DOWN MEMORY LANE |FROM CANCER TO CHRIST – MY BERLINER EXPERIENCE

Jun 16, 2023 | English

In exactly two weeks’ time, I am scheduled to land in one of my favourites of all world cities – Berlin, Germany. This will be my fifth return to Berlin, the place God chose to intervene over 30 years ago, rescuing me from spiritual darkness and transporting me into His marvellous light in His Son Jesus.

During a long walk yesterday, I stopped to engage with a Jehovah’s Witness guy who often shares his faith at a particular bus stop on the highway. I started by expressing how much I admire his faith and his religious tradition as I went on to share the pivotal role the witnesses played in my life over 3 decades ago.

While wrestling with blood cancer in 1992, and asking all kinds of deep existential questions in the midst of my hospital ordeal, a lady of African origin, often came to visit and share her faith with me. She was married to a German and was a Jehovah’s Witness.

During those lonely hospital days, she often engaged me through religious tracts or articles, which for somebody who had read very little of the Bible till that point, really helped to introduce me to this important spiritual discipline – Lectio Divina. I enjoyed the fact that these write-ups had many Scriptural references and that led to a constant back and forth between the articles and the Bible.

My science background was also another reason why I readily subscribed to reading many of the articles, given that they often leveraged examples in Creation as proof of God’s existence – a form of a discipline known as apologetics.

Fast forward several months into my treatment, I got to a point where it became clear to me that I needed to take a leap of faith to start living according to the Bible. But one of the challenges was the doctrine that says blood transfusion is not biblical.

I resolved to stop taking blood which was a necessity for my treatment and decided to engage in conversation with the medical staff to make my new position known. As I scanned through the faces of a dozen medical staff in the Department of Oncology of that university research hospitality, my mind kept taking me to a cancer researcher I had only met a couple of times.

Dr Michael Koenigsmann had been visiting me once a week from his lab to prepare me for a bone marrow transplant. His visits would last 15 -30 minutes at most – mainly to collect blood samples for laboratory analyses in order to prepare for a stem cell transplantation – a method of cancer treatment which at the time was in the early stages of development.

When I finally opened up to him, his first reaction was very professional. He shared with the other medical staff and they came to enquire more about my new stance. I was given a few days hoping for a change of mind after which they would discharge me in case I held to the same position.

I am grateful that Dr Michael returned to share that he is a Christian and took the opportunity to open up the Bible with me. The Scripture in Matthew 12 where Jesus healed a man with a shrivelled hand on the Sabbath day was the eye opener for me. Just reading through the Scripture with him and listening to his comments did open my eyes to the legalistic interpretation that places the law above people’s spiritual needs.

This eventually led to a change of mind and I resumed treatment. The next couple of weeks were some of the most memorable of my entire life, as Dr Michael often used his lunch breaks to come read and explain the Scriptures to me.

At some point, I was clearly ready for baptism for the forgiveness of my sins but a catheter had been implanted inside of me to ease the flow of medication during the chemotherapy. God literally intervened by allowing the catheter to stop working and this led to its removal.

During the one- or two-day break, I counted the cost of following Jesus and was baptized before resuming treatment for another close to 3 months.

My time in Berlin will be such a God-given opportunity to relive His divine intervention some 30 years ago. Thanks for your prayers as I prepare for this pilgrimage!

Paris, Hannover (where Dr Michael now lives) and Munich will be the next three stops after Berlin.

 

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