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FIRST-PERSON Pastor at death’s door says God is ‘still doing something’

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–David Verble is dying. I guess we all are, but his time, his doctors say, is shorter than many of us expect to have.
Responding to a news tip that a young pastor was near death from a diabetic condition, I also was told that he had a tremendous testimony to share through his trials.
I dreaded making the call and put it off for days. How do you make a cold contact to tell someone he’s newsworthy because of his impending death?
When I had worked up my nerve, I made the call — and made a new friend and gained fresh insights about bravery, joy and faith in God. Verble, pastor of Providence Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ark., resigned his position Sept. 14 following two years as pastor of the congregation, citing his inability to perform his duties because of health concerns.
“I’m extremely weak and have trouble doing basic tasks,” he said. “I’m wheelchair-bound and my legs are paralyzed from the waist down. I am completely sightless and I have severe nerve damage caused by a Parkinson’s disease-like effect.”
At age 30, Verble can recite a litany of operations and medical procedures that began with his first eye surgery — on his wedding day — at age 22. “In the eight years since then, I’ve encountered total loss of my eyesight and have gone through 17 eye surgeries. I went through a kidney transplant after my natural kidneys failed and have had heart problems.”
He currently uses peritoneal dialysis, “where a catheter is placed into the stomach cavity, you leave it in four hours, then drain it. It seems to be working.”
He called his deteriorating health a “surface hardship” that forced his resignation. “I could not physically keep up with the demands of the job.”
It was his first pastorate “and it was a dream come true. All my life, that’s what I wanted to do, even when I denied that’s what I wanted to do.
“When I proposed to my wife, Julie, she said, ‘Yes, but I don’t feel like a preacher’s wife,'” Verble recounted. “I said, ‘You’re not going to be a preacher’s wife, you’re going to be a youth minister’s wife.’ She replied, ‘No, if I marry you, I’m going to be a preacher’s wife.’ And she was right. God had revealed it to her.”
Verble’s mention of his wife led me to the point I dreaded most in our interview. I had been told his life expectancy was very short. “What do the doctors say about your future?”
“They don’t look too brightly on it,” he answered as matter-of-factly as if I had asked him about the weather. “They’ve had to bite their tongues already once. I was supposed to die a month ago. I was close to death. I was in a coma for three days in July. “I was at death’s door and there was nothing they could do,” he said. “I looked horrible, my systems were shutting down and I had gotten an infection in my spinal cord. They said I wouldn’t make it through the night, so they said, ‘Call in the family.’ The next morning I was sitting up and talking.
“There was a point where I felt like saying, ‘God, take me now,’ and there was a definite moment where I felt he would,” Verble said. “I won’t live a long time — anywhere from a month to a year. It’s frightening in a way — not death, but to leave behind what I have here.” The Verbles have a 6-year-old son and a 20-month-old daughter.
He also is saddened by leaving behind his dreams. “There’s a down side as far as the dreams that you have to let go of … . God allowed me to see my dream fulfilled of being in the pastorate in a good church. My church was successful and I don’t know why.
“When I became pastor of the church, they averaged 12 in Sunday school and 15 to 20 in worship. I thought, ‘Lord, why am I taking this church?’ But that’s what he wanted. That was less than two years ago. We are now running about 100 in Sunday school and 125 to 130 in worship and we baptized almost 40 people this year.”
Although he has relinquished his pastoral ministry at Providence, he said he and his family have gained a new ministry. “Another thing we had to give up were finances. I was the only bread-winner. The church has allowed us to stay until they find another pastor, which is a huge blessing.
“But all of a sudden we had no weekly salary,” he said. “I asked God, ‘What are we going to do?’ God gave me an absolute confirmation the first Sunday we went to another church to speak. They took up a love offering and it was the exact amount of my weekly paycheck.
“The blessing that came out of having to resign is that, like one of our friends said, ‘You’ve gone from a single-church ministry to a multi-church ministry.’
“We now spend every week going to other churches, sharing our testimony. And the message we get across is, regardless of circumstances, joy is still available,” he said. “With all of the health problems and struggles we’ve had, it still makes each day a joy to see that God is still doing something.”
One of those things that God did was bring his father to know Jesus Christ. “I grew up never knowing my biological father. Having experienced health problems, I wondered how many had come from my father.”
The Verbles located his father through directory assistance and a meeting was arranged at a mall in California. “He proved impossible to miss. He had pink hair and a pair of earrings. It was quite a shock. I don’t think life should be boring, but pink hair?”

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  • Russell N. Dilday