After work on Tuesday, I was able to make a visit to the VA Hospital to see Anthony Hayes, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran and this I learned from his son, Kevin, whom I spoke to Monday afternoon on the phone.
Anthony just had surgery within the last day or two to remove cancer from his throat and he was sedated quite well upon my arrival to his room in the ICU/CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) at approximately 7:30 p.m. I was fortunate to receive a brief update on his condition from one of the doctors on duty that evening too.
Anthony eventually woke up and looked over at me to figure out whom I was, so I approached his bedside and introduced myself. I let him know that I am the Chaplain for the Marine Corps League and that I was asked by Times Square Church to make a visit to see him. I also mentioned that a friend of his son Kevin, had asked one of the pastors at the church, if someone could visit and I was asked.
It was not easy for Anthony to communicate since he has a trachea tube inserted in his neck. He tried to though and I tried even harder to understand what he was trying to say. I did learn that he was a veteran of the Vietnam war and that he had served for four years in the Corps and was a Corporal when he was discharged. He also whispered to me that he had three sons and five daughters, eight children altogether!
Anthony had asked how long I served in the Corps and I told him four years also and got out as a Corporal too. He wanted to know what I did while in the Marines and I hesitated briefly knowing what was coming, but said to him, “I was a pogue. I did admin work with a grunt battalion.” Well, as soon as he heard that I was a pogue, Anthony’s face lit up with a smile and he laughed, which is what usually happens when a Marine says they did admin work and was not a regular grunt like the rest of the Marine Corps. I am glad he was able to smile and laugh a bit at my expense and it was well worth it too for this man.
It was difficult for Anthony to talk and I noticed on his monitor that it was showing an irregular heart rate and I guessed that it was probably due to his effort to try and converse with me, yet feeling frustrated that he could not.
Seeing that, I suggested that Anthony relax and just nod his head if he understood what I was saying to him, which he clearly did.
I then proceeded to explain to Anthony that the reason I was there was because his son was concerned about him and that his friend had asked someone from Times Square Church to pray for him and maybe even visit him. I mentioned to him that I was there to share the Gospel with him and that people from Times Square Church as well as others, were praying for him that he might be forgiven of his sins through faith in Jesus Christ.
Since Anthony could not speak clearly due to the trachea tube in his throat, I explained to him that I was going to ask him a few questions and if he would just nod his head if he understood what I was saying. I asked again, if he clearly understood what I was saying right now, to which, he nodded that he did.
I began to say to Anthony that the cancer that was removed from his throat, may be completely removed or the doctor’s were not able to get it all. Either way, there is going to come a time where we are individually going to face God in judgment. I then proceeded to share with Anthony, consciously how every man has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Where man has sinned against God by using His name in vain, stealing anything that does not belong personally to us, or if we have ever hated someone, God considers that to be murder and is deserving to receive the punishment of condemnation in hell. Each of those sins may be valid in you too, as they were to me, until I had understood that Jesus Christ died on a cross for my sins. He suffered a punishment and a death that I deserved, but that God had punished Him, instead of me, where if I had placed my faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins I would be saved from going to hell for eternity.
I asked Anthony if it was a concern to him that his sins were not forgiven by God and he nodded yes. I then asked him if he wanted to receive the forgiveness of his sins and have a clear conscience regarding that tonight, and he nodded yes. I then asked him if he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, who lived a perfect and sinless life, who was crucified on a cross and rose again three days later, and he nodded yes again.
At this time I shared with Anthony that based on his cognizance and affirmation of what he agreed and believed the Scriptures say concerning Jesus Christ, that evening Anthony Hayes was born again and made into a new creation in Christ, where the old has passed and the new has come.
I then prayed for Anthony trusting God and His Holy Spirit to seal his cognizant affirmation of faith in Jesus Christ.
I do not even remember what time it was either but felt that it was time to leave and I wanted Anthony to get back to gaining some rest from his surgery. So I said to him that I would be back again and asked if there was anything I could bring for him on my return visit and he asked for, a black cup of coffee with three sugars. I’ll see if he’s allowed to have that and I’ll bring it the next time I visit him.
To make the night even better, I saw one of our Marine Corps League members Don Shelton, in the ICU/CCU of the Bronx VA Hospital. As I neared walking by his room, I looked in and recognized him and said, “Don, Don Shelton! It’s Kurt Michaelson, the Chaplain from the Marine Corps League.” It didn’t take Don long to remember me and he was quite happy to see me too, as I was to see him.
Don had recently survived a nasty fall at the VA Hospital in Virginia, where he cut his head and nearly bled to death. He went through quite an ordeal back then and there was a time where it looked like he wasn’t going to make it. But thankfully, he has and it has caused him to reflect on that tonight.
Don and I were able to catch up a little bit and he asked me if I could get him two cookies to eat from a package on the counter. I wasn’t sure if he could have cookies so I asked him again and he said it was ok and I checked him again, asking if I should check with the nurses and he said no, that it was ok. So I got him two cookies to snack on, which he dearly enjoyed.
As I knelt down, next to his bed, he said that there was something he wanted to ask me, but couldn’t remember. I asked was it about communion because he had asked about that the last time I was there? He remembered that, but that wasn’t what was on his mind.
I asked him gently, “Is it about death and eternity?” and he looked at me and with a sigh of relief in his voice, he gently said, “Yes.”
I had basically repeated to Don what I had said to Anthony, explaining how we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory by sinning against Him. I then added reading 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 to him as I said, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, do you believe this Don?” Don’s reply was yes.
I asked Don the same questions that I asked Anthony and Don’s reply was identical to Anthony’s. He too wanted peace with God and the forgiveness of his sins, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And so, Don prayed and I followed up with a prayer for him and the salvation of his soul this evening.
Don’s vision is not that great and if the room lights are on, his eyes are often closed because his pupils are so dilated, but the joy he now felt lit up his face as bright as the sun that night and you could hear it in his voice too.
One thing that Don said to me was this, “I’m not afraid anymore because I know that when I take that next step into heaven, I’m going to be alright.” And I said to him, “That is absolutely true Don. Scripture says that when a person becomes born again, a new creation in Christ, they have passed spiritually from death to life and one day, for you Don, you will leave the death of this world and enter life in eternity, in heaven.”
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 1 John 3:14.Don and I were holding hands as this was being said and he said to me, “You have no idea how good I feel right now. I feel like a weight has been lifted from me and it feels so good. I’m so glad you were here tonight. Your words were powerful.”
I did not say this to Don, but those were not my words that I spoke to him, it was the Word of God that was spoken to him, as well as to Anthony tonight that brought about the salvation of their souls.
Before I left his room, Don said, “Can I ask one more thing of you?” and I said sure. He said, “Could you get one more cookie for me before you leave?” With joy and a little bit of laughter, I said, “Of course!”
If either of these men were to die that night after I left, they were truly saved by His grace. Both of them will feel so incredibly grateful to God that through repentance and faith in Christ, they have been forgiven of their sins, but also that others were burdened for them and the eternity that awaits them.
I am humbled by what God has done with me and through me Tuesday evening and it just creates a deeper love within me for Him and what He has called me to do and that is win souls to Christ.
I shared this with Kristi that evening as I left the hospital and she was equally excited for the work God had done too. I was just a messenger and there was nothing special about what I said, just that there is something special about what God has said.
I said to Kristi that there was more joy in heaven over these two sinners who repented than a multitude of those who think they do not have to repent before God (Luke 15:7).
As I neared the end of my travel across the Tappan Zee Bridge tonight, I began to think of Scripture that would exemplify what happened tonight and this is what the Holy Spirit reminded me of,
“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-36,40, NKJV.
Semper fi in Christ.