In the community where I live, there’s a baby who was born with a typically fatal heart defect. Baby Joanna is the youngest child born of four children to a local pastor and his wife. The story of this precious child caught my attention not just because she’s local but because she’s also named Joanna. It seemed like an appropriate calling for me to pray for baby Joanna’s heart.
Throughout the 18 months since her birth, there have been innumerable ups and downs for this family of six, including several near-death experiences for their sweet baby girl. The parents, especially Joanna’s mom, have spent more time living in hospital rooms next to their daughter than resting at home. There has been no time off. It has been beyond grueling to witness, even from a distance, the trial this family has gone through — and yet throughout it all, they’ve consistently and publicly praised the goodness of their God.
The dreaded crossroads this family had been anticipating, however, arrived sooner than expected. It was the moment in which only one option remained: Joanna needed a new heart. And so the parents embarked on a journey with so many emotional layers they could only be supported and held up by the grace of God. About three months ago, they requested that the local church come alongside them for what seemed like an unfathomable prayer — that a donor heart would become available for Joanna.
A Rising Church
Recently, as Joanna’s health grew more fragile, a sign-up was created for a prayer vigil to be held 24 hours a day, every hour of every day for a week to cover her in prayer. Over 600 people signed up, and more than 8,000 people participated in praying without ceasing for Joanna.
As the vigil ended at midnight — the darkest hour — God’s mercy shone new in the morning. Joanna’s medical team received a call that a donor who was a perfect match became available. As Joanna’s mom put it, “Two children were wheeled into two different operating rooms for two very different purposes.”
I believe our entire community watched with bated breath as the parents posted updates throughout the surgery, such as “Joanna’s heart is out and her new one is being stitched in.” As a parent, I can’t imagine writing words like these about my own child.
New Mercy, Abundant Life
There’s so much more to this story that I can’t expand upon in this short post. But last week, by the grace of God alone, baby Joanna got her new heart. As a dear friend said, it’s truly a picture of the gospel — the death of one to bring abundant new life to another.
My God is the God who created the night sky, the sunrise, the sea, the abundance of Heaven, and the overflowing love that poured out from one small heart to touch thousands of lives. As Joanna’s mother pointed out, there indeed was “a priceless cost for this priceless gift.”
Dedicated to the priceless memory of the donor of Joanna’s McClure’s new heart.
Joanna Sanders is a graduate of Villanova University and Moody Theological Seminary. She’s the author of Fire Women: Sexual Purity & Submission for the Passionate Woman and the co-author and editor of DiscipleTrip by Dr. Joey Cook. She’s also the founder and head writer of Colossians46.com, which provides biblical content support, writing, and editing. Most importantly, she is wife to Geoff and mom to three godly men-in-training. Her blog name “The Landing” comes from the account of the Ark resting on the mountain, creating a settled place — a landing — for man to start over, which echoes her new life in Christ.