Mike Bell felt uneasy 22 years ago when Northwoods elders first laid their 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.”
Prayer for Mike was initiated because a doctor had recently found a lump on his prostate and suspected cancer. But at Mike’s follow up appointment, his biopsy showed no cancer, and the lump on his prostate was gone. When Mike asked his doctor how that could be, he shrugged and told him to go celebrate.
Fast forward eight years, and the pastor found himself with an occasional irregular heartbeat, leaving him exhausted for days at a time. 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.
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, 2018. He developed a stomachache 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 doctor to remove his infected organ.
Just minutes from the operating table, Mike spiked a high fever. His appendix 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 stomach cavity. What was scheduled to be a normal surgery had become an emergency appendectomy. The following day, the doctor told Mike they were minutes away from losing him.
But it wasn’t Mike’s time to go. Instead, he was sent to a hospital room to recover.
There he was ordered to fast in anticipation for the draining of his 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 began hallucinating. At times, he didn’t know 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 said he prayed back telling God that he did trust Him. At that moment Mike felt a tremendous sense of peace surround his body, and he fell fast asleep.
On the eighth day after his 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.
But in the comfort of his own home, he became weaker by the day. So exhausted at times that he couldn’t keep his eyes open in the middle of a conversation. He stopped eating. He struggled keeping small amounts of water down. He told his wife Sheri he felt his body was shutting down.
Sheri and the rest of the family were angry. After all, the infected appendix was removed and he had been sent home to get better. Family members badgered Mike, asking why he 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 one of Mike’s intestines. Food and liquid could not pass by it. Untreated, 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 earlier in the hospital came over his body, and he fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning Mike’s family carried his spent body into the car and headed for an 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 results came back. His kidneys were operating at 10% (or lower) efficiency. The kidney specialist showed up and told Mike he would be getting emergency dialysis in the morning. It was unknown how much damage his kidneys had suffered.
Mike was sent to a room upstairs, well aware of his grave situation.
In the meantime, Sheri rushed home to grab a few overnight items. She glanced at a pair of empty boots and started to cry. Little did she know, back at the hospital, Mike’s spirits had begun to rise. Before making it back to the hospital, she 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.”
Mikes optimism contradicted the medical facts that he was in big trouble. In preparation for the upcoming dialysis, a nurse came into his room at 4 a.m. for a blood draw. Surprisingly, she returned 30-minutes later to repeat the procedure.
Ninety minutes after the second blood draw, a doctor Mike had never seen before burst into his room. “UNBELIEVABLE!” the doctor shouted in an accent Mike will never forget. “Your kidneys are 100 percent!”
Mike found out later that the new doctor attended Northwoods. He had been praying for Mike all night long.
Throughout the morning, medical people strolled in and out of Mike’s room—each saying how miraculous his turnaround was. But 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.
Several days after Mike received his good news, he was sent home. Day-by-day, his body regained strength. At his follow up appointment, a scan showed the clot of toxins was gone. His kidneys were still 100 percent.
And today, a healthy Pastor Mike welcomes anyone who would like to lay their hands on him and pray.