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FIRST-PERSON: The power of prayer

EDITORS’ NOTE: Jenifer Barrentine, daughter of Baptist Convention of Iowa Executive Director Jimmy Barrentine and his wife Joan, has struggled with a debilitating illness for six years. Diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) she lost the ability to walk and to speak. Last summer she was re-evaluated by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and was given a new diagnosis, reversing their earlier opinion that she had ALS. Instead the doctors now indicate that Jenifer was the victim of a mysterious viral infection that robbed her of her abilities to move and speak, but that virus has now run its course. This column by her is a wonderful account of the power of prayer.

JOHNSTON, Iowa (BP)–Maybe I am not exactly “back in the saddle again” (I do have a long and arduous trail ahead), but I am closer to it than I have been in what seems like a lifetime. Thanks to a highly persistent and pushy dad and a never-quitting cheering section consisting of my mom, I went back to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in late June and early July and again in August. There my diagnosis and prognosis were changed.

For a number of years it was thought that I was suffering from a terminal illness, ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), which had left me unable to walk for nearly six years and unable to speak for almost three years. I had a number of other physical problems as well. The doctors at Mayo say that although my case is considered “tragic,” it is not terminal and I can hope to make a recovery. Instead of having a terminal illness that caused my difficulties, a virus was the culprit.

I already have had speech therapy and physical therapy to get things kicked off. These have paid off significantly. I have regained my speech and am able to do limited walking with the use of a walker. After six years of limited mobility, naturally my muscle mass is limited and my heart and lungs are not as strong as they need to be. I also continue to have problems with fatigue.

In time, these problems should improve. After long-term physical therapy, most likely lasting two years, I hopefully will be able to walk independently. I have been told that I may have some permanent damage to my right leg, which could cause me to have to always use a cane, but how could I complain about that?

I am sharing this with all of you as my way of showing my gratitude for all of the years people have prayed unceasingly for me. I am grateful that those prayers have been answered and I praise God for the recent good news I have received, but I am also nervous about what lies ahead. So, I would be incredibly grateful if you would pray for me and for what God has in store for my future.

I pray that the work God has done in me will bless and encourage you. I pray that you will also be encouraged by the words God has given me anew in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is certainly the only way I have found to get through the difficulties in life.
Jenifer Barrentine lives with her family in Johnston, Iowa.

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