Learning from Harvy

Harvy has had cancer for the past 5 years. It has been a hard battle that has taken its toll on both him and his mother, Sylvia. They found out he had the disease when he was 14, so almost all of his teenage years have been filled with IVs, chemo, radiation, and hospitals.

But through it all his faith, and his mother’s faith, has persevered. They are, put simply, an inspiration to me and many others.

Currently the doctors no longer believe the cancer is treatable and have discontinued treatment. It is a hard reality of cancer that none of us feel ready for. How do you lose someone you love deeply, especially when they are only 19 and we feel like they should have so much more life ahead of them?

To make matters worse, the doctors have been horribly cruel. A few weeks ago they kicked Harvy out of his hospital room and sent him home. Their exact explanation was, “You are going to die and we need this room for someone where we won’t be wasting our time or money.”

The doctor told Harvy and his mother this to their face. Multiple times. Then kicked them out of the hospital and sent them home without meds, pain killer, or anything else to help. They didn’t even offer to call them a taxi.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to have 5 minutes alone with that doctor…

Before that happened I went to see Harvy in the hospital. Here is what I experienced:

Stepping into Nothing

I stepped into his hospital room and was overwhelmed by the emptiness of it. There was nothing on the wall, nothing to brighten the room, just that horrible paint that so many hospitals seem to use.

In the room there was only a bed and a single plastic chair. Other than that, it was empty. The bed was a twin with only a mattress covering. Next to the bed was an IV stand with a morphine drip sending strong pain killers coursing through Harvy’s veins.

Harvy was lying on the bed, with no sheet, no blanket, nothing to keep him warm, unable to move more than an inch without hurting more. He was skinny, too skinny, his face was pale, and I could see the discomfort in his eyes and across his forehead.

Walter, Kasey, and Kinsey were with me (Kasey and Kinsey are two volunteers who were helping us with our nutrition program) and I could tell he was putting on a brave face for them and for me. But there is only so much the eyes can hide, and I could clearly see the physical pain, fear, and emotional turmoil when I looked him directly in the eyes. His eyes seemed to plead for release from the pain, from the uncertainty of cancer, and for us to help him to find a day of rest for his weary body.

But we could do nothing.

I could do nothing.

Sometimes Feelings Aren’t Much Fun

I don’t know how to describe the feeling of not being able to do anything to help someone you love. For those of you that have had loved ones in the hospital that were broken, hurting, and looking up at you from the bed you know what that feels like. It is a mixture of helplessness, anger, fear, helplessness, uncertainty, love, and more helplessness.

And in that moment the devil pounces. He bombards you with questions about the goodness of God, about His plan for our lives, about whether or not He is REALLY trustworthy. He tells you that if God really was a God of love then why does this boy have to suffer so much? Why can’t he be healed?

I wish I could say I had unwavering faith, that I never had moments where I doubted or moments where I forgot how true the Lord is to ALL of His promises. But I can’t. I have doubted, I have forgotten, and sadly, I will continue to do both throughout my life.

I am a broken man ever in need of a bigger faith than I currently possess. But He knows that and He has always known that. And He still fights for me. And He will continue to.

He is a patient God who doesn’t abandon us whenever we doubt or fear. Instead He wants us to cry out to Him in the midst of it. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

And so we cried out.

Praying for Healing

We gathered around Harvy. We placed our hands on him, on Sylvia (his mother), and we prayed. First Walter, then the Aggies, and then me.

When my turn came my soul was filled with anguish and I fought to keep myself from crying. My emotions were too strong to pray in Spanish, so I prayed in English.

As I started praying I placed my hand on his head. I could feel the heat from his fever and the sweat caught in his hair. It filled me with a longing for a future free of pain and hurt for this young boy.

In the end, it was one of the hardest prayers I have ever prayed. In fact, right now, writing this entry I am having a hard time not becoming emotional just thinking about it.

But through it all Harvy was unmoved. And he told me he was certain of one thing. He said, “God loves me and He has a plan for my life.”

And that is when I realized what was happening. I was so caught up in whether or not Harvy was going to live I was missing out on what God was doing here and now.

But not Harvy. He saw it.

Learning from Harvy

Harvy saw and knew that in the moments when the world is the darkest, when nothing makes sense, when we can’t understand the purpose in what is happening to those we love or to us, that in those moments the Lord is the same. He does not change.

He is as perfect, faithful, and trustworthy when our moments hurt as when they fill us with joy.

He is the definition of goodness both when we bleed and when we smile.

Through it all, His love endures. And our calling is to point that out to the world. To scream out those truths, not always with our voices, but even more so with our lives – especially when we are suffering so that His name might be praised.

Harvy has taught me that. Sylvia has taught me that. And today, maybe some of you will walk away as I did: with a deeper appreciation for how profound faith can be and how much one’s faith can impact the world, thanks to Harvy.

If that is the case, then I ask you to share it with others. Tell them of Harvy’s courage. Of his boldness, his strength, and of the great purpose in his life.

Tell them that in his darkest hours, when even those around him doubted, and even now as his condition worsens every day, that he stood strong and pointed others to the cross and to the God that loves him. That even in his suffering, Harvy has deep and meaningful purpose.

Let Harvy’s voice ring out and ring true that God knows what He is doing. And help us help him live on through the faith he inspires in others, even after the day the Lord calls him home.

And then, on that day, let us celebrate with Harvy as he steps into eternity. For “they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4


  1. RRobert & Ddorothy Middleton says:

    Our prayers and care for him continue! Help, also, if that is possible.

  2. Karen Sanderson says:

    A request asked in faith, truly believing, without a doubt, will be granted. Never doubt. Remember God IS great and God IS good! And don’t forget to thank Him for hearing YOUR prayers! Love you, Chris. Always be thankful even in the worst of times. It really is a choice. You are a blessing to all who you meet and to those of us who get to read your inspiring words!

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