Archive for the ‘Derek’s Story (donor)’ Category

I wanted to share some things God has taught me now that I have had some time to reflect on the events of the last 10 days.  These lessons are not in any particular order in terms of importance.  They are simply some revelations that, for the most part, I have always known but may have neglected to recognize as I should.  Here goes:

Marriage is a wonderful gift.  Often we take for granted those who mean the most to us.  Last Tuesday afternoon I set up in bed after 24 straight hours of morphine being injected into my body every 15 minutes.  Anesthesia and heavy drugs pumped into the body can produce some unintended results.  I never intended to throw up all over my wife Tuesday afternoon, but the green bile that exited my body was no respecter of persons.  Nevertheless, my wife is like Jesus (the same yesterday, today, and forever).  She never flinched in the way she quietly served her husband.  She cleaned me up, then held the bucket while I emptied myself of any remaining demonic liquid.  She poured herself out in serving me.  She is, outside of Jesus Christ, the greatest joy of my life.

Family is an incredible blessing.  My sister came from Kentucky to stay with us.  She stayed one night at home with the boys while Julie stayed with me in the hospital.  Then she stayed with me on Tuesday night while Julie came home to be with the boys.  She has served my family in so many ways.  She has cleaned house, done laundry, and walked with me outside even though I could only go at a snail’s pace.  I think she preferred the pace though.  Debra Ann had been such a blessing to us.  I know of no one who displays a bigger servant heart than her.

Donating is an honor.  I have been overwhelmed by God’s grace and have been reminded of the joy set before Christ as he faced the cross (Isaiah 53).  He faced the cruelty of Calvary because he knew it was the Father’s will.  I believe the Lord directed our steps in a way that allowed me to donate to Jennifer.  And I count it an honor.

Rest is necessary.  I have a word for anyone who thinks, as I did, that they will be back to work in a few days after donating a kidney: Don’t be Ridiculous!  I did not feel like walking further than the bed or the couch for about one week.  I didn’t want to shower or shave, but Julie made me do one of those (you guess which).  Week two is much better.  I am regaining my appetite. I walked some outside this week.  I am still having difficulty with clothing that presses too tight around my waist because of the 6 inch incision right on my waistline.  I am learning from the Lord the importance of letting my body heal.

A church family is such a blessing.  I got on the scales yesterday for the first time since the surgery and realized I had lost 10 pounds.  I didn’t know a kidney weighed that much?  However, I am sure it will show up in force the way my church family has responded to my family.  I just finished enjoying cube steak over rice, squash casserole, green beans, and yellow cake with homemade chocolate icing, compliments of one of our church families.  And that’s the way it’s been ever since we got home from the hospital last Wednesday night.  There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right!  I am so blessed to pastor such a servant church.  I love you.

So, these are but a few of the lessons the Lord has reminded me of this week.  I am thankful to be a blessing to the Borders family in a small way.  I am thankful for my wife.  I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for rest.  And I am thankful for CAKE!



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I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak.  And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20: 35)

This is the only direct quote from Jesus’ earthly ministry recorded outside the gospels.  Remember that the Bible has not recorded all the words or deeds of Jesus (John 21:25).   Of all the quotes by Jesus that Paul might call to mind as he leaves Ephesus – why this one?  Could it be that Paul, by the sacrifice of his life, had discovered the inner satisfaction and joy that comes when we give ourselves away in service to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Acts 20: 36 says Paul knelt down and prayed with all the believers who came to hear him one more time this side of eternity.  And Paul reminded them of Jesus’ declaration that we find great joy in giving to meet the needs of others.

As I reflect on Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian believers I am reminded once again of the incredible privilege the Father has granted to me by giving a kidney to a family very dear to my heart.  I have been asked many times in the last few days, “Are you nervous or anxious?”  I can honestly say that I am not anxious for anything.  When we stand in the perfect will of God all anxiety fades away.  And I pray that our Father grants to each of you opportunities to give to the needs of others.  In so doing you will discover the peace that overcomes all human understanding.  His peace will guard you heart, direct your steps, and open your eyes to see and respond to the needs of others.  And you will find as I have found in these days: It is more blessed to give than to receive.


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December 15 was the day assigned for me to have intensive testing at UAB.  I had to collect all my urine for 12 hours prior to testing in a gallon jug, and then keep it refrigerated. I was greeted to a middle of the night laugh when i opened the refrigerator door to find that Julie had prepared it after I went to bed. She stuck a post-it ont he jug that said in bold letters: DO NOT DRINK!  I am still not sure who that note was for.  Nevertheless, we have enjoyed several laughs at that experience. The worst part of the testing at UAB was that I could not have coffee until about 11:00 AM.  Those who know me are well aware that I normally have a coffee cup in my hand by 5:30 -6:00 AM almost every day.  That was for me the hardest part.  Jason and Jennifer came to the hospital to sit with Julie while I went from one lab room to the next for blood, x-rays, ekg, etc.   Each time I started to complain about NO COFFEE I looked at Jennifer, who was not feeling well that day, and my complaints went away.  After the testing we met with the surgeon, anesthesiologist, nephrologist, and several others who would oversee my case.  The best part was when the nephrologist (kidney specialist) said both my kidneys were functioning at 100%.  Then he said, “In fact, you have the kidneys of a 20-year-old.”  I loved it.  Julie laughed and said, “He also has the pants to match.”  It kills her that I can still wear pants that were purchased before my children were born.  The entire day of testing lasted about 13 hours.

The transplant team informed us that they would review my case and make a decision as whether or not they would move forward on December 21.  Ont he 22nd they called me to say that they wanted to move forward with the transplant.  I was driving home from UAB Hospital visiting a church member when they called.  I called Julie and we made arrangements to visit with Jason and Jennifer that evening.  We went to their home after Jennifer came home from work and presented her with a gift I made that afternoon.  It was a diagram of a kidney that I colored KY Wildcat Blue and underneath were the words in bold: ONE FREE KIDNEY – MERRY CHRISTMAS!  That was indeed a precious moment with Jason and his family.  One that I will never forget.  We all stood amazed at God’s awesome plan.


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When Jennifer began to battle renal failure Jason asked for a circle of family and friends to lay hands on Jennifer and pray.  The prayer meeting was set for the prayer room at EaglePoint (our south campus) at 7:00 PM.  The next day I would leave the house at 3:00 AM to lead a mission team from our church to our adopted people group in East Asia.  Needless to say, I was a little distracted with being gone from my family for 2 weeks. As we gathered around Jennifer for prayer I had the honor of anointing her prior to our laying on of hands.  Let me clarify just in case that catches you off guard.  James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him/her call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him/her, anointing him/her with oil in the name of the Lord.”  We believe the oil is symbolic of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit as we pray for God’s sovereign will to be done, and that His glory would be on full display for the world to see.

As we placed our hands upon her head and each one began to pray you could sense that the Lord had moved in power upon our prayer circle.  We wept and prayed over the Borders family and knew that God would show Himself faithful on their behalf.  As Julie and I walked out I said to Jason, “God is in complete control and we will be amazed at what He has in store for Jennifer.”  Then I said, “Wouldn’t it be something if God used one of us in this prayer circle to help bring healing to your wife?”  Now, at the time I had no idea that someone with an O+ blood type could even be tested as a viable donor.  Jason told us that Jennifer was O- and Julie said, “That’s my blood type.”  We went home that night asking the Father if it was His will for Julie to be tested as a potential donor.

At least 2 months passed as Jason and Jennifer made several trips to UAB before she was placed ont he transplant list and they were given the green light for family and friends to be tested.  Jason sent me a text on November 2 to let us know she was officially on the list and the next day sent us the number for the Transplant Program at UAB. That’s when Jason told us anyone with either O+ or O- could be tested.  Julie and I made the call and the donor packets were sent the next week.  We had our blood drawn the Monday before Thanksgiving.

I went home for lunch December 1 and Julie told me she received a call from UAB that she was not a match for Jennifer.  I wondered why they did not call me at the same time because we sent in our blood together.  I guess dealing with a blue-blooded Kentuckian takes a little longer.  We went from lunch to Jill Waters’ new cupcake shop to pray over her new business.  Julie followed me since I would be going from there back to the office.  Then it happened: UAB called to let me know I was a match for Jennifer.  I parked in front of the cupcake shop (Jilly Beans) and sat there a little stunned.  Why are we stunned when we ask for God to powerfully move and then seem dazed when He does?  Julie could tell something was up and jumped in my car to listen to the rest of the conversation with the transplant staff at UAB hospital.  Our next step was a full day of intensive testing at UAB that had been scheduled for December 15.

We both sensed God was at work and began to pray for the Lord’s crystal clear clarity.  As I drove back to the office that afternoon the Lord brought to mind my conversation with Jason at our prayer service almost 4 months earlier.  Then I had a “close encounter of the Divine kind.”  I realized that the Lord would amaze us with His sovereign love by allowing me to possibly bless Jennifer with a new kidney.  I knew more testing was at hand, and I also knew that our Heavenly Father orchestrates the affairs of men that He might be shown as worthy of our love and our worship.  I called Jason to share the news and we were both blown away by the greatness of our God and His love for His own (Jennifer).  Needless to say, we both wept a little.  And yes we are both men!  We were not ashamed to admit that we both cried!  At least I am not.  We knew we had experienced something of a Divine Encounter!  And we were all blown away by the greatness, the power, the glory, the majesty, the sheer splendor of our great God!


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I received a phone call in the fall of 2006 from Dr. Shan Young (great high school athlete, doctor, author, dynamic Christian), and little did I know at the time that my conversion with Shan would impact my family in an incredible way.  Shan is a godly man with a measure of spiritual wisdom most believers only dream of possessing in their own lives.  Shan received my name from my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Danny Akin.  Shan represented the pastor search team from First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Al.  As soon as I got off the phone with Shan I searched mapquest to find out exactly where Jacksonville was since I had never heard of the place.  I started to get real nervous when it became clear that it was 70 miles from the home of Jim and JoAnn Armstrong – my outlaws, I mean in-laws.  Jim and JoAnn are great. However, one thought invaded my mind, “Could I serve a church so close to my in-laws?”  The last five years has answered that in the affirmative.

The church wanted me to fill out a little questionnaire so they might know my heart.  The doctrinal questionnaire took me over 30 pages to complete.  It blessed me that the search team was serious about protecting the theological integrity of their church.  Our next step together would be my second Alabama “divine appointment.”  Of course the first was the day I met my wife.  Julie and I, while at her parents for Thanksgiving (2006), drove to Jacksonville for the first time.  We were to meet two members of the search team who would give us a guided tour of their beloved city.  We came early to make our initial evaluations prior to meeting them in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  As we drove through the square, past the church, and outside the north city limit sign I remember telling Julie, “I don’t think this is where we are supposed to be.”  It wasn’t the result of anything I saw as much as an uncertainty about life in Alabama in general.

Then it happened.  We pulled in the parking lot of Wal-Mart and were warmly welcomed by Jim (Richard Petty) Roberts and a young man who would soon become one of my dearest friends: Jason Borders.  Julie and I climbed into the back of Jim’s station wagon and “life in the fast lane” took on new meaning for us.  Jim covered the city in a matter of seconds.  His drive up to the top of the mountain overlooking the city was special as we looked over the city and prayed together.  The drive down the mountain would have broken track records at Talladega Speedway.  As Jim drove us (at the speed of sound) Jason calmly shared his faith, his family, and his desire to see his church transform its community for the glory of God.  Julie and I were touched by his calm faith as he shared his heart.  We drove back to Birmingham in silence as these men had touched our hearts.  Jason became for me a tangible measuring stick for what lay ahead of us in terms of ministry and friendship. God moved in amazing ways over the next month.  As a result, we moved into our new home on January 3, 2007, and I began my new ministry as pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

Jason would take on the role of encourager, prayer partner, counselor, and friend to this pastor.  His wife would become my barber (beautician: sorry Jennifer). His girls, both models of godliness, would always make sure they hugged their pastor each week.  Jason’s family would step out in faith and make massive personal sacrifice (both physical and financial) to help us transform the former “Barn Restaurant” into a second campus for our church.  God has used them, and so many others, to help us reach more people for the cause of Christ.  Their involvement in our church’s mission to Jacksonville can only be properly measured in eternity.

As I look back now over 5 years of ministry in Jacksonville I do not find myself dwelling on houses and buildings.  I think about people who have impacted my life.  I thank God for the friendships my family shares.  I praise my Savior for His gracious hand in moving us to our “promised land.”  Who knew it would always be in an unknown location in Alabama: 70 miles east of my in-laws.

Thankful for Home,


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Divine Appointments

The Holy Spirit of God transformed my life as a teenager. It can be and was a frightening experience to sense God’s call as a minister of the Gospel when you are a teenager. And when you combine the elements of young believer, spiritually immature, emotionally immature, the end result is a young man who fails to grasp the “noble task” of being an undershepherd in Christ’s church. I am so thankful that God continued to pursue me even as I ran for what I thought would be a better life.  How foolish.  There is never an abundance of inner joy when you are outside the will of God.  Finally, in the fall of 1980, I surrendered my life to God’s sovereign control.  The last 30+ years of my life have been spent learning to trust His hand of direction. Many times my pride stepped in the way, resulting in the Father’s loving discipline. He has a plan that, to this day, still amazes me.

When I finished seminary in 1988 He led me to St. Petersburg to serve as associate pastor to Dr. Jim Graves.  There I met a  young lady on church visitation one Monday night in the fall of 1989.  She moved from Birmingham to St. Pete to work for a CPA firm.  She visited our church and her registration card landed on my desk.  One thing still stands out from our first encounter: she was crazy about me from the start!  The truth is we were crazy about each other from the start.  Our meeting was a divine encounter and we both knew it.  We dated for less than six months and got married.  The Lord has blessed our lives with three boys who we love more than life itself.

Our life together has been the constant combination of family life and ministry life.  Julie and I have expereinced together all that the ministry can bring.  We have celebrated the high’s of conversion and spiritual maturity in the lives of so many over the years. We have also walked through the dark days of ministry when church was hard and ministry was anything but fruitful.  We have fasted and prayed many times when we could not discern what the Father would do in those faith-stretching days.  We have walked into an unknown future trusting our lives to a known God who has lavished His love upon us.  In all the churches we have served along the way our Father has clearly carved out our path.  He has carefully marked out our journey, and we thank God for His guidance.  We have been blessed to serve some of the most precious people in all the world.

I often wonder why the Lord set me apart to serve His church so long ago.  Along the way He has led me from one divine appointment to another.  His grace still amazes me.  So, I hope you will follow this journey a little father because I want to tell you about my latest divine appointment.  I pray it serves as a testament to God’s mighty hand in the affairs of men, and that it leads you to look and listen for a divine appointment that may be coming your way.

Blown Away By Him,


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