Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stephen's Run

One of the many things I've been meaning to write about is Stephen's Run.

As many of you may know, a family from a neighboring church congregation in Albuquerque also had a child diagnosed with AT/RT.  Stephen was diagnosed in October of 2011, four months before Emmett.  Though we had never previously met, when Emmett was diagnosed we connected with Stephen's parents immediately and on several levels.  As sad as it is for a cancer diagnosis to be the common bond that brings two families together, that's exactly what happened (and what we needed) in this case -- and we're so grateful it did.  Brent and Amber are absolutely wonderful people.  And at a time when our world was falling apart, they were able to help us hold things together and think clearly to make big decisions. 

Our hearts were broken when Stephen lost his battle with AR/RT and passed away on April 15, 2012.  Days later, a previously scheduled 5K run to raise money for Stephen's family was held in his memory.  This year, Stephen's family (along with his neighbor Makaila  -- the teenage girl who organized last year's run) decided to hold the 2nd Annual Stephen's Run with all proceeds going to our family.  We were deeply touched and humbled by this honor.

I was back in Albuquerque for work in late April and was able to participate in the event.  It was absolutely wonderful!  It was a joy to see so many faces I recognized from the City View and Indian School wards, as well as many other new faces, and have a chance to catch up with so many dear friends.  Since we left last March we've never been back on a Sunday and had a chance to see the friends and [ward] family we tearfully said goodbye to a year and a half ago.  It was wonderful to see and personally thank so many people who have been praying, fasting, and supporting our family in so many ways.  We feel like the saints in Albuquerque have been the Lord's angels working behind the scenes in bringing about the blessings of heaven for our family for which we will be eternally grateful!  And I am so thankful for the Petersons and Makaila making this joyous reunion possible.

The reunion has come to mean even more to me in recent days with the announcement of the reorganization of the City View and Indian School wards.  It was so hard to say goodbye to our City View family last year not knowing when we would return, and if we would bring Emmett with us.  We owe so, so, soooo much to the prayers of our Albuquerque Angels who have supported us in every way imaginable.  And we know the blessings and miracles we have seen are due in part to your prayers and faith.  While we don't know what the Lord's will holds for Emmett's future, the fact that he is alive and well a year and a half since diagnosis is a HUGE miracle.  And we thank you so much for helping bring that miracle about for our family. 

I've looked forward to returning to our home team and sharing our testimonies again and thanking you personally for the blessings we have seen.  And now with the reorganization things won't quite be the same.  Yes, I know all the same people will still be around regardless of what time they go to church, but it still won't be quite the same coming home to a different family than sent us off. 

But then enters Stephen's Run, where I got to see and thank a lot of our City View family and meet a lot of the Indian School saints who came out and were supporting us as well.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all one body of Saints.

Like I've mentioned already, what a marvelous event Stephen's Run was for our family on so many levels.

The event was wonderful, just wonderful.  Katy and Emmett were able to join the event via Skype.  Brent asked me to share a few words (which I've included at the end of this post for those who are interested), and then the runners were off!  Emmett was so excited to see everyone and be a part of what was going on.  When things quieted down after the runners were gone I hung up the Skype call thinking Emmett would quickly lose interest.  But before I knew it he was dialing me back up and wanted to continue to look around and see everything and be a part of the activity.  It was great to have old friends get a chance to talk to him and Katy.  (And for weeks afterwards, Emmett would point to Brent's Skype avatar and want to call, thinking that's how he could get a hold of Daddy.)

We all got such a spiritual and emotional lift by the overwhelming show of support for our family.  I really cannot express the boost this provided for us after being gone for more than a year. A huge thanks to Brent, Amber, Makaila, and everyone else who helped facilitate this wonderful blessing for my family!  Thank you to everyone who came and supported the event!  May God bless you all!

Emmett wore his special "Best Day Ever" sticker in honor of Stephen

Stephen's Run Speech

Emmett’s treatment has been going well lately.  Things were looking a little dismal around Christmas, but since that time we’ve received some encouraging 2nd opinions and Emmett has continued to strengthen.  And each good day increases the likelihood of more good days.  While we’re far from declaring victory, at this point we’re cautiously optimistic.  And on our current path we hope to return home to Albuquerque sometime this summer.  Oh how we long to be home!

There is a lot of bad in the world today as witnessed by the tragic events in Boston last week.  Unfortunately the news tends to focus on the bad.  In our situation with Emmett we see some of the very worst that life has to offer, but also some of the very best.  And my wife and I can testify that the good in the world far outweighs the bad. 

Emmett has made friends in Boston who have arranged elephant rides, fire truck rides, trips to a truck yard, regular visits by the ice cream truck, and just last week he received permission to sit in the mail truck whenever its parked on our street (Emmett is into trucks these days if you couldn’t guess).  Katy and I are humbled when auto garages won’t let us pay for services or when we go to pay our bill at a restaurant only to find out it’s been covered already.

The acts of service and love we have received from our Albuquerque family cannot be measured.  Every note, every card, every phone call and every text lifts and strengthens us.  The packages, goodies and toys have lifted Emmett’s spirits and brightened his days.  There are those here today who through long hours and personal sacrifice are the reason I still have a job.  Words cannot adequately express the gratitude for the acts of kindness we have received.

Life takes expected turns, but God is there to strengthen us through it all, and that strengthening often comes through those people around us.  When we receive these acts of service we feel God’s love – and that’s what strengthens and supports us through the challenges of Emmett’s cancer.

The story is told of a man walking along the beach with the Lord as they reflected on his life.  At some points there were two sets of foot prints, but at others there was only one.  When the man asked the Lord why He abandoned them during the most difficult times in his life, the Lord replied “that is when I carried you”.

Over the last year since Emmett’s diagnosis we have had many dark days and even darker nights.  There are times we would not have made it through had we not been carried.  And what we’ve learned over the past year is that the arms the Lord uses to carry us are the arms of those around us.  And every step you take during the run today will be a step you are carrying us.

I never had the opportunity of meeting Stephen Peterson.  He passed away before I had the chance.  But from what I’ve heard and read about his life, he was the sweetest boy you’ve ever met and an inspiration to many; and he lifted, strengthened, and inspired those who knew him.  Look how he inspired his teenage neighbor Mikaila to plan this race.  Most teenage girls wouldn’t notice a little boy next door.

Stephen’s legacy lives on, strengthening and lifting my family today.  I pray that each of you are likewise touched by Stephen’s life, and that as you return to your homes you will take with you a determination to continue blessing and helping those in need, creating a domino effect that will continue for years to come.

Katy, Emmett and I look forward to the day when we will all be back in Albuquerque together and can look for ways to bless each of you.

God bless you all and thank you for being here.