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One Day at a Time… Part 1 (Living with ALS)

The following is a short letter my dad wrote right after he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neurone disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).  This letter was published in the SCM News (Southeastern Correctional Ministry) in June of 2014, a ministry where he served as Senior Chaplain until his disease took away his ability to speak.  He passed away in February of this year and we miss him terribly but treasure the words he left behind as an encouragement for all of us.

Joyce Everett, current Senior Chaplain of SCM wrote:

“In life we meet so many good people that love the Lord Jesus and serve him with all their heart. The former Senior Chaplain of SCM, Chaplain Gary Tingwald, is one of those people. He is such a blessing. Once you meet him your life is never the same.

I have been senior Chaplain a little over a year and I have received so many calls asking about Chaplain Gary, I felt led by God to ask him to address the SCM family in this months news letter edition and this is what he wanted to say to all of you:”

A NOTE FROM CHAPLAIN GARY:

I wanted to give all of you an update on what has been happening. Some one asked me, “how are you doing”?  This is my answer: “I’m doing fine but my body has a problem.”

I am no longer able to talk or eat.  All of my nourishment comes by way of a stomach tube and I have devices that help m15235664_10211303763934484_3329934996245866820_oe communicate.

It is not as bad as you might think because God’s presence is always with us.  We are traveling to visit family in many different states and God uses Vickie and I to minister to them.  God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and supportive family.

I really miss the jail ministry and seeing all of you.  Our prayers are with you as you continue to bring the good news to the jails.  God Bless.

“So we do not loose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light monetary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”  2 Corinthians 4:16-17a

Chaplain Gary

It is not as bad as you might think because God’s presence is always with us.

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I Choose Suffering

Isaiah 51:6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky, Then look to the earth beneath; For the sky will vanish like smoke, And the earth will wear out like a garment And its inhabitants will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not wane.

Have you ever felt like a sinking ship being tossed to and fro in a relentlessly angry sea? I have. I feel quite certain that I am not alone, I’m sure there are others that are sinking in the raging waters even now. Sometimes we face the ugly reality of suffering because we have made a bad or possibly several bad decisions, facing consequences that we must resign ourselves to. What happens when the harsh pangs of suffering find us because of circumstances outside of our control, like a ship sailing perilously into unavoidable winds. For the past several years (seven to be exact) our family has been flailing in the open waters of a raging sea, clinging with every bit of strength we can muster to a water logged life preserver. You see, my dad was diagnosed with a monster of a disease called ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). This was a death sentence that slowly robbed him of his ability to speak, eat, move and sometimes even breath on his own. My mom spent her days tirelessly but lovingly caring for him until the very end. The past couple of years of his life were absolutely excruciating for him, he had constant issues with bed sores and excessive weight loss, pain meds were unable to keep us with his dreadful discomfort. He was trapped inside his own torture chamber day after agonizing day. Even in the midst of the myriad of feeding and ventilator tubes in his make shift hospital room in their home, there was a strange peace that accompanied his mighty tempest of suffering. The peace was one that could only be gifted from one source, Jesus. My dad was a pastor before being forced to retire due to his inability to speak not long after his diagnosis. This was a man that had always walked out his faith, he was an unassuming shepherd that loved God and people passionately. His ability to minister to others was done with a uniquely quiet strength that I have never seen in another individual. So, that is how he faced his dreadful last few years, choosing suffering with a quiet and peaceful strength that only comes from God. I learned so much watching his love for Jesus and others around him- even while he was on his bed of affliction, a prisoner in his own body, those who came to visit him would find themselves leaving encouraged and strengthened in their faith.

Life is strange sometimes…

Life is so strange sometimes. I wish my dad wouldn’t have spent the last few years of his life the way he did, I wanted him to be able to throw the football with my boys, to wrestle on the floor and chase them around the house until they were out of breath from laughter. But that wasn’t the life we were given. To say I spent many hours questioning and wrestling with God would be a gross understatement. Somehow through the pain and suffering we had countless holy encounters with our creator, times that only He was able to issue the strength, courage and ability we needed to keep moving on this terrifying journey. My faith was reinforced and even invigorated even in the sadness and constant sorrow of loss. It was an unexpected and divine gift that came out of an atrocious season of suffering. My heavenly father faced suffering I can’t even imagine. My earthly father faced suffering that I could barely find the courage to watch toward the end. Not only did Jesus endure horrible suffering for us but he chose it. He chose it so that you and I could be free from sin. I don’t understand it, but I am so humbled and grateful for it.
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I choose suffering because it was and is God’s plan, I choose suffering because He met me at that place of exhaustion and made me a better follower of Him. He used my dad as a beautiful vessel to teach me and countless others the lesson of loving Christ deeper even when suffering. I live by the ocean. It’s beautiful and frightening at the same time. This life is beautiful but suffering will come, embrace it. Learn from it. Be stronger because of it. Allow Christ to meet you in your most dreadful storm that life will certainly throw at you. My dad did and he taught me to embrace it through the power of our heavenly Father. The Prince of Peace.
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