Last July 5th Tolek Golovchenko was putting in a hard day's work at his employer's custom Jeep shop. Sometime during his shift Tolek collapsed into a coma. His panic stricken boss hurried Tolek to the hospital. Things did not look good. Tolek submerged deeper and deeper into unconsciousness, by the time he arrived at the emergency ward he was more dead than alive. Tolek and Lena Golovchenko, members of Tents of Mercy, were caught up in a tragedy. They were also about to see the miraculous power of God at work.
Tragedy has played a role in the human drama since the beginning. Those of us who have faced tragedy often seek resolution through uncovering the "Why" of tragic events. "Why did this happen?" "Who is to blame?" "Could this have been avoided?"
The Jewish people are especially familiar with tragedy and have cast forth a string of "whys" going back over two millennia. Today many people in Israel still suffer hardship. Whys are not always forthcoming. But for those whom God has called in accordance with His purpose Yeshua's words, spoken concerning the man born blind, still hold out the eternal promise: "This happened that the power of God might be seen at work ... (John 9:3)"
TOLEK'S FIGHT FOR LIFE
When Lena got the call her husband was unconscious and in hospital she knew what had happened. Years before Tolek had been diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). AVM is a relatively rare neurological disorder. It remains often undetected, presenting no symptoms but can also lead to severe brain hemorrhaging. Lena rushed to the hospital and was soon joined by her home group leader, Claudine Amar and fellow home group members.
Tolek was sped into emergency surgery to try and stop the bleeding. The attending physicians were preoccupied with the task at hand; they were facing a life and death crisis. Lena explained, "The doctors didn't say much to me but I knew the situation was serious." Seeking to find a quiet place Lena found a washroom where she could pray undisturbed. "I knelt down on the floor and cried out to God. I heard the Spirit speak to me: 'Everything will be alright but you must stand for life!'" Lena got up from her prayer experiencing God's peace. Amazingly that night Lena slept well, secure in God's promise.
After five hours of surgery Tolek appeared to be stabilized but he was in a deep coma. 48 hrs later Tolek's brain began hemorrhaging again. Tolek was again rushed into emergency surgery but the doctors gave Lena very little hope. The bleeding was deep in Tolek's brain and he required very intrusive surgery. "They told me Tolek had less than a one percent chance of survival and even if he did survive he would most likely be severely brain damaged. They advised me to prepare for his death and asked me to consider granting them permission to harvest his organs for transplant donation."
Lena made that hospital washroom her prayer closet. Together with some of her friends they stormed heaven, interceding for Tolek's life. Lena recalled, "My friend Albina was at the hospital with me, she saw in the Spirit that an Angel of God was in the operating room battling against the spirit of death."
Claudine Amar was one of the many Tents of Mercy friends that stood with Lena and Tolek. "Lena was very brave; I saw her faith in action. She not only prayed for Tolek but prayed for others in the hospital. She was giving comfort to other worried family members present in the hospital waiting room!"
The prayer vigil continued. Another good friend, Lena Kravtsoff came to stay with Lena and support her in prayer. Lena explained that together they would stand against the spirit of death until they knew God had granted them victory. Miraculously Tolek survived the second operation, an eight hour ordeal required to stop the bleeding. Tolek remained in a deep coma. Lena had to pray and wait.
Tolek remained in a coma for another three weeks. Lena's initial faith and optimism was tested. Tolek had survived but his future was uncertain. Lena explained, "I asked God, 'Where are you?' I felt like Jacob wrestling with God and like Jacob I would not let Him go until He gave me what I promised. I decided to trust God. I decided to keep singing and keep praying. I told myself, life goes on - I need to learn how to deal with what life is handing me now. I have children, when Tolek comes home I will need to be a wife to him."
Lena and her friends kept praying. Indeed the whole Tents of Mercy congregation mobilized in prayer. Eitan Shishkoff remarked, "The whole congregation responded with some of the most focused prayer that I have seen in our history. Few issues have gripped us like Tolek's." The burden to pray that burned so strong in Lena moved concentrically out to her friends, the Tents of Mercy congregation and to intercessory partners throughout the world. Eitan continued, "I had requested prayer for Tolek in our intercessors' bulletin and people really got a hold of it. When I traveled outside the country people would always ask me, 'How is Tolek?' I want to say a hearty thanks to all these prayer partners who so faithfully lifted us up."
Tolek's incredible story took a huge leap forward when he regained consciousness. Afterwards it seemed that he made impressive gain after impressive gain. The doctors who had expected him to die had only one explanation: It was a miracle.
Two more surgeries followed and Tolek put in many hours of arduous physical therapy. On February 9th, six months after his stroke, Tolek returned home to Lena and their three children. He walks with the aid of a special cane and his speech is slow and halting. Tolek still has a long road to full recovery but this father and husband who was expected to die can sit with his children and kiss them good night. He can hug his wife and hold her hand.
Tolek has gone through a dramatic transformation but he is not the only one. Lena has also been transformed: "I have learned so much, it is like my life has been divided in two - before and after the accident. The suffering we have gone through has been worth it." Lena used a mining analogy to explain, "During the gold rush people were willing to endure tremendous hardships searching for gold. I have found the true gold, humility, compassion and the love of God."
Not all the "Whys" have been answered. Perhaps they will never be this side of heaven but God has demonstrated His power. Many things have been difficult for Tolek and Lena but they are seeing how even these difficulties work together for good in their lives.
The prayers of a devoted wife, and of her friends, her congregation and intercessor partners around the world have all joined together to witness the miraculous power of God raising up a man most thought sure to die. We serve a God who answers prayer. Please continue to pray for Tolek's full recovery. The miracle that is Tolek is still unfolding.
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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Dan Juster: Biblical Liberation and Tribalism|
|Moshe Morrison: Ancient Paths|
|David Shishkoff: The Blood Cries out|
|Simcha and Bella Davidov: Declare His Praise in the Coastlands|