Praying Through Life’s Struggles: LifeGroups – A Picture of Christian Community

By October 2, 2016Featured Ministry

In 2005, Roger Sparwasser was told that he was suffering from focal glomerular sclerosis. His doctor informed him that his two kidneys were presently operating at 45% function and that he could expect their function to continue to deteriorate at around 5% each year. This would most likely lead to kidney failure. Kidney failure would then lead to either a transplant or dialysis for the remainder of his life.

Though his kidney function was slower to decline than expected, eventually Roger’s kidney function had declined to 20% and his doctor recommended him for the transplant program. When he applied for a kidney transplant, however, he was turned down by the Medical University.

Very disappointed but undeterred, Roger turned to the internet for answers and Googled, “Best kidney transplant hospital.” At the top of the list was the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He began the application process by emailing the transplant program one morning at 10:30 and received a reply less than two hours later. By two o’clock, he was on the phone speaking to one of the transplant nurses. He followed up by sending his medical records and shortly after made a trip to Rochester for a week of testing. The following week he was accepted as a transplant recipient.

Roger and his wife, Martha, began to share much of this with their LifeGroup as his disease progressed, but it had not really gone much further. The group was faithful in praying for Roger’s restored health. They are part of a group of four LifeGroups, mostly consisting of empty nesters. It was only in their smaller group that they shared the progress of Roger’s prognosis, rejection by MUSC’s program, and the acceptance by the Mayo Clinic into their transplant program.

This was in the spring of 2015 and at their next LifeGroup meeting, the Sparwasser’s shared the news that Roger had been accepted by the Mayo Clinic’s transplant team. That evening the group surrounded Roger and Martha and began to pray. At one point, one of the members of the group, Frannie Bryan, simply and humbly prayed that Roger would be healed and that he would be provided with the perfect donor.

The best chance of finding a suitable donor is through family. Siblings have the greatest chance of being a match, but Roger is an only child as is Martha. The Sparwassers’ sons were considered next, but neither was a suitable match. In these circumstances, friends often want to help. This is a very personal and private decision so the Mayo Clinic arranges for those who want to be considered as a donor to call them to take the first steps. The Sparwassers shared the clinic’s number with their LifeGroup, and Frannie Bryan called the hospital.

One morning in June, 2015, while taking a break from work, Roger received a phone call. “Roger, this is Frannie. I’m a match! I’m a match!” At first he didn’t really grasp what Frannie was telling him. He didn’t know she was in the process of being tested to see if she was a suitable donor and the news was astounding to him. By this point in the process, Frannie had sent her medical records and a blood test to Rochester. Now she would head to Minnesota for a week for additional testing to ensure that she was a suitable donor.

All during this process, the LifeGroup, and then later the other groups in their cluster, prayed for Roger and Martha. Their prayers now included Frannie and her husband, John. At times there were as many as 40 people that surrounded them and layed hands on Roger and Frannie as they prepared to travel to the Mayo Clinic for the transplant.

“I knew – I knew I knew it was God’s plan. I knew it from the night that we all gathered around Roger and prayed for a donor,” Frannie recalled. “I completely felt taken care of. I completely felt like it would be successful.” She was so confident of the Lord’s hand in the process that she felt like all she needed to do was to be obedient to His call to her in the process.

A couple days prior and immediately following the transplant, Roger and Frannie received cards, goodies, emails, texts, and phone calls from a host of folks. There were close and distant friends, some people that they didn’t even know, from a half dozen states all praying for them. “We finally began to realize that we probably had several hundred people praying for us,” Roger said. For both of them, feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in this manner was both awesome and very humbling.

The prayers of their LifeGroup and later of many others undergirded the entire journey, first for Roger and Martha, and later for Frannie and John. Roger said it was like being soaked in prayer. They all agree that the continual presence of the Lord in their midst was palpable and powerful. They knew He was at work. They knew He was in control of it all. This was the Lord’s work and not theirs. They will always give thanks to the Lord for what He has done.


LifeGroups at St. Andrew’s

LifeGroups are the heartbeat of ministry at St. Andrew’s. They are the place where we support each other, the place in which we recognize and develop our spiritual gifts, and the place from which we are sent out to serve the world. They are groups of six or more people, centered around Jesus, meeting weekly or bi-weekly in discussion, prayer, study, and service. Looking for more meaningful relationships? Personal growth? A way to reach out to your community? LifeGroups are for you. To learn more, contact Drew Miller (DMiller@StAndrews.Church or 843.284.4320).