by John Rentz
‘Your daughter has been involved in a serious accident in Denver, and she’s unconscious.’ These words hit me like a ton of bricks on 2 July 2015 as I stood on the steps of the Translation Training Centre in Ukarumpa, PNG, where Rosalie and I were attending the National Conference of the Bible Translation Association. During our 33 years of marriage we had experienced many transitions, but nothing could have prepared us for the one we were about to enter into. Through a series of miracles we arrived in Denver on 4 July and were able to spend the next 17 days with Lucy at Denver Health where she underwent various surgeries to repair damage to the left side of her body, the result of a collision with a Land Cruiser while she was biking. Nearly a week into our stay, while Lucy remained in a coma, the neurosurgeon gave us the MRI results: ‘Because your daughter has suffered a severe bilateral injury to her upper brain stem, it’s highly unlikely she will ever regain consciousness.’ We felt numb.
The next six months saw us taking a journey we could never have imagined. After three weeks in ICU at Denver Health, Lucy was transferred via air ambulance to ICU in Waikato Hospital where she spent another three weeks undergoing various surgeries before she was released to ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) Rehabilitation in Ranui, West Auckland. Though we anticipated one more trip to hospital to remove the external fixators from her pelvis, Lucy made another 12 trips to various hospitals during the coming four months, often due to respiratory infections. Finally we were told nothing more could be done to prevent aspirations and infections, as the brain injury had rendered her epiglottis inoperative. So we turned to palliative care. Two days before Christmas, Lucy was transferred to Radius Matua, a private hospital in Tauranga, where she came under the care of Waipuna Hospice. Her sister, who lived at The Mount, would be able to visit her regularly during her remaining days.
Fast forward six months: Lucy has experienced no respiratory infections at all since shifting to Radius Matua! And though she remains minimally conscious, we are witnessing miracles daily as she breathes unhindered. Because Lucy has defied the medical prognosis once, we believe God has more miracles in store.
What does this mean for Rosalie and me? Well, we’re shifting to Tauranga ourselves. After enjoying the beauty of the Thames Coast for 21 years, we find it hard to leave! But we look forward to what God has in store for us in Tauranga, where we’ll be living close to both our daughters, our son-in-law and grandchildren!
Our movements in life are not always of our choosing: some decisions are made for us by the circumstances we face. Rosalie and I never anticipated a shift to Tauranga at this stage in life. Neither had we anticipated a shift to the Thames Coast from the Solomon Islands nearly 22 years ago, when I was disabled by hepatitis and chronic fatigue syndrome. I remember grieving deeply as I said goodbye to dear friends and colleagues in the Islands, to my role as a translation advisor, and to the village home where we had raised our two girls. Where was God? I had surrendered my life to serve Him as a missionary. What kind of reward was this? At 38 years of age it seemed my life had come to an end. God had so much to teach me!
Twenty-two years later I can see things from a different perspective. I could never have imagined the rewards God had in store for me through serving Wycliffe NZ’s home office in Training, in Mission Inquiries, in Member Care, and as Associate Director.
And now at this new juncture, we cannot comprehend what God has planned for the next chapter. At the end of this year I’ll complete my service in the home office and then, next year, I’ll return to the translation project I left in 1994, this time working remotely from Tauranga. Will we grieve for all that we’ll leave behind as we begin this new chapter? Undoubtedly! Yes, we’ll grieve … but not as those who have no hope. Pray for us during this transition so that, like Paul, we will learn to run straight towards the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above (Philippians 3:13–14 TEV).