In 1995 I scheduled our local homeschool choir at the Ronald MacDonald House near Stanford University Children's Hospital for a Christmas performance. At that time, I met a woman whose son was there for chemotherapy treatments due to Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Our families became very close, sharing the important milestones in life. Michael was eight years old when we first met. He had already had a life full of medical issues. Michael received a heart transplant at the age of one. By the time he went home to be with the Lord in 2004, Michael had seen his share of hospitals and medical procedures due to heart rejection, multiple strokes, and finally complications with his kidneys. Michael was a living testimony to God providing grace for the situations He gives His children. Michael met each trial as an opportunity to praise His Savior and served as His ambassador to everyone he met.
After Michael's death, his parents began Michael's Ministryas a way to share their message of hope with those walking a similar road. They funded a project that had Michael's picture and testimony printed on the inside covers of a New Testament. They have placed over 30,000 copies in doctor's offices, hospitals, and businesses up and down New Jersey. This is what those who pick up the free paperback read alongside Michael's picture:
Hi, I'm Michael Sottile, and I have something wonderful to tell you. My struggles have brought me lasting joy. May I tell you my story? (Please turn to the back of the book on the inside cover.)
Have struggles? Yes, everyone has them, and I have had them, too. But in the midst of these difficult times in my life, I have found comfort in knowing that God is in control.
You see, during my lifetime I have had several illnesses: a bad heart that required a new one; a diagnosis of cancer where I needed chemotherapy for fourteen months; two strokes, one that caused my face to drop and the second that left me with a limp; and, lastly, a blood disease that opened the door to Heaven.
I consider it a blessing to have had all four illnesses because it has enabled me to relate to others in need on all four levels instead of just one. Now I know the purpose of my life. And it gives me great joy to tell you that there can be peace in the midst of your suffering, and it can be found on page 174 (2 Cor. 4:8-18).
So when life brings your struggles -- and it will -- know that there is hope found within the pages of this book. ~ Michael Sottile
Here is one example of the many responses they've received on their website:
I would like to share an amazing story of hope that I experienced as a result of Michael's Ministry.
Just a few days prior to my daughter suddenly becoming critically ill, I was given a copy of the Hope, New Testament from a client of mine. It just so happened that I packed it in my daughter's overnight bag just in case I would become bored at the hospital and need something to read. I had "no idea" of what was ahead of me!
Madison had a flesh-eating disease called Necrotizing Fasciitis that had come over her in a matter of hours with no warning what-so-ever. The bacteria were eating through the tissue in two of her limbs, and she was suffering from toxic shock. Each of these conditions is deadly alone; and together, well, it is a true miracle that she survived and came to a full recovery, a few months later.
During this terrible storm, I found comfort in my Bible from Michael's Ministry. Nothing that was happening made any sense to me, and I was afraid to trust what the doctor's were telling me as the outcome was unbearable. As it turned out, I found peace and encouragement in reading this book with the handsome, brave young man's story on the inside cover. What a smile he had, and what he must have gone through, I thought. Well, I read and read and prayed every second that I could, and in the end, my little girl became well and I came to know and trust in the Lord.
I am so very grateful to have had this opportunity. Without the Hope, New Testament our situation could have ended very differently. Had it looked like a traditional Bible, I probably would never have even picked it up to read! I truly believe that God has a plan for each of us and He puts people in our lives to help expedite His plan.
Isn’t it just like God to take the sorrow and loss of one of His children to plant a seed in another? Michael had a phrase that has become a slogan of sorts for his namesake ministry. He use to share it with his folks whenever they became despondent over some glitch in plans or adverse diagnoses: "Stop, stand firm, and watch God work." Good advice for all of us!
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].