Sick Son’s Suffering Adds Power to Church Planter’s Ministry

A church planter in Houston has seen God implement what he calls a “ministry of suffering” in his local church after his 4-year-old son was born with a heart defect that has required three open heart surgeries. Photo courtesy of the TEXAN

A church planter in Houston has seen God implement what he calls a “ministry of suffering” in his local church after his 4-year-old son was born with a heart defect that has required three open heart surgeries.

Cameron Whitley and his wife Hannah had two sons and were expecting a third when they learned from a routine sonogram that the baby was missing a right ventricle, or essentially had half a heart.

Whitley had grown up at Fielder Church in Arlington and was on staff in the youth department there while in college at Dallas Baptist University. He served six years on staff at The Woodlands Church near Houston before moving to the Atlanta area in 2014 to serve as a campus pastor at Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, Ga.

The Whitleys had been in Georgia about a year and a half when they learned their third son, Judson, would face such a difficult journey, and, as Cameron recounted to the TEXAN, “We thought our world was unraveling.”

“Unfortunately, there is a bad theology we can have as believers where we think, ‘If I walk in obedience, if I walk in faith, then everything is going to be great for me.’ Sometimes we believe that lie,” Whitley said.

“For us, it was really disheartening,” he said. “It challenged our faith. It challenged our calling. It challenged our ability to remain hopeful in the midst of what seemed like tragedy.

“We didn’t know what day one would look like for Judson, much less what his life would look like. We were battling through the pregnancy with a lot of anxiety and fear.”

Judson was born in the spring of 2015, and when he was three days old he had his first open heart surgery, and in the aftermath he developed a wound infection that required more surgery. He was hospitalized for the first seven weeks of his life, and God used that time to work in his parents’ spiritual lives.

“Hannah and I would leave every morning around 5:30 or 6, we’d go to the hospital and stay until about 4 p.m…. My wife and I spent an hour on the drive there together, we spent all day at his bedside, talking and praying and reading while we were there with him, and then we would drive an hour and a half or more back home,” Whitley said.

“What that really did for us, that’s probably the most concentrated time that we had spent together in our entire relationship.”

All the while, God was preparing them for a new church planting assignment.

In the weeks that followed, Whitley was led to travel to Texas, where he sensed God calling him to plant a new church in a growing area of northeast Houston. Despite the upheaval in their family that accompanied bringing home a new baby with extra needs, the Whitleys followed God’s leading and moved to Houston to plant a church.

By then, Judson had endured a second open heart surgery at five months old and again had acquired an infection that meant weeks of hospitalization in Atlanta, but he was improving. The Whitleys hosted three vision nights for the new plant and — through inviting friends and spreading the word on social media — developed a core group that grew from 28 people in March 2016 to 65 people in August.

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Source: Baptist Press