Pastor Jeff Amsbaugh
I was born into the home of a steelworker in North Central Ohio. My dad was a man’s man and hard working. He instilled in me at the earliest age possible the necessity of a work ethic. So at the age of twelve, I started a paper route in our neighborhood and grew the route from 35 customers to over a hundred. By fifteen, however, something was noticeably wrong with my legs. The route was becoming more difficult, and it got to the place where I could not take more than fifteen steps without falling down.
At first my parents assumed that this was nothing more than the awkwardness of adolescence, but within months I could not feel anything in the bottom of feet. Mom scheduled a meeting with the podiatrist, but he quickly discovered that I had neurological dysfunction that was beyond podiatry medicine. I was referred to a neurologist in our home town who admitted me to the hospital for a battery of tests.
Within a week, it was confirmed that I possessed Friedreich’s Ataxia, a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder. The prognosis was not good. The doctor estimated that by the time was 18, I would be confined to a wheelchair, that by 35 I would be completely bedridden, and that I would not live to see my 51st birthday. There was not, and still is not, a cure for FA.
We immediately began to attend genetic counseling to find out why it happened. We visited victims of the disease to determine social modifications. We started orthopedic therapy to strengthen the remaining muscles. And we started taking B-complex vitamins in hope that it would retard the progression.
And we prayed. Early in my life I felt a burning desire to preach the Word, and my parents believed that God would not have called me to preach if this was the confirmed outcome. Thus, mom suggested we call every Bible-believing preacher in my hometown to come to our house and pray for my healing. Of the fifteen pastors or so that were invited that night, three came. They anointed me with oil and in faith prayed for my physical healing.
The following summer I went into the hospital for major reconstructive foot surgery. My ankle joints were fused to prevent slippage, and my feet received tendon transplants to make my feet straight. I was casted for the entire summer and confined to a wheelchair.
The day before I started my junior year of high school, the casts came off. I started school in a wheelchair, progressed to a walker, then crutches, and finally was able to walk on my own. My dad was my strengthening coach. Progressively, I became stronger and stronger. I finished high school on time and headed off to Bible college, still too weak to participate in physical education. But other than that, everything appeared normal.
At my neurological appointment between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I was told that no further appointments would be necessary. The doctor said that his purpose was to tell me when I would need a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair, then a hospital bed. But he said, “You are not going to need any of these things. With FA, you are only supposed to learn how to function with the nerve endings that you lose. However, you have nerve endings now that you have never had before. And I don’t completely understand it.”
Well, of course, we understand that this is nothing short of the miraculous, healing hand of God. As far as we know, there is only one documented case of cured Friedreich’s Ataxia in America, and I am it! I praise the Lord for parents who had hope in God and belief in the power of prayer.