatment and therapy that the Stokes family is hopeful will help Rachel. Although she has a long road ahead, her trust and faith in the Lord leads her to believe that just as Pastor Gaines has comforted her and countless others through his suffering that she will have the opportunity to comfort others through her suffering.
“Rachel’s faith is incredible. She continues to “sing” for God’s glory through her testimony,” says her mother Anita. “She knows that the podium she has been given through being a leader of FCA is a gift. Her faith has encouraged her dad and I to be stronger. Yes, she is our daughter and we are proud of her but this goes far beyond what any parent could wish for. Her faith in God has encouraged us to trust Him that He will bring her through this in order she can continue to be the leader she is. This is not a curable disease but it is one that can be managed.”
May 21st Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments