Hello friends! Thank you so much for your prayers for us in these past months as Shad continues to heal from his brain surgery seven months ago. We can hardly believe it’s been over half a year since those fateful days in the hospital!! Just as it’s hard to see growth in a newborn when you’re with them every day, it has proved difficult at times to see Shad’s progress from one day to the next. However, as we’ve looked back, we are amazed at how much progress he has made!!
On April 18, Shad spent four hours with a team of Neuro-psychologists in order to pinpoint how his post-surgery cognitive skills compare to his pre-surgery, seizure-filled brain. It was certainly a frustrating and discouraging day for Shad, as he was bombarded with quick and challenging drills that gauged his verbal memory, word list recall, visual memory, expressive language, object naming, processing speed, problem solving, and much, much more. And so we returned home that day discouraged, hearing from the doctors there that after six months, we were less likely to see drastic changes in Shad’s cognitive abilities.
In the days and weeks spent waiting for results, we asked God again why. We struggled with the finality of natural healing from a doctor’s perspective, and we wondered what this would mean for our future. Could Shad continue to minister spiritually with students and prepare them for the field when his ability to communicate and process was still impaired? We wrestled with these thoughts, and didn’t know how to put them into words. Didn’t know how to update friends or family on results. Didn’t know how to ask for prayer or what to ask prayer for. God felt far, even though we knew better.
This Monday, May 7, we headed back to Columbia for follow-up appointments with Shad’s neurologist and neurosurgeon. We had yet to receive back the report from the Neuro-psych testing, but expected that the doctor would have received it and would discuss it with us. We again gave our fears and wrestlings to the Lord on the drive there, agreeing with God that we did not yet know the full picture. That we could trust Him with our futures, our minds, and our fears. In weakness and trembling, we checked in and waited for our turn to see the neurologist.
His nurse, a new woman we had never met, chatted with us about her friend who experienced extensive brain damage as she casually took Shad’s temperature and blood pressure. “He’s the smartest man I know!” she exclaimed, and remarked with confidence as she tapped her skull: “God, he made this brain, and it’s amazing! It can heal itself, even after severe damage!” She quickly exited the room a couple minutes later, apologizing for talking so much. We sat stunned, realizing that God had used her to remind our hearts of the simple yet profound fact that God is the Creator of this crazy, intricate brain of Shad’s. The doctor entered just seconds later, and asked if we had seen the report from the Neuro-psych testing. When we told him we hadn’t, he left to get us a copy. The results both stunned and fascinated us.
There are clear deficits. Most of Shad’s left temporal lobe and some of his hippocampus was removed, connections and all. This translates to lowered scores and ability in short term and working memory, which explains some of Shad’s continued difficulty in remembering names and random words. However, in spite of these deficits, we were encouraged to see that Shad’s overall processing speed and IQ have improved significantly since before the surgery!!
It was so awesome to see this information sink in for Shad, and even as we sat down to lunch, I could see him exude a confidence I hadn’t seen in years. Years! It’s amazing how God could use a simple report, a number on the page, to offer some perspective!! Shad truly has come a long way, and the mark of the Creator is showing itself in tangible ways inside that brain of his!
Our visit with the neurosurgeon that afternoon was encouraging as well– she is officially “done” with surgery follow-ups for Shad! We shook and her hand and left the office, praising the Lord again for all we have been through. Dozens of tests, seizures of all forms and magnitudes, multiple hospital stays, doctors in three countries and two states, two surgeries, occupational and speech therapy… and now, here we are on the other side, rejoicing for progress and hopeful that God is NOT finished yet!
Are there days of discouragement still? Yes. Are there times Shad still struggles with the unpredictability of whether or not he will remember a name or a word? Yes.Does the aftermath of surgery still haunt us and effect our entire family on a daily basis? Most days, yes. Do we still wrestle with not knowing exactly how our future will pan out (who really does?!)? Yes. Do we still need prayer for healing, for trust in the Lord, for courage in the face of deficits? YES!
Thank you for standing with us in prayer!! We are truly blessed and humbled that so many continue to follow us on this journey, praying, encouraging, giving, listening. We continue to adjust to our ministries here at the Missionary Training Center, focusing on encouraging and discipling the next generation of church planters who have come here to prepare for cross-cultural ministry. Shad will be working on the grounds this summer to help keep the campus grass looking neat. He will also be helping to prepare and organize housing for the new students arriving in August. This next class will have lots of single students, and Shad and I are both hoping to serve as Elincers for a few of them. Elinc, an acronym for “Equipping through listening, interacting, nurturing, and challenging,” is an intensive and intentional discipleship program here at the Training Center.
As for the summer, the boys’ last day of school is Friday, May 25th! Brice will spend the month of June in a short Summer School to help boost his reading skills for third grade. In July, we will be making a trip to Michigan to visit family and some of our supporting churches. We will be sharing how God has opened up doors for ministry here in Missouri as we help to equip the next generation of church planters around the world, and how he has been working in our family since our return to US almost two years ago. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to visit all eight of our MI supporting churches on this trip, so we are planning to visit the other four next summer. In order to see as many friends as possible, South Boston Bible Church has graciously agreed to host an Open House for anyone who’d like to come visit while we are in the area! The date is Friday, July 6th— To our Michigan area friends, mark your calendars!! More details to come as the date gets closer!!
Our full July schedule is as follows:
Sunday, July 1st- 1st Baptist St Charles (AM), 1st Baptist Durand (PM)
Friday, July 6th- Open House Dinner, South Boston Bible Church, Lowell, MI (Time and details TBA!)
Sunday July 8th- Byron Baptist (AM), Grace Bible Church (PM)
Wednesday, July 11th- Northside Baptist, Elkhart, IN (PM)
We look forward to seeing many of you this summer!! Thanks to all again for your prayers and love for our family!
Praising and resting in our Awesome and Faithful Creator,
Shad, Sarah, Braden, and Brice Deal
Equipping the Next Generation of Church Planters at the Ethnos360 Missionary Training Center in Roach, MO