When the Hospital Becomes Home:

Sharing Jesus in Hard Places
by Stephanie McKeever


I have always told God I would go wherever he led me to tell others about the saving love of Jesus. That is, until we arrived on the ninth floor.

Finding a lump on our son Evan’s leg began the frighteningly fast-paced diagnosis of bone cancer. It brought us to the ninth floor, home of the pediatric cancer unit at a children’s hospital. I quickly decided I did not want to go where this was leading. I begged God to let me tell people about Jesus anywhere but the hospital. Please let this crushing season pass by us. Let the diagnosis be wrong. The doctors we trusted most were, of course, unmistaken in finding osteosarcoma.

As Christians, we may find encouragement in the bold prayer of Jabez prayer from 1 Chronicles 4:10, “Bless me and enlarge my territory!” But when that territory is somewhere I don’t want to go, in a season I don’t anticipate, I find it more difficult to pray those words with boldness.

Our new territory became our home on the ninth floor, a new home among new faces. We lived there most days for the next year. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and people like us—families with cancer—all living together during our treatments in an unplanned season.

Evan had been born eighteen years before with disabilities as well as many medical needs. Jesus became most real to us following our son’s birth. We came to our knees in prayer knowing we could not raise our son without God’s help. Some of those days were welcome and exciting. Other days were hard-fought and filled with tears before we saw God’s hand in the outcome. This new season in the cancer ward found us dependent on him once again.

There are few positives that come when you find your child with disabilities in the midst of cancer. Still, we were able to find one. We met people with whom we would have never crossed paths in our small hometown. Our Evan, in his own unique language that often needed translating, broke down walls by asking everyone who passed his room about their own homes. He asked research doctors, visiting celebrities, and families like us, “What are you doing at home today?” We made friends for a moment and some for a lifetime.

We came to our knees in prayer knowing we could not raise our son without God’s help.

Along with new friends, we found ourselves with an opportunity like never before, in a season described in 2 Timothy 4:2–4. We discovered an opening to “preach the word”—to preach Jesus. We needed to “be ready” with the people in our new home.

When I read Paul’s words about preaching, I bristle because I don’t think that is how friends want to hear about Jesus from me. They want to live life with me in whatever form that season is taking, “in season and out of season.”

Sometimes in the hospital we watched the same movie over and over again with nurses. Other days we viewed a live-stream church service with staff or played worship music with family. Did we act like Jesus every moment? Unfortunately, no. Some days, the stress of pediatric cancer was more than we could bear. On those days, others could see we know a great God who forgives too.

Bone cancer was eventually what the doctors warned us it could be—a difficult fight for anyone. For one with medical needs like Evan’s, it was ultimately unbeatable. Evan has the joy of living with Jesus now.


Some days, the stress of pediatric cancer was more than we could bear.

We are now living in a new season. It’s all new territory again, but with the same word of Jesus to preach. Now everyday life can be a lot like hospital life. Some days are boring, and we watch the same movies on the couch again and again. Sunday brings church, and worship music fills the moments in between. Other days we fail miserably and need to ask for forgiveness from God and those around us. When life throws us into new territory, God asks us to be ready to share Jesus there.

Stephanie McKeever writes about disability, grief, her chickens, and God’s goodness throughout it all. @stephmckeever

All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

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