When I first met Thomas he had just recently entered a convalescent home, where he was being treated for pneumonia that he had developed. He was also recovering from having a large tumor removed from his arm due to melanoma. Thomas was not in good health, partly due to the fact that he had struggled with addictions that had estranged him from his family and any stable living conditions for a lot of his adult life. But Thomas was being divinely looked after, because he had a dear praying older sister.
I was there due to a God appointed timely meeting which had happened nearly 2500 miles away. Thomas’ sister met my uncle Tom, in a local bookstore back in my hometown. She was blessed to learn that not only had my uncle Tom (sharing the same name as her brother), recovered from similar cancer, but that he also had a nephew, living in the same town, who could visit her brother.
I was happy to initiate that visit. Often, much of the compassion arm of VOB goes on south of the border. This was a divine opportunity on this side of the border. The first visit, turned into a season of visits, carrying the compassion Jesus had for this struggling man. At one point with Thomas, it was determined that the cancer was going to take over, and that he was most likely looking at the end of his life. In talking with Thomas’ sister, I learned that he had some religious background. I spoke with Thomas about that period of time in his boyhood, and asked if he understood what it meant to accept the Lord as his Savior. Thomas understood! He agreed with me and confirmed Jesus into his heart, and was confident that he would be in heaven to reunite with his family one day. Over the months, I reminded him many times of that better place, where he would not struggle, nor suffer anymore. Although he was confident about where he was going, I believe Thomas struggled with where he had been in his life. I made every effort to encourage him that he did not need to worry about his family, whom he had estranged himself from. Forgiveness was also proclaimed, and assured to him by his sister, in a couple of her own visits to his San Diego bedside.
I visited as often as I could, staying in contact with Thomas’ sister regarding his care under Hospice. It was an honor to not only visit, but advocate for someone whom I would have never met, had God not ordained it, back in that chance meeting. But God knew all of the steps that would take place. He knew why Thomas struggled so. He knew why perhaps Thomas doubted His ability to set him free from whatever was tormenting him. Whatever those demons were, that caused him to numb the pain, Jesus wanted to show Thomas His hands. Jesus wanted Him to know that He could be trusted.
There was another Thomas, from the Bible, whom I believe gets a bad rap. We get the saying “doubting Thomas” from his account with questioning whether Jesus had really resurrected. But I see it as one who just really wanted to experience knowing for himself, and not just being told something. Jesus knew that. He told Thomas to “put your finger here, see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side.” Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [John 20:24-29]
Thomas wasn’t able to reconnect with many of his family. He was not able to get free from his addictions soon enough, to get a fresh start with his life. He did not win his battle with cancer. But he believed! He encountered Jesus, as he lay in that bed for many months. Often we thought “this is it, he surely will go now,” but his strength to fight, and his endurance of the suffering, was a testament to many around him. His time did come, and he received the reward of his suffering, as he stepped into the place Jesus prepared for him. That night, as I left with the clothes on his back that he checked in with, I was saddened that this was all Thomas had, really, to his name. But I was quickly reminded that this earth was not his home, and these possessions of ours mean nothing in the bigger picture! Thomas is not doubting that anymore, either.
Please pray for Thomas’ family, and for us, as we plan to connect with his son and provide a memorable time to spread his father’s ashes.