It was a Saturday morning when I met Andrew and Jo at a coffee shop. There had been a buzz around them the previous week. A few people had mentioned to me that I should interview them and share the story that they are currently going through. So we sat down at a table with our teas in hand. They were a bit nervous, but willing to share. I placed the recorder on the table and they both let out a nervous laugh, but I assured them not to be intimidated by this device that was on the table whose only purpose was to help me with remembering the details they would share. I think I calmed them.
Andrew and Jo are not flashy people, nor do they crave the spotlight. They aren’t show offs, and by show offs I mean they don’t share on a public stage what is going on in their lives. They are the high school sweethearts that married right out of high school, enjoy married life and are like most married couples in their 20’s. They dreamed of a family one day, 2 children or 4 children, the debate is still ongoing! They have their faith, their careers, their community and their puppy. Jo has this calm, steadfastness about her and also holds a refreshing perspective on life that often makes me laugh with what she says. Andrew comes across quiet, but when he speaks there is heart and honesty attached.
The buzz around their life had also captivated my attention the week before. I was astonished to witness what I saw and I was overwhelmed with such appreciation for the community that stood around them. To be completely honest, I was proud of the humanity in people. We often don’t hear about the beautiful humanity that is out there. So why not share?
Sipping our teas, I asked them to just start talking and along the way I would ask them questions. I wanted them to speak freely and I would refrain from many interruptions.
“About 3 years into our marriage we thought it would be time to start a family. After a year I knew something was not right.” Jo decided to see a Dr. The Dr couldn’t see anything that was wrong but knew there was something that was keeping them from conceiving. Andrew and Jo were referred to a Fertility Clinic. After much testing Jo would have to go in for surgery. A Laparoscopy was performed and it was revealed that Jo had Stage 4 Endometriosis; her doctor said it was the most severe he had seen. He spent 4 hours removing all of it. This led to painful months of recovery for Jo, the pain she endured led her to take medication every day. Their Dr informed them to continue trying to conceive, however, if they did not conceive in the next 6 months it would most likely not happen naturally and they would have to look into other forms of help. They did not conceive naturally.
They knew that if they wanted to have children they would need to consider IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). It took them a long time to decide whether they would go this route, almost a year. They considered their Faith. They had been praying this whole time for a miracle; they believed that God could do a miracle. They would have people come up to them and place their hand on Jo’s stomach saying, “God is going to heal you tonight and you will conceive, so go home and try.” The talk of miracles and their level of faith swirled around them. Their emotions were all over the map. “We would get excited and believe that we were being healed, but when it didn’t happen the disappointment was there. I know God was in those moments, however I also know humans were and they want the best for you”, she said with this emotion that seemed to feel as though she was dancing one of the most difficult dances and didn’t want to disappoint the spectators. Her level of faith was questioned as if it was holding back the miracle in her life. Hearing them talk about this led me to conclude that we need to be ever so careful with the words that we speak to people or the assumptions we conjure up in our minds as to what people are going through. We never know the heartache, the long hours of prayer, the questions one holds about themselves that lead them to think they are failing God or those around them with their level of faith. This valley is a fragile valley. We can all speak the most wonderful, faith filled words from the mountaintop view, but those that are in the valley are often the most fragile, self aware, self critical individuals. So please let’s choose our words with kindness, love and understanding.
Many thoughts held them back from making the decision to proceed with IVF. “Financial reasons were obvious, but I was still believing for that miracle. I still wanted the miracle.” Andrew said with rational most of us can relate to. Jo looked at me, “I couldn’t commit because I grew up knowing that women have children and I needed to admit to myself that I couldn’t do what most women could do. I had to accept that it was because of the issue inside of me.” As a woman I cannot imagine the depth that heartache would cause, to know that the “knowing” we grew up with as women would not happen. They both had to process their own thoughts and they would need to come to the agreement to proceed with IVF. Andrew said, “I was ok if we didn’t go through with it, I wanted Jo to make the decision. But I didn’t know if I would be ok with it in 20-30 years. Adoption has always been something we considered, but I needed to know we had tried everything.”
On Christmas Eve they told their Doctor they wanted to proceed with IVF. “We are still believing for a miracle because our chances are 60%, that isn’t high. If we do get pregnant, it’s still a miracle!”
They received the phone call a few months later that said they were off the waiting list. They would need to confirm by the next day if they wanted to proceed and they would need to pay the full amount within a week! They had some funds saved from their family members that knew they were considering IVF and also some of their own money, however it did not by any means cover the $12,000 – $16,000 needed.
Jo’s friend had mentioned the previous year about the idea of setting up a “You Caring” account. This idea of crowdfunding was now consuming Jo’s thoughts and she couldn’t shake it. She presented the idea to Andrew whose first reaction was, “No. I was willing to take out a loan even though I don’t like debt. It would be awkward to ask. As a guy, I’m telling all my friends that we can’t afford this and we don’t have any money. It makes you really vulnerable and now everyone knows that you are trying.” Jo looked at Andrew, “Before, we could suffer to ourselves.” With a small laugh from Andrew, “Now you’re airing your dirty laundry out to everyone and it’s very uncomfortable.”
They talked to some friends and their pastor who had thought of the same idea that day. He offered to set up the site for them, and the next day it was ready to go if they decided to go this way. Jo was all for this, “I had this feeling that if we put it out there it would be fine. I just knew it was going to work. I wasn’t being arrogant; I just knew.” I looked over at Andrew, he was staring at the table, “I wanted to ask for $4000 not the full amount. If you ask for the $10,000 you look vulnerable and if people don’t give, you look foolish. I was afraid of no one giving and people would then feel sorry for us.”
Now I will explain the buzz that surrounded this couple a week prior to me meeting with them. They both decided to take the risk. Jo was the first. She shared the “You Caring” account with her friends and family on her social media page. Andrew hadn’t really been on social media for a while, but knew he would need to reconnect if he was to see how this would turn out. He ended up sharing it as well. It was Tuesday morning when they risked letting people know they needed help. They shared their need for $9,500.00. Throughout the day they saw the money start to come in. As they approached night time it was apparent something miraculous was happening. When they went to bed that Tuesday night the amount was already at $8,500.00! The next morning Andrew awoke to the total being over $10,000! Within 24 hours they had more than they asked for. People continued to give throughout the day, even when they saw the amount was met. They tried to take the giving function off the site but it took awhile and as they waited for it to be turned off, kindness and generosity continued to give.
Andrew woke up Jo, “I wasn’t surprised. I wanted to roll over and go back to bed!” Andrew’s reaction was different, “I couldn’t believe people gave that much. I thought because of the economy, people wouldn’t be able to give that much. I understood that money was tight for some.”
Their need was shared 290 times. It was shared by family and friends. What was shocking was that it was shared by people they had never met and it was also shared by people they didn’t do life with anymore.
“I was so shocked that all of it and more came in. I had all these thoughts about how I was going to raise $10,000 in a week for my family and they were gone. I didn’t have to think that way. I had mixed feelings.”
I looked at Jo and what she was about to say was so beautifully spoken, “There are some people that are in my life for different seasons and when they aren’t in my life anymore I take it personally, but this showed us that there is still a community around us even though they aren’t in our day to day life. They are there if we need them.”
Webster’s definition of Community: a group of people who have the same interest.
Andrew and Jo’s community’s interest is them.
Andrew looked at Jo, “We were shocked at some of the people that gave as we were able to see all who gave. Some of the people we hadn’t talked to in a long time and some of them we had to ask who they were. One guy I worked with, who now lives in Mexico, gave. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. Other’s who gave, I thought our bridges had been burned.”
I could see in Andrew and Jo that they now fully realize who surrounds them. There are people who care for them and care for their need. I witnessed the activity around the fundraiser and I have to admit I had tears at times when I saw the generosity of those giving. I was so shocked that the full amount of money came in. It happened in 24 hours. Anything can change in a day.
“It’s real now. I have started the treatment. I am very scared about what it will do to my body and my emotions. Taking hormones is scary. I am already emotional and crying at everything. I have this feeling that I shouldn’t be surprised by what happens. I find it frustrating that God knows what’s going to happen and I don’t.”
As we drew our conversation to a close Andrew put it into perspective, “I feel the money is there for a reason, but I don’t think it is thee reason. Just because we have the money, doesn’t guarantee a pregnancy. I think the money came in so we can 100% trust in God.”
I believe God wanted to use the goodness and love in people to show Andrew and Jo that they are loved. Andrew and Jo wouldn’t have known how many people, whether present in their lives or not, were around them if they never presented their need. He wanted them to see that they are surrounded, they are loved, supported and that they are cared for.
I also think that God wants to show us, the ones watching this unfold in the short time that it did, that we aren’t meant to do it alone, we are not meant to always strive towards our dreams alone. But when we share, we reveal and we ask for help, this is when people respond.
Acts 4:32-37 “Now the multitude of those who believe were of one heart and one soul…they had all things in common…Nor was there anyone among them who lacked…and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
To me that is community. May we be there for each other and may we not judge, but may we have a generous heart and a hand that is quick to give to those who have need.
Their story is still ongoing. A few days ago they started the hormone treatment. Please continue to pray for them in this journey. I think it is risky, yet a beautiful move for them to share this story while they are in the middle of it and not knowing the end. To me that speaks that they have already learned a great lesson; they are loved. Through their vulnerability they saw their value.
I am also proud and honored to have witnessed such generosity and care. It continues to feed my hope for this world.
To wrap it up with Andrew’s words, “If we hadn’t asked, we wouldn’t have seen this. People never want to ask for help. Everyone wants to give, but rarely do people ask.”