Mike Bell had never experienced the sort of prayer he encountered 22 years ago when the Northwoods elders laid hands on him.
“That type of praying was foreign here,” said Mike, who now serves the church as senior executive pastor. “Nobody had ever prayed like that for me.”
The elders were praying for Mike because a doctor had recently found a lump on Mike’s prostate and suspected cancer. At Mike’s follow up appointment, his biopsy showed no cancer and the lump on his prostate was gone. When Mike asked how that could be, the doctor shrugged and told him to go celebrate.
Fast forward eight years, and Mike found himself with an occasional, irregular heartbeat that left him exhausted anytime it flared up. What Mike called “an annoying condition,” occurred almost monthly for two years.
“I know a lot of people have more serious problems,” said Mike, who was 50 years old at the time. “But our prayer ministry was coming along then, so I asked the elders if they could pray for healing again.’’ For the second time in his life, Mike received healing prayer. And from that day on, his heart never missed a beat.
With two healings behind him and a prayer ministry on the move, Mike enjoyed the next decade of good health as one of Northwoods’ leaders. Northwoods Senior Pastor Cal Rychener remembers those transforming times. “Way back when I first sat down with the planting team, I wanted this to be a place where it’s normal for people to pray for healing,” he said. “We are going to believe God, that more happens in a faith environment than without a faith environment.”
A third test of Mike’s faith came on Mother’s Day in 2018. He developed a stomac hache that worsened throughout the day. At night, his pain became nearly unbearable, and Mike suspected appendicitis. The next morning his suspicion was confirmed, and he painfully waited eight hours in the emergency room for the surgeon to remove the infected organ.
Just minutes away from the operating table, Mike spiked a high fever; his appendix had ruptured. There was no time to waste. The surgeon removed Mike’s appendix, but not before it spilled a blood clot of toxins into Mike’s abdominal cavity. What was scheduled to be a routine surgery had become an emergency appendectomy.
Mike was sent to a hospital room to recover. There he fasted in anticipation of draining the large clot. But that procedure kept getting cancelled and rescheduled throughout the week. The continued fasting caused Mike to become weaker and more dehydrated as he went days with no food or water. He even began hallucinating. At times, he wasn’t sure where he was.
In the middle of one night, while his wife was asleep, Mike prayed.
“I just said, ‘Lord we have been praying for me to get better and from here it doesn’t feel like that is happening. Is this my time to go?’”
Mike said he heard God whisper to him, “I just need you to trust me.” Mike told God he did trust Him. At that moment Mike felt a tremendous sense of peace surrounding his body. And he fell fast asleep.
Eight days after surgery, Mike was told the clot was still too large to be drained. He would have to wait until it reduced in size on its own. He was given a follow up appointment and sent home to heal.
Though he was home, Mike was continuing to become weaker each day. At times Mike was so exhausted, he couldn’t keep his eyes open during a conversation. He stopped eating and struggled to keep even small amounts of water down. He told his wife, Sheri, he felt like his body was shutting down. Sheri and the rest of the family were concerned. After all, the infected appendix was removed, and he had been sent home to get better. Family members badgered Mike, asking why he was giving up.
“I kept telling him he has to try harder,” said a teary-eyed Sheri. “We had no clue what was happening inside his body.”
Unbeknownst to anyone, a blockage had formed inside of Mike’s intestines. Food and liquid could not pass by, and it was causing the life-threatening conditions Mike was experiencing.
“I kept telling everyone I wasn’t giving up.” said Mike.
But when he stood in front of the bathroom mirror, a ghost stared back.
That night, Mike prayed to God again. He said he was in trouble and needed Him. God answered.
“He clearly said to me, ‘Wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’”
And once again, that same peace Mike had felt in the hospital came over his body, and he fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning Mike’s family carried him, utterly exhausted, from the car to the impromptu appointment. His doctor took one look at him, told him he looked like hell and admitted him to the hospital. Mike was put in a holding room where nurses and a crisis team took nearly two hours to find a vein good enough to draw blood from his dehydrated body. At one point, Mike was given a catheter. In amazement, nurses watched with mouths wide open as a liquid resembling motor oil poured out of his body filling up bag after bag.
Things quickly went from bad to worse. Mike’s blood work came back. His kidneys were operating at no more than 10% efficiency. The kidney specialist showed up and told Mike he would be receiving emergency dialysis in the morning. It was not yet known how much permanent damage his kidneys may have suffered.
Well aware of his grave situation, Mike was sent to a room upstairs.
In the meantime, Sheri rushed home to grab a few overnight items. She glanced at a pair of empty boots and started to cry, wondering if her husband would be returning with her. Little did she know, back at the hospital, Mike’s spirits had begun to rise. Before making it back to the hospital, Sheri received a memorable text from their daughter. “Dad is sitting up and smiling. He says he is going to be okay. His bag is clear.”
Mike’s optimism contradicted the medical facts that he was in big trouble. A nurse came into Mike’s room at 4 a.m. for a blood draw, in preparation for the upcoming dialysis. Surprisingly, she returned 30 minutes later to repeat the procedure. Ninety minutes after the second blood draw, the admitting physician into Mike’s room. “UNBELIEVABLE!” the doctor shouted in an accent Mike will never forget. “Your kidneys are 100 percent!” The doctor later shared with Mike that he had been praying for him all night.
Throughout the morning, medical professionals strolled in and out of Mike’s room – each saying how miraculous his turnaround was. As the people disappeared and the morning quieted, Mike remembered what God had told him that last night at home. “Tomorrow is going to be a good day”.
“I know exactly when He healed me,” said Mike. “If you had seen me when that motor oil was coming out of me and then one hour later, you would think I was a completely different person. It was during that hour that God healed me.”
Several days after Mike received his good news, he was sent home. He continued to regain his strength on a daily basis. At his follow-up appointment, a scan showed the clot of toxins was gone. Mike’s kidneys remained at 100 percent. And today, a healthy Pastor Mike welcomes anyone who would like to lay hands on him in prayer.