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Desperate for healing & still waiting

As a faith-supported missionary, I try to open up my life to our supporters with regular letters* like this one. The toughest parts of our lives are sometimes hard to share, but our need for prayer outweighs our need for privacy. I write letters like this one knowing that many of you struggle wit…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
As a faith-supported missionary, I try to open up my life to our supporters with regular letters* like this one. The toughest parts of our lives are sometimes hard to share, but our need for prayer outweighs our need for privacy. I write letters like this one knowing that many of you struggle with issues no less painful. Please be praying for Leah today & tomorrow.
Dear friends,

Sunday evening, Karen got Leah into the car and took off for Thomaston, GA to attend a week-long healing conference at a church there. Ever since God gave us Leah nearly 20 years ago, we have sought him for her healing. At first, it was for hearing. She had terrible problems with ear infections and scar tissue that built up.  We prayed and one day her hearing was miraculously restored.

But as she grew up, Leah’s other physical issues became more apparent. She was always at the doctor.  She had a shortened palate that made it difficult for her to articulate. She had scoliosis. Several years ago, she began having seizures and the doctor prescribed medicine for epilepsy.  She also struggles with processing things more slowly than normal.

Ultimately, we found out the root issue: Leah has a rare malady that causes a variety of symptoms that are often worse than the ones she has.

Karen, especially, has poured herself into helping Leah live as normal a life as possible. One of the reasons we moved to the country was to give her an environment where she and the other children could experience farm life. Along the way, we’ve hired any number of consultants and tutors and specialists to give us guidance with her special needs.

Of course we’ve prayed. I’ve taken Leah places to have her prayed for. We’ve gathered friends to help us pray. And at some point, I suppose we became more and more resigned to the reality that we’re living with. All Karen has heard from God is, “Let me use her.”

And he has. She brings life to many through her sweet spirit. Recently, Leah graduated from high school. She can read and write and text on her new phone. This next year she’ll be entering a program to work at the local hospital with other special needs children. She loves God and is a good servant. She loves to volunteer in the AIM kitchen during our training camps. We all love Leah just the way she is.

Still, we seek God for her healing. We wonder how independent she’ll be.  At 19, she still needs our help.  Other parents of special needs children understand the constellation of issues that you deal with.  What about driving? What about providing for herself? What will happen when we’re gone? The questions go on and on.

And where is God in all this? If he intends to use Leah, what is our part in that? At what point do we settle for reality and make the best of it?

So this week Karen and Leah are attending the healing conference. Emily and I have stayed behind and are praying that God sees all our hearts and touches Leah in some new way that will bring glory to his name. I have a friend who was radically healed of a degenerative heart condition through this ministry. Many others have had cancers disappear. Prayer works.

We know God heals. Last week our Kenya team returned with a report of praying for a boy whose blind, white eye became clear. They prayed for another girl with a terminal disease and saw her healed as well. Kids who were agnostic about healing have become believers.

God is in the healing business, though his timing and choices are inscrutable. And we want to impart a relationship with a God of power and compassion to a generation of cynics. Yes, we have plenty of reason to be cynical ourselves. But we have seen too much of the goodness of God to go there.

As, through AIM’s ministry, we attempt to disciple people to live radically for Jesus, we recognize that life has few easy answers. In this season of economic struggle and diminishing expectations, maybe you’re struggling with your own set of questions you’re asking God. As you do so, we pray that you find the faith that our family is still clinging to for Leah’s healing even as we (and maybe you too) face a reality that is often discouraging.

One thing we’re convinced of: God loves Leah and he loves us. We’re resolved to trust him for the answers that we don’t have. And we pray that whatever you’re facing, God shows you his goodness and gives you the faith to trust him with your problems too.


                                      Seth and Karen
* Let me know – I’d be happy to put you on the list.

Comments (37)

  • Hey Seth n Karen,

    I can’t believe I didn’t meet Leah while I was there, may be next time:) I’ve been thinking about Karen n her all week, as you mentioned they were going to this conference earlier.

    I pray you much spiritual stamina and resolute worship as you seek the Victor.


  • Thank you Seth As a parent of a special child I hear your heart and share your pain. The other day the Lord shared this with me;

    He said that these children are little mirrors for us to gaze upon to see a true reflection of our soul.

    They have this great ability to shows us our selfishness, discontent and other subtle uglies within. They also teach us more about love, longsuffering, compassion, peace and joy than any other means.

    I know the Lord will heal my special child and I thank him for her everyday! I didn’t save her life she saved mine!

    PS I hasd the pleasure of meeting your little angel and I will joyfully pray for her healing with you!

  • It is heartbreakingly painful when God doesn’t answer in the way we want Him to. Healing seems such a natural and obvious need, we can’t quite believe He doesn’t see it the same way. Never give up hope for it – you never know what God may do. My dear friend Mark is still battling with bowel cancer and with his wife and three young kids are still all held in the balance as to what the future will be. Logical to me that God would want to heal, but His thoughts are higher than mine and He knows stuff I don’t. That cry of Christ on the cross “God my God, why have You forsaken me?” is the cry of humanity on so many levels.

    One thing I know for sure is that God will bring huge glory to His name through the life of Leah. How is the question I don’t have the answer to. I would love her to be healed and whole in every way. Just don’t know which side of heaven that will be. I’d love to lift the natural parental concern for her future from you, but I can’t. Worry comes with the placenta, they say, and never really goes.

    Reality can look discouraging, but just hang on to that hope. We’ll hang on with you. You just never know what God will do or when and He has understanding no-one can fathom the word says. It ain’t over till He says it’s over………and it doesn’t sound like He is saying that. Keep enjoying the way God is using her life and bringing glory to His name in her. A precious thing. As indeed she is.

  • Seth and Karen,

    God gives us physical challenges for a reason. It allows us to identify with those who need our help the most. Leah is a true and special spirit, the one who God loves the most! Rejoice in her unique persona and know that she is blessed beyond belief.

    Blessings to both of you, as a parent, I understand the need to have her cured, as a minister, rejoice and know that you have been blessed.

  • i will be prayin…

    i’ve been blessed by your writings and teachings specially on discipleship. and i follow you on twitter as well. God is raising up a group of army of disciples here in Jakarta Indonesia where i live,and i am so excited to be part of this movement…which really requires more of myself, so God’s been teaching me lately how crucial and important prayer is, and how it matters and it works powerfully.

    I know God will give you the strength and wisdom to understand the purpose in all that happens through this experience with Leah,
    Isaiah 55:8-9
    may you guys be filled with joy and thanksgiving at all times

  • My Dear Seth and Karen,

    The noted rhetorical critic Kenneth Burke once penned, “You can persuade a person only insofar as you can identify with them.” I predict you will have many responses to this posting because it is “real” and reflects the raw sadness that comes when people we love suffer.

    You have walked such a path with my family as the genetic grim reaper of Huntington’s Disease has played Russian Roulette with father, sister, grandmother and cousin. And I am still in that prayer vigil which becomes your life even though you are handed the medical news that the sword of Damocles has been removed from your own head. For that I am eternally thankful just as I am that you showed real friendship in going to the neurology clinic at the University of Virginia with me on that fateful day in September 2006.

    The suffering of ones you love fuels the painful prayers for relief. And in that place where hurt and faith meet a sensitive heart like yours and Karen’s will find the Balm of Gilead. It’s there. I know.

    Of all the scriptures mentioning the character of our Lord the one that touches me deeply every time is the one noted for its brevity:

    “Jesus wept.”

    We are praying.

  • I know Leah is a delight and a refreshment to you and all who meet her! AND I am so encouraged and grateful that you NEVER give up believing for her healing. Thank you for your transparency regarding your hearts for her. Waiting LONG for healing is a mystery to me, but I cannot give up believing His promises. You have our prayers for Leah.

  • I just now looked back in my journal and realized that yesterday morning as part of my own devotions, I *happened* to read again the chapter from your book on Persevering through Pain … and further, I *happened* to have a conversation later that day with my very skeptical teenage daughter about whether God heals now. She’s never seen it personally and I would so like to expose her to a side of God she has never seen! As I walked through the questions in your book, my mind went both to Philippians 3 (sharing in His sufferings to experience His resurrection, which I mentioned yesterday) but I also wrote down Hebrews 12 – about us enduring the race set before us, how Jesus endured the cross, consider how He endured hardship and don’t grow weary. Don’t lose heart. I know that God is not random … so I visited that passage again after I read this blog and saw the rest of it talks about God’s discipline yielding the fruit of righteousness – “so strengthen the hands that are weak, the knees that are feeble, make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but be healed.” Is that a word for you and Karen regarding Leah? I pray so.

  • I stand with you, in agreement, for Leah’s miraculous healing! I have posted her name on my computer so I will be prompted to pray for her all day!

  • I see Heidi already commented here, but let me reiterate we love you guys and are praying for Leah, you, and Karen.

  • Kathy and I pray regularly for your family, especially Leah. We continue to ask, seek, and knock for her complete healing. If or when you feel like you can’t stand any longer – we will stand for you.
    Love you all!

  • We stand with you in agreement believing with all of our hearts that “God has a plan” and Leah has a very special role in His design. What a pure joy to know her. We see that you have not created a family of fear and protection for her, but of love and involvement, and this will segue well into her new life as she is completely healed. May she be healed physically and remain spiritually the loving, laughing and sweet spirited woman of God that we simply adore. May God grant you and Karen grace and strength, and pour down His love on your entire family!

  • Seth & Karen

    I want to just speak truth because truth sets people free.

    I have been healed many times from many different things, too many to list, including burns that disappear instantly and Him pushing one of my vertabrae back in place in my spine (now that one was painful as he didnt use any ansthetic!) We serve a God that can do ANYTHING. He made our bodies, He knows how they function and NOTHING is impossible for him.Please KNOW that in your heart, let the miracles be a way of life.

    Jesus died on the cross so that we can be set free from sin. Without sin in the world there would be no sickness or death.Everything is linked to this problem whether its words spoken over us in the womb (curses), generational curses etc…you know the stuff Im talking about Seth. But this is TRUTH, Jesus died to set us free from all that sin has done. There is NOTHING that God cannot set us free from by His blood…NOTHING ….this is FACT.

    I believe firmly that Gods heart is to set us free unless HE SPECIFICALLY SAYS SO.The work of Jesus is to “get us back to the factory settings” back to the blue print of what He created us to be before any taint of sin was placed upon us in any shape or form.

    I do not have the answers for you both but I will start praying.This is one of those situations I feel that you need to seek the Key to unlock the door.Is it possible that you could get together some prayer warriors and prophets from your local church who can see into the spiritual realms, even if was for just a week to seek God for the key?

    We did this for a girl at church and the insight God gave us was awesome. Very powerful stuff.

    And if God has said He wont heal her, for His reasons….I do also know Him change His mind through prayer! But then would you want to ? If He gave you the reasons? Understanding His will can be just as powerful s being healed.

    Will start praying for you both and for Leah.

  • We sure do love Leah around here! Praying for you and the family. Thanks for leading in vulnerability and honesty. Blessings Seth!

  • Seth and Karen,
    I am standing with you, praying and believing that God will continue to provide healing for Leah in amazing ways! It seems to me that God has already used Leah to bless so many lives as she serves! It amazes me to think that God knew you guys would be the best parents to raise her!

  • My dad always tells me to try and see a person the way God sees them. Leah is so blessed to have been born into your family, and likewise, your family is so blessed to have Leah as a part of that.

    Some thoughts/memories from church at your house:

    We are all tools, and though many of us look the same, Leah looks different. God plans to use her, just lik he uses us.

    The paradox of being normal and desiring to be different vs. being different and desiring to be normal.

    Think of how extra sweet it will be in Heaven, when the Barnes family is able to see Leah in her new body, completely healed. We will finally be able to fully see her the way God sees her.

  • We know healing happens from experience! Thanks to YOU for making a way for it to happen to me! We love you all, and Leah. Praying God will be present in a powerful way for you all right now.

  • Today, as I was reflecting on the parading of 11 witch doctors that had played god for a season here in Yei, I imagined that the majority of their victims would be people who hurt deeply and need instant solution to their challenges.

    I remembered Leah… I prayed… I’m praying and thanking God.

  • If Leah is in pain, I pray the Lord will touch her, but she is who she isvery precious, I am sure.

  • I feel ashamed that in the midst of you and Karen constantly pouring yourselves out for our squad on the Race, we never realized the gravity of the need for prayer for Leah and gathered around you to do so. Forgive us, and forgive me.

    Praying now. Love you guys.

  • Nothing profound to say, but standing with your family and praying to the profoundest of all, the God of all comfort.

  • Dear Seth,
    We have heard many testimonies of healing and wholeness through the Holy Command the anointing oil. Many have found these sermons helpful. Do let me know if you are keen on any of them. I can try to obtain a copy from my church and mail them to you. I don’t always recommend them to people because a lot of people are skeptical and thinks it’s all rubbish. But since you are open to healing, I feel I should at least let you know.


    i just came from another pastor’s blog about the struggle of a different kind that he and his family is facing.

    i thank both of you for sharing. will keep you all in prayer.

  • Thanks for sharing that Seth. I know it’s not easy to put yourself out there and be so vulnerable. I really appreciate it though. Obviously, your daughter is very special and I wholeheartedly agree with Wendy that He knew you and your wife were the best parents to raise her. If my son would have lived he would be in a wheelchair and have many special needs so I can relate somewhat to what you are going through. My husband & I both carry a gene which causes us to have a 25% chance of having children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (which would be fatal for our children). I have really struggled with wondering if I should ask God to wipe out this horrible gene so that we can try for more biological children. Or if I should accept it as His will for us and adopt because there are so many children who need homes. I guess what I mean is that I want to accept God’s will for our family, no matter what that means, thinking that He has a greater plan for us. But I also wonder if it is a cop out, because I am afraid to ask God for healing, because if He does not grant it – what does that mean? Anyway, I am sorry for rambling about my personal situation but I can relate so much to what you are going through. I guess God has plans for Leah that is far beyond what we can see or accept. But as parents we want our children to be healed of anything & everything that could hurt. God showed me John 9:1-12 one night when I was in deep agony about what happened to Andrew and what Spinal Muscular Atrophy means to our family. I often rely on that in times of weakness and darkness, trusting Him. Andrew was God’s child first and He loves Him more than I can ever imagine. That brings so much comfort. May it also bring comfort to you during your times of hurting. You and your wife and your entire family are real inspirations to all of us! Love, Gina

  • Hi Gina,

    My father died of Huntington’s Disease which is an autosomal dominant gene for which every child of an affected parent has a 50% chance of becomming sick. My sister is dying as did my grandmother and some cousins. If you would find it helpful (you and your husband) to process some of the dilemmas related to being a Christian with genetic illness in your family I am glad to be a “listening ear”. I have four childrentwo adopted. Blessings….

  • What a profound and moving experience for me to read all of your comments so far. Karen and Leah are still at the healing conference today, so we’ll see what happens. But I can tell you that whatever she gets there, back here in Gainesville, God healed a part of my soul that, with Leah, struggles for health and wholeness. I wept tears of gratitude as I read your caring words. Thank you.

    I don’t know if this blog community is doing anything for anyone else, but it is more church than I get many weeks.

    Gina – I love the story in John 9. And I especially love how the blind man deals with the institutional church leaders of the day. They argue with him – his experience doesn’t fit their theology. The exchange is classic:

    “One thing I know, I was blind but now I see!”

    “How did he open your eyes?” They asked him.

    He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

    It’s a comeback fitting of Cyrano de Bergerac.

  • I understand those questions that you talked about. Having a sister, who is Leah’s age, that has special needs, those things cross mine and my parents minds many times. Thanks for sharing though because it encourages me to be bold in how I pray for my sister. I think I have allowed myself to get complacent and just “accept things” as they are. This is just what it is….but you encourage me to pray boldy and apply the truths and power I know about the Lord to my sister’s situation. Thanks for sharing Seth, praying with you….

  • So many amazing and supportive things on here – you are very loved people and have a lot of people rooting for your family. How completely wonderful.

    Just a little thing that keeps on coming back to me. Karen hearing God say “let Me use her.” I would be utterly delighted if God totally healed Leah of everything that afflicts her. There is just something in that phrase that makes me think that He wants her as she is, loves her as she is, and has a purpose for great good for her and through her as she is.

    I could be wrong. It’s never wrong to ask your Father for what your heart longs for and maybe He will say yes. It has just kept on coming back to me today, that little phrase. Let Me use her. Let. Maybe Karen has a deeper sense of what that means, given that God said it to her. If it is God’s heart to do that without actually healing her totally, the glory of that will be greater than if she was healed. This is full of ifs………she’s not my beloved daughter and I don’t carry the ache for her as deeply in my heart as you do. Maybe just go back and ask God what He meant by that phrase: Let Me use her.

    With deepest affection, Carol xxxx

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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