Pat Stafford Story - Partners of the Fellowship

Testimony of Pat Stafford Van Parys 

 Father, Give Me Strength 

July 2009 was full of promise. My husband and I had just signed an offer to purchase our dream retirement home.  Things were exciting! Then August-September began a series of events that would forever change my life. Doctors told us my husband, Patrick, had liver disease and only had about a year to live. In the midst of this I received bad news as the result of a routine mammogram.  December 1st my daughter and family came for a visit and announced they were moving out of state. On the 13th they moved from Washington to Arizona.  Eight days later, on the 21st of December my son was killed, deliberately shot in the back of the head, in the line of duty as a Sheriff’s Deputy.

 I remember crying out to God, “Father I don’t have the strength to go through this”, when I received the results of the mammogram. Weeks later under pressure from a friend I finally proceeded with follow-up.  At that time new images were taken several times.  Each time the doctor and nurse would huddle in a corner discussing the images in hushed tones.  I cried out “Oh, God, this doesn’t sound good, this can’t be good. Father, I can’t take care of a dying husband and go through the trauma of treatment myself”. After more than an hour, the nurse and doctor moved across the room to me. The nurse put her hand on my arm and said, “We can’t explain this. Somebody must have really been praying. There’s nothing there.” As I fell into my car seat, I said a quick “thank you, God” and headed home to care for my dying husband.  I had no idea how quickly things would disintegrate and that even more heartache lay ahead.  Changes came so quickly, I simply couldn’t grasp it all.

 December 21st, 2009 as I prepared for bed, I received a call and learned that my 44 year old son, Kent, had been shot. I cannot describe how overwhelming it was. I looked at my dying husband, told him the news and prepared to be picked up and taken to Harbor View Hospitals’ trauma unit. December 28th Kent was taken off life support and died.  By December 21st the following year, I had buried my son and my husband.

 I was left with no immediate family I felt I could lean on. My son’s widow was battling her own grief while trying to maintain as normal a home as possible for the children. I didn’t know how to comfort her in the midst of my own loss. I was afraid I would say or do something that would trigger a greater burden of grief for her and the grandchildren. However, I worked with wonderful, caring people at a real estate brokerage owned by two Christian business men who always seemed to be one step ahead of my needs. These relationships were very important to me. I was dismayed when the company had to close its doors in 2011. I couldn’t bear to remove my things from my office. All the props had been removed, everything familiar destroyed.  I felt my life was like a painting on the wall, simply lifeless memories.

 In the midst of the tragedy, losses and grief, I laser locked my focus on Jesus and His promises. He was faithful. His love sustained me. I never felt forsaken. I remember hiding behind a huge stainless supply cart in a hallway at Harborview and saying, “Father, you hold my heart in your hands. My husband is dying and my son lies dying.  If You can use me somehow to bring glory to you in all of this or to help others, I give you permission to do so”.  

 From that moment, my focus changed. I began to see the needs of the friends and first responders my son worked with. Our whole region was shaken. We had lost an unprecedented number of law enforcement officers that year.  Just 3 1/2 weeks prior to Kent’s death 4 deputies were murdered in a local coffee shop. God opened the door for me to encourage and pray with the officers my son had served with. An amazing strength came over me as the Holy Spirit propelled me through those weeks.

 TV news reporters came to me for interviews during those days. I responded to questions in the first interview in ways that I thought would be less offensive to those expecting political correctness. However, that first reporter asked me to speak plainly! From that point on I did speak plainly of the source of my strength. In one day alone, I was able to share my faith in Christ with reporters and support staff at 5 different interviews. Each one that came was hungry for comfort, personally looking for answers.

 Years earlier I had given my life to Christ. I had no idea that one day my faith would be tested to the extreme.  Though there were times I strayed, He was always faithful. I reaped great benefit from all the years of studying the Bible, learning of Jesus and Gods promises to those who believe. I anchored in Christ and in the toughest of times my anchor held. He was faithful.

 I encourage you to thoughtfully consider the claims of Jesus. The Bible records that He showed us the full extent of his love by dying for us, for your sins and mine. He came to give us a full life and to give it to us in abundance. You can have life to the fullest. I encourage you to invite Christ to come into your heart and be your Savior. (John 3:16).  If you ask Him to reveal Himself to you, He will. That’s His responsibility. It’s ours to believe in Him. Rom. 10:8-11, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says,” WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

 

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