A Spiritual Challenge for You!
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. “ Acts 17:11 (NIV)
Isabella spent seven weeks in three different hospitals, and no one could find the source of the pain. She missed the last two months of school, had to have a temporary feeding tube placed when medications caused side effects that prevented her from keeping down food, and went through a long summer of horribly painful nerve blocks and physical therapy that would increase her pain to the point of blacking out. No medicine touched the pain. “Morphine and every other pain medication was like giving her water,” her mother explains. On the pain scale of 0-10 her pain was rarely lower than an 8. One of the most devastating parts of the ordeal for Isabella was when doctors would doubt her pain and insinuate that it was all in her head. After 9 long months there seemed to be no hope or end in sight. Finally, a small and rare bone tumor that produces exquisite pain from it's core was found on the head of a rib next to her spine which had been overlooked on a previous MRI. Isabella was scheduled for surgery to remove it in December of 2011.
After surgery, the pain was expected to be gone, but that wasn’t the case. As she recovered from surgery it became obvious that Isabella was still in the same severe pain. The doctors explained that the nerves around the tumor must have been damaged, so they were still sending out pain signals as if the tumor was still there. They said that nerve damage could take months or years to heal, or maybe never, and nerve pain is notoriously unresponsive to pain medication. Discharged to home, the family realized they had reached the end of modern medicine's abilities. The doctors had basically given up on her. Deep despair about her future loomed over them and Isabella wondered how much more of her childhood would be robbed by this never-ending pain as she struggled with anxiety attacks and lapsed into deep depression as the long winter continued. Spring arrived, usually a season of hope and new beginnings, but this was a very dark and hopeless spring for the Pakulas as they passed the one year mark of their long and seemingly endless journey.
In the very beginning of this experience the family had gone to God in prayer. Throughout the many long months they prayed over and over for Isabella’s healing. Twice, Isabella was anointed. Many churches in their area and around the world were praying for Isabella. But God seemed to be silent.
As Isabella’s long and mysterious ordeal of pain had dragged on the family had wondered “Why would something like this happen?”. Isabella’s father, Tomek Pakula, explained it this way: “In the beginning I had a guess of why this could have possibly happened to us, at least from our human thinking.” You see, the family owns and operates The Cavalier Motel on the Outer Banks in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. It had been owned by April's grandfather who was not a Seventh Day Adventist, but he had recently died and the business had been passed on to April's mother who operated it with Tomek's assistance. When the decision was made to make the business a Sabbath-keeping business according to the fourth commandment, it was the very next day that Isabella’s severe pain had started. “Could that be the reason?” Tomek wondered. Could this be a matter of spiritual warfare - an attack of the enemy in response to our determination to honor God in our business?
Early in May, 2012, Isabella came to her mother in tears and despair. She had been so hoping that she could be healed in time to go to summer camp that June at Nosoca Pines Ranch, the church’s summer camp in Liberty, South Carolina. It wasn't so much about going to camp as it was a symbolic goal for her - a determination that somehow she would be walking by that time. But now she was losing hope. By this time Isabella was 12 years old. “This whole ordeal had been going on for 14 months,” Isabella’s mother recalls, "and our entire family was drained and exhausted to our core and in a place of deep discouragement and darkness. After all the long months of praying and claiming God's promises and going to endless doctors and trying endless remedies, many of them with miserable side effects; after having our hopes raised and dashed over and over, our precious daughter was wasting away in her wheelchair and still constantly battling pain, along with depression, anxiety and hopelessness. As she broke down sobbing, I said to her with tears in my eyes, 'Honey, sometimes we just have to surrender our dreams to God and if they are His will, He will give them back to us.' She had been clinging so tightly, even angrily and defiantly, to this goal of walking by June and to surrender it seemed like giving up. But a few days later she came to me and said, 'Mommy, I did it; I gave it to God. It was so hard, Mommy, but I did it'. She had told God that if it wasn't His will for her to be walking by summer, if it wasn't HIs will for her to ever walk again and to live her life in pain, she would accept His will. Tears were in both of our eyes, but I knew a huge spiritual battle had been fought and won."
Someone once said, "Man's extremity is God's opportunity" and so it was in the Pakulas' story. The family, feeling the need for spiritual encouragement, had made plans to attend the church's annual camp meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina the last week of May and it was there that the “Great Physician “ finally stepped in. At the beginning of camp meeting week, one of the pastors assigned to the children’s Junior department, Kevin Pires, a former nurse, took an interest in Isabella. Pastor Pires especially took an interest in the medical aspect of this young lady in the wheelchair and made sure she was included in all the activities of the children. He spoke with Isabella’s mother about having prayer for her and she agreed, so Pastor Pires asked Isabella if the youth leaders could have a special prayer time for her after one of the evening meetings that week. “Would that be OK, Isabella?” Pastor Pires asked. She shyly agreed with a nod of her head. She had been prayed over many times and really wasn’t expecting this time to be any different.
Toward the end of the week on Thursday evening, after the children’s meeting had ended and all the other children had left, Pastor Pires wheeled Isabella to the front. The four youth pastors gathered around her and each one in turn prayed for her. They earnestly prayed for Isabella’s healing if God saw fit at this time. Then during one of the prayers, there was a pause. During that pause, each of them could feel something - a powerful sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. As Pastor Pires says, " I could feel that something different was happening at this point".
During that special pause, Isabella shares, “I felt Jesus touch my back. It was the most soft, loving touch I've ever felt.” After the prayers, Pires recalls the sweet smile on Isabella’s face. Isabella could feel her shoulders loosen up as, for the first time in 14 months, the pain left her body. She remembers rolling her shoulders and it felt so good; it was something she could not do before. She was so overwhelmed by what she was feeling she said nothing about it to the pastors, but just smiled and managed a “thank you”. She wheeled herself out and sat outside the building just trying to process what had just happened. When Isabella got back to her hotel room with her parents, she was too overwhelmed to tell them what had happened. If she said anything about this, she’d have the attention of the hundreds of people attending camp meeting all at the same time and she felt completely unable to handle that. She also didn't want to get her parents hopes up, only to have them dashed again. What if this was temporary? Would she wake up the next day or the day after that in pain again? So she said nothing - not even to her parents. She prayed and asked Jesus, "Would it be wrong to keep this to myself for now?" She felt as if He said, “It’ll be our little secret for a little while.” When they returned home to the Outer Banks 3 days later, her parents still didn’t know what had happened. After they had carried her up the stairs of their home and set her down she said she had something to tell them and broke down crying as she told them the story of that special moment that had changed everything. It was the first time she had spoken it out loud and it finally seemed real. It had seemed to good to be true. Her parents were stunned at her story. And as she got up out of her wheelchair afterward and walked with no pain whatsoever, her parents felt like they were dreaming. They are still amazed at how God healed their daughter. Amazingly, after 14 months confined to a wheelchair, Isabella never even had to have physical therapy to strengthen the atrophied muscles of her legs. Her physical healing was complete. She has never had pain since that day and she walked from that day on. “I could thank Jesus every day for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t be enough!”, says Isabella. “The only way I can thank Him,” she says, “is to witness for Him and to keep loving Him and trusting Him.” And that’s exactly what she’s been doing as she ministers in song and shares her story wherever she goes.
In March 2011, when Isabella Pakula was 10 years old, she was struck with severe debilitating pain in her back — so severe that over a period of 10 days she could no longer stand or walk. Her parents, Tomek and April Pakula, took her to many doctors.