It was a Sunday like every other Sunday at our church, except for one special visit from a friend. Jeff Miller, a member of our church who had moved to Indiana six months previously, walked up to me and said, do you remember Brian Ebbitts? I said, “Of course I do, but it’s been ten years since I saw him last.” You see, I was his youth pastor, and after he graduated from high school, I lost touch with him.
Jeff proceeded to hand me an orange bracelet and said, wear this to remind you to pray for Chebbs (His nickname from high school), because he has a glioblastoma. I said, “A what?” “A brain tumor,” Jeff said. My heart sank. I was committed to praying for him, but it also felt so distant, since I didn’t know his parents, and I hadn’t talked to Brian for over ten years.
I went home that day and took off the bracelet thinking, I don’t really need to wear a bracelet to show support. I’ll remember to pray for him. The next morning, I saw the bracelet sitting there, and I think God’s Spirit nudged me to put it on as I went out the door. As the day was coming to an end, I was the only person in the church, when I saw a lady come to the front door. Evidently the door was locked, because she was walking back to her car, with a look of dejection. I ran out the door and hollered at here, “The church is open.” She came back in and asked, are you the pastor? I said, “Yes.” She asked, “Do you know Brian Ebbitts?” I was overwhelmed with emotion as I raised my arm bearing the orange bracelet. She began to weep, and I just wrapped my arms around her, knowing in an instant, she was Brian’s mom.
That evening as Babs sat in my office sharing with me the story of her son’s journey with brain cancer, I knew that God was doing a work on the cancer in my mind and heart, called doubt. I don’t think I believed, or trusted God enough to really devote prayer toward a seemingly hopeless situation. However, the moment God stirred in my heart to put on the bracelet that morning, was specifically to serve as a beacon of hope for Brian’s mom, who was moved to come into the church on that particular day. Only God can orchestrate such events like that.
She proceeded to tell me the story of Brian’s diagnosis. For over two months, Brian was dealing with dizziness and headaches without any prognosis in sight. They did everything, from psychiatric tests, to draining fluid that they thought was an infection, only to find out it was a grade 4 glioblastoma. In the meantime, Brian was let go from his dream job, because there was no explanation for his illness, and inability to remember necessary tasks for the job. There we sat with tear-filled eyes on the eve of Brian’s first wave of radiation.
I told Babs that I would be at the Doctor’s office in the morning to pray with Brian and the family. Low and behold, his doctor was Dr. Smalley, whose personal story includes surrendering his life to Christ at the same church where I served as a youth pastor. When we grabbed hands, Brian, his mom (Babs Morris), his father (George Morris), his sister (Betsy, a prayer warrior who was extending her hands from Texas at the time) and Dr. Smalley, we felt God’s presence and power coursing through our bodies. We prayed with faith that God would heal Brian, and we all felt buoyed by each other’s prayers and faithfulness. That was in October of 2012, and the journey has been filled with ups and downs, but mainly upward.
That day became a catalyst for Brian and his family’s faith journey. They hadn’t been that connected to a church family for several years, and Brian himself had pretty much graduated from high school and his faith. Now, however, Brian and his family’s faith has been growing in leaps and bounds, and that has not been in correlation to their circumstances. In fact, to this day, there is no guarantee of Brian’s cure. The hope that Brian and all of us cling to is found in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for the good, for those who love God and who are called according to His purposes.”
Waiting is never fun for any of us. Brian and his family, including his church family, is in this period of waiting. A key phrase in the book of Psalms is “Wait on the Lord.”
Brian has learned that between the promise that God makes you and the payoff, we have to remember that there is this process.
God is more concerned with transforming us in the waiting, than making sure we get to where we want to go. It’s in the process that God really draws us closer to Him. Brian has learned that waiting is essential if we want to grow in our faith.
We do not just sit around in our waiting. Through prayer, and active participation in events like HFTC, together we can make a difference.
You can be sure that “Team Chebbs” (80+ strong) will be rockin’ the orange bracelets and orange t-shirts at the race this August 25th, in solidarity with Brian and countless others to see a cure for cancer once and for all!