The phrase “heroes of the faith” conjures up images from the Bible, the likes of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Saul the Apostle. But are there heroes of faith around us today? In your life and mine?
A thoroughly inspiring encounter answered that question for me recently. Connie and I sat in a living room in the foothills below Jerusalem. The room was flooded with light coming through large sliding glass doors. Our eyes feasted on a garden of soothing green trees and shrubs, punctuated by the flowers of spring. Before us were two modern day Israeli heroes of the faith.
Eddie and Jackie Santoro have, for nearly four years, since Eddie was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, been exercising consistent, God-honoring faith. They have navigated the “perfect storm” of two brain surgeries and a second cancer attacking Eddie’s tonsils. The rounds of treatment have included heavy doses of radiation, day after day, and body-wracking chemotherapy. So, what makes them heroes, since so many have fought cancer?
What sets the Santoros apart, for me, is their response to the initial devastating news, that a tumor was growing on the left side of his brain and that he needed immediate surgery to remove the growth. So began a journey of faith, a series of life and death battles that simultaneously transformed Eddie and Jackie and empowered them to share Messiah’s love with whoever would listen.
Their experience – I don’t know whether to call it a trial, an adventure, a marathon of pain, a trail of miracles…or all of the above – has provoked me to examine my own heart. What would I do? Could I possibly soak myself in God’s Word and His love to the extent that they have? I can’t help contemplating these questions, as I read their amazing account (Lifted Up by Eddie Santoro, available at Amazon).
After the first surgery (back in 2015!), my friend’s brain was “washed with radiation” five days a week for six weeks. Eddie writes “More and more we understood that apart from us abiding in Him, it would be impossible to walk through this difficult period in true peace and victory.”
Unbelievably, the very next year cancer was discovered in Eddie’s throat. It was unrelated to the brain tumor, but required rapid eradication lest it spread. Again, he had to endure round after punishing round of radiation and chemo, leaving his body with brutal sores and searing pain. This courageous couple asked, “How would we find the strength to battle again?” In a chapter entitled “Increasing Suffering Overcome by Increasing Grace,” our friends took what seems to me a super human stand. Refusing defeat, they took hold of the promises and the goodness of God in the very face of death.
Through countless hospital visits, Jackie and Eddie began sharing their faith in Yeshua with other patients – including Orthodox Jews and Muslims. In encounter after encounter the love of Messiah, forged in their own crucible, poured out as they shared their story and prayed for the sick. Doctors, nurses and patients were profoundly impacted.
And that’s exactly what happened to us on the spring day when we sat with the Santoros. Now, months after a second brain surgery the road has become even steeper. Though the doctors have sent him home saying “We’re sorry, there’s nothing more we can do for you,” Eddie continues to give unqualified praise to God. “I’m not able to function at full capacity every day,” he admitted, “But I have no reason to doubt in the grace of my Father. He’s brought me this far. I know that, come what may, He is with me. He’s my Shepherd. He’s my Fortress. He’s my Deliverer. I have no more fear. Eternity is a real and ruling reality in my life.”
Bible heroes will always give me great inspiration, but seeing and touching modern heroes builds my faith and forces me to face my own fears and hesitations. Thanks, Eddie and Jackie. You guys are true heroes of the faith. It is a humbling honor to know you and to walk with you in this land.