Something was wrong. But it was different this time than any previous illness. I was so weak that I could not even stand up during my shower. What had happened to me? Even in the midst of a worldwide COVID pandemic, I knew I needed an urgent examination by a health care professional.
At the emergency room, they discovered my blood oxygen level was only 73 percent. It was so low that the nurse could not believe I had enough energy to walk into their facility. My COVID test was positive along with a diagnosis of both bacterial and viral pneumonia. I was admitted to the hospital.
The next afternoon the doctors needed to increase my supplemental oxygen flow from 4 liters to 60 liters per minute. What I did not fully realize is that I was only one step away from intubation, which has a low survival rate.
This was serious. I looked at my feet and hands. They were ashen gray with no sign of pink. I then fully realized that I was dying. This frightened me, so I began to pray fervently about my situation.
That evening I remembered words spoken at a meeting the previous week about how we are engaged in spiritual warfare. As president of EEM, a Bible distribution organization in Eastern Europe, I then fully realized that I was under personal attack and needed to fight back.
I immediately picked up my cellphone and called friends, telling them to spread the word that I urgently needed prayers.
I don’t know how coherent I was. I could barely speak, and the background noise in the room was loud. But I knew that a prayer vigil around the world was being organized on my behalf for the reversal of my deteriorating health. Then I asked God to send angels to my bedside to protect me and help me in my time of greatest medical need.
As I lay in bed face-down, praying to God to help me understand my critical medical condition, I offered my request that I did not want to die and for Satan to win. I love my family, my co-workers and the eternal impact of my work.
I had made jokes that my wife was an “EEM widow” since I worked so much for the ministry and had a tendency to ignore certain issues around the house. And now the “widow” possibility could become reality.
This was not only a time of prayer but also a time of introspection and reflection as well as an opportunity to talk to God about my life and work. I rejoiced over EEM’s record-breaking results in 2020. In spite of a worldwide pandemic with logistic problems and other issues, our European distribution numbers were up. It is amazing that EEM distributed over 1.35 million Bibles, New Testaments, teen Bibles, children’s Bibles and other literature free of charge amid the chaos of 2020. And this growth continued into 2021.
I continued to pray off and on during the night until I finished by delegating my life-or-death status to God. Only in his wisdom could he understand how all these various actions were related. I asked God, “Let your will be done, not mine.” I then added, “Please tell me your decision soon.”
Immediately I heard a nurse say, “Mr. Burckle, Mr. Burckle, wake up. How do you feel?” It was 3:30 a.m., so I mumbled, “I am OK.” She continued, “There has been a dramatic drop in the amount of oxygen you needed in the last six hours. We have never seen anything like this. The doctors are baffled and have no idea as to its cause. You need to have a CT scan now. The doctors want to check for blood clots.”
I was relieved to hear that news because I knew it was not blood clots. It had been about six hours since my prayer vigil had begun. This meant that God answered my prayer and I would live. I cried tears of joy, relief and thanks. Later I was told that the amount of oxygen that I required had dropped 50 percent from 60 liters per minute to 30 in just six hours. I told the nurse that I knew the change was from answered prayers on my behalf from people all over the world and that I would recover.
It was a potentially dangerous trip to the CT test location since I needed to be away from the high-flow oxygen for over 30 minutes and I would be disconnected from all monitoring equipment. The CT test was negative for blood clots, and my oxygen did not drop during transit or the procedure.
I asked God to do his part in helping me with my recovery and I would do mine. Gradually, I required less and less oxygen as my lung function improved. I was released on a Sunday from the hospital with no supplemental oxygen required.
This health emergency was sudden and a surprise to me. I have always been healthy. Yet these nine days in the hospital had given me time to think about priorities in life and future opportunities for more Bibles and biblical literature distribution to those seeking to know God.
I am humbled by the fact that I have been chosen to be in a leadership position of such a pure ministry. I am sure that none of us will ever know how what we do today will have an eternal impact on lives of the many people that we touch.
Thanks be to God for answered prayers!
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