Chronic Joy’s Ambassador Initiative reflects a partnership of hope, purpose and worth. In August 2016, those three words took on a new meaning for Gene Ehlinger. Gene is no stranger to chronic illness. He’s lived with Crohn’s disease since age 19. However, on August 29, 2016, an ambulance arrived at his front door for a suspected heart attack. When Gene’s heart stopped two minutes later, his life changed forever.
In nine hours, Gene was resuscitated nine times. His outlook for survival was not good, but HOPE was never lost. He was diagnosed with a massive blood clot in his lungs. Because his heart stopped so many times, it was not certain he would regain mental capacity, wean off the ventilator, or recover any of his kidney function.
Miraculously, after a month in the hospital, Gene was able to go home. However, he did need to return to the hospital three times a week for kidney dialysis. Even though it had been a couple of months since his incident, Gene continued to be hopeful that his kidney function would improve. And it did! After much prayer, Gene’s kidneys recovered enough to discontinue dialysis.
As time went on, they learned Gene’s illness had caused a permanent change in his physical strength and short term memory. He was not able to return to work as physical therapy assistance, changing his sense of self worth and life’s purpose.
Fortunately, Gene has found meaning through wood working. In the shaping and creating of new projects, Gene regained a renewed sense of self worth and purpose that not only bring meaning back to his life, but also joy to others.
In fact, it is for this reason that I am proud to announce Gene Ehlinger as a Chronic Joy Ministry Ambassador for 2017. Through his gift of woodworking, he created and donated a donation and prayer box. This handcrafted box represents a partnership between Chronic Joy Ministry and those affected by chronic physical and mental illness, a partnership of generosity, joy and hope, a chance to redefine one’s worth and purpose in chronic illness.
As Gene continues to find meaning in chronic illness, he is reminded often to never stop believing in hope as miracles happen every day.
You can find more of Gene’s story at: CrossingRivers.org
HEIDI PETERSON is a loving wife and mother to one friendly dog and three amazing, fun-loving children – a daughter born with a congenital heart defect (PA-IVS) and one son with food allergies and a sensory processing disorder – who always remind her to live in the moment. Since childhood, Heidi has witnessed the progression of a genetic, neuromuscular disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth on her siblings and father. She loves dark chocolate and all things nature and family, and is a registered nurse, clinic manager and wellness coach at Solstice Health, and a Chronic Joy Ministry board member.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.