On January 18 of this year, I flew to Texas for a surprise two-week visit. Now, on March 5, I’m headed back again, and our family is in great need of your prayers.
An Unexpected Journey
Joshua Steele · March 4, 2021
It was the morning of January 17, and as I made final preparations to leave for L’viv’s Danylo Halytskyi International Airport, I quietly switched off the “Find My Friends” location tracker on my iPhone. A surprise visit for Mom was in the works, and it just wouldn’t do for her to notice that I was suddenly passing over the North Atlantic. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of my siblings and their spouses, Mom was about to get what turned out to be, in her words, the shock of her life.
The next day, the various siblings and their families began to “pop in” for a visit at Mom and Dad’s house. Some of them feigned schedule conflicts at first — just to avoid suspicion — but then, amazingly, things worked out and everyone made it. As my final flight neared Dallas Love Field, my brother Josiah announced that he needed to “run a few errands”. He would be back later. And with that, another location tracker disappeared from the grid — again unnoticed by our unsuspecting mother.
During the nearly two-hour drive home from the airport, we made a brief stop at Chic-fil-A, followed by another at a friend’s house where I tried, largely unsuccessfully, to restore my poor, mask-thrashed beard. Having not been home in over two years, I did not want to greet my mother looking like a drunk pirate. After much combing and blow-drying and balming, I think I looked at least a sober pirate.
As we neared the house, our top-secret, siblings-only, iMessage thread lit up.
“What’s your ETA? Can you share your location?”
“No not without Mom noticing. ETA 20 minutes. What about the cousins?”
“We’re putting them in a bedroom with a movie. … OK, Jonathan is posted by the garage. You’re all clear to drive in.”
As we pulled through the front gate of my parents’ property, I ducked down as low as I could in the passenger seat of Josiah’s massive Dodge RAM pickup. Jonathan waved us through and gave the signal. Family members chatting in other parts of the house casually suggested moving to the main family room.
With iPhone cameras rolling, I walked through the front door and immediately spotted Mom, seated on a couch, happily chatting away with her kids. And then she saw me…
But why all this effort? Why travel alone more than 5,000 miles for a surprise visit home?
In 2019, Mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer. As you might expect, the news came as a shock to our whole family and marked the beginning of a battle that is raging now. Mom has fought hard, endured painful compression fractures, researched all kinds of treatments, and pushed herself to what has seemed, at times, the very limit of her endurance.
In the midst of everything else, Mom and Dad both came down with COVID, and for a time, Mom in particular was gravely ill. Two of my brothers are medical professionals who work with severe COVID cases every day. Mom’s condition gave them and all the rest of us great cause for concern.
Watching all this from Ukraine, and unable to be directly involved in caring for Mom during her cancer battle, I came to a point where I knew I needed to be home.
Late last year, my Dad sustained some fairly minor cuts on both of his feet. But as time passed, his feet didn’t heal. Eventually he saw a doctor and was surprised to learn that not only were the wounds infected, but the infection had entered his bone. Surgery was needed quickly.
This was all coming to light in the final days of my visit. The very day after I flew back to Ukraine in early February, Dad checked into the hospital for his operation.
The surgery went well, but recovery has been difficult. Dad needs to be off his feet as much as possible, and with Mom fighting cancer, neither of them is in a position to care for the other. Because of this, my amazing siblings and their families have been stretched to the limit helping to coordinate meals, driving Mom and Dad to doctor appointments, and assisting with all manner of other challenges. In addition, many other dear friends and extended family have stepped in to help, and we are all so grateful for the support!
Notwithstanding, things have been particularly difficult as our family faces the double blow of both parents’ health crises. Kelsie and I thus decided that it was time for a second “unexpected journey.” And this time, I’m bringing along a buddy. 🙂
The Countdown Begins
Tomorrow afternoon, March 5, my 15-year-old daughter Abigail will join me on a flight back to Texas. We’ll be there for three weeks helping in any way we can to be a blessing to my parents and my siblings. We can’t take away all the pain and uncertainty, but we can be there, helping to bear the load.
Please pray for our family during this time. I’ve only written a tiny fraction of what we’ve been facing, and yet through all of this we have felt the peace that only Christ can give. God has not turned away His face from us. He remains faithful, and we continue to look to Him for grace, guidance and victory.
How You Can Help
If you would like to be a blessing to my parents during this time, we would welcome your help. A friend recently organized a meal calendar for us using an online service called Meal Train. Click the button below to find out how you can send a meal to bless Mom and Dad!
Additionally, if you would like to send cash, the best way is via my sister Jennifer’s PayPal account using the button below:
How You Can Pray
- Pray for strength and complete healing for my parents.
- Pray for wisdom for Mom, her doctors, and the rest of us as we evaluate various paths of treatment for her cancer.
- Pray that Dad’s feet will heal quickly and that the infection will clear up. In a worst-case scenario, there is a real risk that he could lose one or both feet.
- Pray for grace and strength for my siblings and their families as they make daily sacrifices to care for Mom and Dad.
- Pray for strength and safety for Abby and I as we travel.
- Pray for Kelsie and the kiddos as they remain behind in L’viv.
All of us are on a journey that will one day end in death. But for those who know the Lord Jesus, whose sins are covered by His blood, we know that death is only a passage to everlasting life. We pray for many more years on this earth with our parents, but whatever happens, we know, and they know, that eternity is before us, and that will be a time we spend together in the presence of our Savior.
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)