It has been far too long since we posted a blog. We can make all sorts of excuses, but the reality is, the analytics show that only 5 people read it. For those of you who have been wondering what has been going on with my (Justin) medical problems, this post is going to summarize what has happened in the last few months and how it has brought us to where we are today. We appreciate those of you who have reached out, concerned. There are still a lot of details yet to be determined so we ask as we wait for answers, you join us in prayer. The reality is, despite anything that doctors or non-doctors say, one of our biggest hurdles is the FAA. They have the final authority on my ability to fly. We ask then, that you pray for healing and for a favorable decision, and that no matter what the outcome and how long it takes to reach a final decision, that we will trust God through it all.
In March, I went to the doctor’s office for a routine physical exam with blood work. I’ve never had a problem drawing blood, at least not more than anyone else. I can’t say that I like having my blood drawn, but it was never a problem before this incident. After having 8 vials drawn, I passed out. While to some, this would seem normal, it rocked my world. Since then, I have had vivid flashbacks brought on by physiological and mental triggers in which some were closely associated with the passing out experience, and others seemingly far from it. At the time, my doctor thought it was a normal reaction (though it had never happened in my life) and that I shouldn’t worry about it. However, out of an abundance of caution, the doctor ordered a series of tests. Two of the three tests came back normal. The third, a 72 hour EEG monitor of my brain, did not. The neurologist at the time said I had an “underlying seizure disorder,” and offered little explanation as to what this means, practically. They told me I needed to start anti-seizure medication, and stay away from water and other high risk activities. Having never knowingly had a seizure before, this came as a surprise.
What came as even more of a surprise was the FAA’s stance on anyone with neurological conditions like seizures. Essentially, if it was an isolated incident (occurring once) and a distinct cause could be identified, I could attempt to apply for my medical certificate (which is required to fly) in 2 years. If it was not an isolated incident and/or no cause could be found, I was looking at a mandatory 10-year waiting period before attempting a medical certificate. If I had another recorded “episode” in 9.9 years, the 10 years would start over again. So, as you can imagine, upon hearing that news, I essentially saw my flying career as over. The more I read about seizures and how the FAA handles them, the more I realized this could be a permanent life change.
The advice I got after learning about all of this was to find a doctor who could be an advocate on my behalf, especially one who understands even a little about working with pilots. The neurologist I had seen was not an advocate of mine. In addition, a second and third opinion from a neurologist would be useful. One problem I ran into, however, was a severe issue with anxiety. I had never dealt with anxiety of this level in my entire life. In my feeble mind and understanding of this world and the the One who made it, all I could see, initially, was the 8 years of training to be a missionary pilot being completely wasted. I knew that wasn’t the case, but it was hard to keep my thoughts from going to those dark places. Why would I go through all of that just to have it taken away from me? This and many more questions plagued my mind.
Essentially, my anxiety, namely my anxiety of visiting the doctor again (because bad things happen when I go to the doctor), has prevented me from seeking a second opinion. As a result, the last few months has been spent dealing with the anxiety through a series of in-depth counseling sessions and therapies. If I’m honest, I used to look at people dealing with the stuff that I am dealing with and be baffled at why they couldn’t just fix themselves. I think the Lord has used my situation to humble me, among other things. I have realized that you can’t really understand unless you have been there. For the survivors of human trafficking that we work with, we never try to understand the situation that they are leaving. How could we? Why then would I try to understand any other issue someone has been through if I haven’t myself been through that situation? We might be able to sympathize, but could we understand?
All that to say, I’m doing better, and getting closer to being able to visit a doctor again. With the focus on my mental health making significant progress, I can now start to think about working towards understanding my physical health. However, finding the right doctor is still something we are praying about. We have several leads that we are going to follow and are praying for guidance as we do that. This could take a few weeks, months, or years to work through the bureaucracy required by the FAA, we just don’t know.
This is what we know: we know the Lord is good. We know He is in control. We know he loves us. We know that even if I can’t fly anymore, the Lord is not done with me. This is what we don’t know: we don’t know if I’ll ever fly again. We don’t know if this “underlying seizure disorder” is an anomaly or a serious condition. We don’t know how long it will take to get answers.
So, as many of you read this, you might be wondering what this means for our ministry. First, it is His ministry. It has always been His ministry. I have might have lost that perspective a little over the 8 years of training and preparation. It is easy for me to look back and see how God provided over those years. It is also easy for me (my ego) to look back and think that I got through tough times on my own strength; though I cannot truly say that. This season is about Him refining who I am. It is about turning my heart towards repentance. It is about trusting Him. It is about having a deeper more secure understanding of my identity in Christ. It is about removing myself from the equation. It is about humbly accepting my circumstances. It is about seeing Him work in spite of my inability to fly.
The Lord can restore my ability to fly. He can continue to grow the ministry without me. He can continue to rescue survivors of trafficking. He can continue to advance the gospel in isolated areas. He can do way more than I can even imagine. Right now, I am learning to trust Him. Please be praying for the upcoming weeks, months, and years: for wisdom, patience, trust, and a closer walk with Jesus.
If you do have more questions about this, please send me an email. I’d be happy to answer any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.