Testimony of Louise Shirk
I have gone to church all of my life. I was in the Lutheran church for 31 years and the Methodist church for 20. I rarely missed a Sunday unless I was sick, and I made sure our whole family was always in church as well. Every member of our family was an active participant and involved in many programs of the Methodist church.
In 2002, Margaret, who was 16 years old had two major surgeries with many complications where she was hospitalized for 3½ weeks (spinal surgery and gastrointestinal surgery which represented a complication of the spinal surgery). The following summer Tom had cancer for the first time and had surgery at Johns Hopkins. In between these two events, I went in for my routine yearly physical and my blood pressure, which had always been normal was 220/110. It took 8 months for my BP to come under control. I started to worry about everything.
I had always been a very in-control person and all of the sudden, I didn’t feel I had control over anything since three out of four members of my family had experienced major health threats in the last year. When Tom had his prostate cancer surgery, I was in Baltimore by myself and I left the waiting room while the surgery was going on and went to the chapel in an effort to find some peace which really never came. I simply couldn’t be in another surgical waiting room after the previous ordeal with Margaret’s surgeries the year before. I returned when it was time for the surgery to be over.
In the fall of that year, I had a dream that Elizabeth was seriously ill (she was the only family member who had not had a significant health challenge in the last year). I called her at 3 AM on a Friday night (she was at Converse College) to make sure she was OK. My blood pressure was quite high, and I knew that I could only get it to go down if I knew she was OK. So I called her at 3 AM and she was at the grocery store! I have always thought college students were crazy (especially after teaching them for 25 years) and this confirmed it!
About that time in our Sunday school class, once a month we had a guest teacher named Cubby Culbertson who was actually a member of Shandon Baptist Church. He asked if he could hold a meeting with the men of the class and the women of the class separately. He needed a place to have the meeting. For some reason, I volunteered my house which was totally out of character since I stayed so stressed out, and I was mostly at this point just going to work and coming home during the week.
Eighteen people came, and he brought two guests who turned out to be Pastor Det Bowers and his wife Polly. We each had the opportunity to ask a difficult spiritual question and have it answered. Pastor Bowers was able to answer each question without ever opening the Bible. When he left, I told Tom (who was upstairs watching a movie) that we had to find this man’s church and visit. We ended up joining this church, and God called Tom to go to the seminary.
Tom graduated in 2013 from Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, and he began doing pulpit supply. He has taught Bible studies since 2007, has preached in 14 churches, and is currently the full-time pastor at Rocky Springs Baptist Church. My life verse became Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done and you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. And His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I have been in Bible studies at Christ Church since 2005 even though we are no longer at that church. I realized that I was a slow learner, and it took major traumatic health events for God to get my attention. I had finally come to the end of myself, and it was time to surrender control of my life to God who is in control of ALL of His creation and everything in it. I also realized that He did not take the trials out of my life, but with Margaret’s hospitalization He did put the right people in place to save her life. And I learned that God is sovereign and He is ALWAYS in control so I don’t have to be! (I never had control of anything anyway.) And so far He is doing a much better job controlling my life than I ever did! And I am on half the amount of BP medicine that I used to be on.
God reminded me that He was always in control when he revealed Tom’s prostate cancer which was found “accidentally.” Since that time, we have had many other challenges including Tom’s second cancer (pancreatic) which was also found “accidentally.” But God saved his life a second time. And this time when I was in Baltimore the Holy Spirit asked me to give my testimony on the shuttle bus to the people seated near me. Even though we thought Tom’s prognosis was poor, I was able to do it and still have peace!
The night after we were told Tom had acinar cell carcinoma (which has an 18-month prognosis) I experienced a spiritual attack to my faith from the devil and got no sleep. Finally, at 6 am I closed my eyes but did not sleep. I saw 7 angels around Tom’s bed, and I was filled with peace and was able to go back to the hospital with peace in my heart.
That same night, Tom felt like someone was holding him, and he asked the nurses if the beds curled up like a hammock. He was told no, they just go up and down. He literally felt that God was holding him.
Two days after we got home, Johns Hopkins called and said that the final pathology report revealed a totally different type of pancreatic cancer than the preliminary report indicated and that this type affects less than ONE percent of pancreatic cancer cases. Tom would not need any further treatment and the ordeal was over!
This time I was able to see God’s hand of protection in my life and instead of asking “why is this happening to me?” I could identify that this trial and the previous ones had strengthened my faith, and for that I am grateful. Since 2005, I have had peace in my life, and I know that I have eternal life and my eternal life is NOW! Tom and I are both now investing in the ONLY things that will go into eternity: our faith, God’s Word, and other people. And we are in a scriptural church which upholds the inerrancy of ALL Scripture, and we are surrounded and upheld by fellow believers.
As I look back over my life, I know how blessed I have been. When we first joined the Methodist church, we made the decision to tithe. God has blessed us more than we can ask or think. When the girls started college, we were concerned about how we could afford it even though we were both working full time, and God opened the storehouse of heaven and provided academic scholarships for both of our children. And then He outdid Himself, and provided a 1/3 academic scholarship for Tom when Tom was in his 60’s and attending seminary! You can never out give the Lord because everything we have is a gift from Him.
I now know God wants me to surrender ALL of my life, not just my finances and that he wants my obedience to His Word. And the Bible tells us that God values obedience more than sacrifice since there is nothing I can do to make God love me any more or any less than He already does. He chooses to love me and His Son died for my sins. My life is now under the authority of Scripture. Since God has redeemed me from hell, He can handle any problem that I might encounter. I stay in the Word and in Bible studies and the more I learn about God, the more peace I have in my life. This is only to be expected since Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Every day I am aware that God holds me in the palm of His hand. In one calendar year (the year I retired), I had surgery to rule out ovarian cancer (and I did not have it), I was in a car accident where both vehicles were totaled but there were no injuries, Tom was healed from pancreatic cancer, and God saved my mother’s life when at age 90 she fell and broke her hip and was on the ground for 10 hours in 97-degree weather and she developed a blood clot to the lung. What a Savior!
The Bible tells us that “God’s Word will not return void.” Tom and I have both studied Philippians and just like the apostle Paul, it is our desire to share the Gospel with anyone who needs to hear it so that when we get to heaven, we will be there with all of our family and friends.