Have Hospital, Will Witness
For more than twenty years, the Rev. Mr. Charles L. Wilson has been suffering with a variety of medical problems. Born in 1943, he was retired under the medically-disabled provision of the Book of Church Order in 1986.
But over the period of his medical difficulties, Mr. Wilson has found abundant opportunity to witness of the grace of God. As a matter of fact, he claims that "I have been able to have a more effective
evangelistic ministry in the hospital than in the pulpit."
In dealing with his heart problem, Pastor Wilson has been a patient in at least eight hospitals in seven states since 1976. In Charlotte, Birmingham, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Miami, Kansas City, and Boston, he has undergone two bypass surgeries, five balloon angioplasties, one laser angioplasty, and now the revolutionary VEGF treatment. In every instance, he has been afforded unusual opportunities to testify of the Christian faith. "I go for medical treatment, and the Lord opens doors for me to witness," he says.
He figures that, prior to his recent trip to Massachusetts, he has been able to talk and reason regarding the gospel with people from at least 27 states and seven foreign nations (three of them via translator). His efforts have reached people of different faiths. "I've literally had Jews come up to me when I was in Milwaukee for surgery, and ask, Tell me what it means to be saved."
That 1981 trip to Wisconsin also resulted in his being able to witness to a military officer from behind the Iron Curtain. He was one of seven high officers sent by their communist government to that hospital for surgery. He was the only one of the seven who could speak English. But after Charles spoke to him of the things of the Lord, he asked the preacher if he would go to each of the men and pray with them every day that they were in the hospital. The bi-lingual officer also translated when Charles spoke to his East German colleagues of the good news in Christ.
The fact that Charles Wilson can be so lighthearted and upbeat and jocular after having just had surgery or with the prospect of facing surgery has been one factor in opening people's hearts. His attitude has communicated to others that he has a peace of heart and a peace of mind to enable him to go through the ordeal-and others want to know of the hope that lies within him.
The doctors he has had have granted him open access to speak with patients, with whom he can empathize as they undergo their own medical treatment. But he has also had numerous open doors to speak with nurses and doctors about his faith. In at least one instance, he was able to give marital and spiritual counseling to a doctor who was facing a divorce.
Charles is especially grateful for the recent medical treatment he received in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The doctors, he said, came in more than just to take blood pressure: "They all had the time to talk and to share experiences." The preacher was able also to share. He told one physician: "I appreciate your skills, but I appreciate more the God Who gave you your skills. And unless He blesses your work, all the surgery you do and all the needles you stick me with won't do a bit of good." According to Pastor Wilson, the surgeon agreed.
Charles was selected to be the thirtieth person to receive this new investigational gene therapy treatment. The purpose of the procedure is to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. In essence, the heart grows its own bypasses for the free passage of blood. At present, a laboratory-produced DNA material called VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) is injected directly into the patient's heart. Some medical experts believe that in the future even that surgery can be avoided as the technique is
perfected. As a part of the investigational study for the FDA documentation, Charles has to return to Boston for follow up testing and office visits seven more times in the coming year.
Thanks to support from the denominational Insurance, Annuities and Relief (IAR), Charles has been able to travel to different states for his treatment, and to have his wife, Ruth Ann, to accompany him. He says that he will always be indebted to IAR for its consistent support.
He is hopeful that this new treatment he has just undergone will greatly restore his health, and eliminate the necessity of much more travel for his medical needs. However, he jokingly notes that his wife "has put in a request that the next time I need medical attention that I find a doctor in Hawaii."
"God's been very gracious, not only in providing for our medical needs, but also in allowing us to witness," says Charles Wilson. He has, in the words of his wife, become a "medical missionary," ministering to others even while facing tremendous medical struggles of his own.
Those wishing to help the Wilsons with their current medical expenses may contribute to the Charles Wilson Fund, c/o Coulwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), 8015 Belhaven Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28216-1155, Phone: (704) 393-8878.
Born in Burlington, North Carolina, Charles L. Wilson grew up in the Tar Heel State. He attended North Carolina State University and graduated from Belhaven College. He also graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
Charles pastored churches in Linden and Aliceville, Alabama; and in 1973, became the first stated clerk of Warrior Presbytery, the second presbytery (and the first geographical presbytery) in the Continuing Presbyterian Church movement. He subsequently was organizing pastor in Matthews, North Carolina; and ministered at a church in Van Wyck, South Carolina, before being forced to retire due to medical disability in 1986. In 1993, he was instrumental in bringing together a new Concerned Presbyterians organization, dedicated to reform in the church and "calling the PCA to be what she said she would be."