Grant Gaines, the Dean of Men at KI, shares his experience with suffering and endurance through extended medical problems, unanswered questions, and uncertainty accompanying the birth of his daughter.
Intro (Keith): Welcome to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, where we continue to equip leaders with biblical skills for a lifetime of ministry.
Chad (00:13): And welcome back to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast. With you, as always, Chad Hampsch, and we are so excited to have in studio today Grant Gaines, the Dean of Men here at the Kankakuk Institute to talk about a topic that has impacted all of us and it’s the topic of suffering. And we felt like this was a conversation that needed to be had for you, our alumni, and our listening audience, because it’s something that is true to everyone of us in our Christian experience. And, really, in the human experience, suffering is a part of what we go through. We wanted to take some time and focus our energy on the relationship between suffering and endurance as we go through, kind of, hard things in life and how Christians really endure suffering differently than the rest of the world, at least that’s what the New Testament talks about. And so, excited to have Grant with us in the studio. Grant, welcome to the institute studios and share just a little bit. A lot of our alumni know you from your years here at the institute, but the older alumni probably don’t. Share just a little bit of backstory. How did you get here? How long have you been doing this? How does it match with your gifting and heart?
Grant (01:22): Sure, yeah. Well it’s fun to be on the podcast world here. Like Chad said, Grant Gaines, born and raised in Plano, Texas, which is North of Dallas. So, have a lot of fun still going back home, love the great state, but went to school at the University of Arkansas, where I really was introduced to Kanakuk Kamp, because, seemingly, 95% of the student body comes to Kanakuk in the summer. So I heard about Kanakuk, ended up working there throughout summer, which, in turn, I heard about the Kanakuk Institute. After graduation, came as a student and then, really had the chance to work for kamp for a couple years, and then a spot opened at Kanakuk, or at the Kanakuk Institute, rather. And got to hop on board. Now I’m in my seventh year, which is crazy. Getting to be in this role, working alongside you and all the students which is really fun. So, yeah, my family now lives here. Got a wife named Sarah. Got two kids, Remi, who we’ll hear a lot more about as this podcast unfolds, and then also we’ve got a son named Graham, who’s just about a year old. So, really fun. It’s fun being here, and we have been greatly blessed to be a part of the Institute family.
Chad (02:28): Yeah, thank you for sharing that information. You know, we’re talking about this topic of suffering, and obviously you and Sarah have gone through a significant event in your life, which we’ll share more about, but before we get there, I think there’s this assumption that probably for people that have suffered well, like, you went through a lot of suffering growing up. Was that true of your story? Or did you feel like you had a fairly easy or normal childhood?
Grant (02:56): Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. You can only suffer so much as the backup quarterback. So you got, you know, not throwing the game-losing interceptions or anything like that, but just no. So, normal life as middle school, high school, nothing crazy, by the grace of God. I don’t come from a broken family. No major losses in my life; my dad’s father passed away when I was really young. So, I don’t have this horrific upbringing, and so that’s not the reason why I’m on this podcast talking about suffering. So, I count that as a big blessing not to be here talking about the 400 different reasons why I’m on this podcast, but you know, typical upbringing, and… But like everyone, suffering is a part of our story and a part of our journey following Christ.
Chad (03:37): Yeah, for sure. So, did the camp thing, grew up, worked at camp, came to work for the Kanakuk Institute, got married. You know, kind of all your dreams coming to reality, and then you and Sarah find out You’re expecting a child, and your story of suffering really starts there. So maybe, kind of, share that part of the story.
Grant (04:01): Sure, yeah. We decided early on in our engagement that, yeah, children are a blessing from the Lord is what Psalm 127 says, so let’s try to have kids from the get-go. So, basically a month or two into marriage, alright, we’re on the on ramp to that journey, which about ten weeks later ended with a miscarriage, which we were obviously bummed about, but felt like, “Ok, this is something that is now in our rear-view mirror. We’re over the most difficult time of our life. Surely that has to be, yeah, in the past. That’s no longer something that we worry about. But about, I don’t know, two years later or so, got pregnant. Found out it was a girl, her name’s Remi, which is awesome, we’re excited. So Sarah ends up going, and I’m just going to jump into Remi’s birth story if that’s ok. So Sarah was 41 weeks pregnant. Went in, she was being induced to be, yeah, to have Remi, and so as we were sitting there at night, the doctor comes in, kind of checking on Sarah, seeing how she’s doing, and Sarah’s water breaks, which was exciting, fun, this is awesome. Again, the ball is rolling on our dreams of having a little baby girl. But about a minute later, I have no idea what’s happening, but all of a sudden, just nurses and doctors come sprinting in and pretty quickly, they’re wheeling Sarah out, and I’m just left in the hospital room by myself with one nurse as she’s kind of sprinting out looking over her shoulder just trying to say, “Hey, we’re going to try to save your daughter.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, like what is happening?” And so Sarah ends up having an emergency c-section. She had a prolapsed cord, which just, yeah, means things need to hurry quickly if there’s any chance for Remi to continue to have any vitality in her, so fortunately 11 minutes later, Remi was born, which, again was hopeful that we dodged another bullet that was a tough moment. But as, again, the story continues to unfold, Remi ended up having a multitude of issues, which just moved us from our hospital in Branson to the NICU in Springfield for several weeks and then found more issues which ultimately landed us in St. Louis children’s hospital for four more weeks where we found out that she had something called Takayasu’s Arteritis. Big word, really just means she has inflamed arteries, so her arteries where the blood was pumping through to essential organs and to other parts of her body were quickly narrowing, which isn’t good if you need blood to survive, which you do. So, they found that out, fortunately, you know, your body has tons of essential organs, and the one essential organ that you have that you have two of but only need one of is your kidneys, and by the grace of God that’s where they identified, wait a minute, one of those kidneys is not working. Why is this artery thinned and oh by the way, why is it thinning in other parts of her body? So again, a huge blessing from the Lord that it wasn’t “Oh my gosh her heart isn’t working because she doesn’t have any room in her arteries.” But like, just the providence of God. So, yeah, I probably spoke a little bit too much and got is into the story, but that’s where we, really, found ourselves in the school of suffering was up in the NICU for 6 weeks with Remi.
Chad (07:02): Yeah, thanks for sharing that, I know, probably not fun to relive that but on the same token, a reminder of God’s faithfulness I’m sure every time you look at her. What through your mind when you heard the nurse, and I want to make sure I say it right, but, “We’re going to try to save your daughter’s life.” Sounds like you didn’t really know that things were going sideways at that point, and then all of a sudden this nurse says, essentially the words you never expected to hear. What went through your mind and how did you navigate that, because I think that’s one of the things we wrestle with suffering is, “I know what it feels like to suffer, I don’t know what to do next.” What is my next step to endure well?
Grant (07:44): Yeah, and we can all sit here in the comfort of this studio or wherever people are listening and say, “Here’s the proper response.” But one of my favorite theologians, the great boxer Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan until you get punched in the nose.” And so, man, I got, just, absolutely knocked off my feet.” Whenever the nurses and everyone left, I remember just having to sit down, feeling like my entire world was, just zeroing in, probably about to pass out. But I just remember sitting there and being like, “What in the world is happening.” So, very caught off-guard, very nervous, and every thought under the sun is coming to the mind of, “What if they don’t save Remi, or what if they don’t save Sarah?” Like, what happens next? And just very quickly, because I wasn’t prepared for that, my mind was already 10 weeks down the road at funerals and this and that because I was like, “What just happened?” That was caught off guard and actually terrified in that moment.
Chad (08:41): Yeah, and it sounds like not only did you have that initial, like, earthquake shock moment, but then, really, for a series of six weeks it was like: snowball, snowball. Like, you guys just kept getting hit over and over and over again. Is that the way it felt? And how did you endure that well, right? And not just the Christian-ese answer, but like, as you continued to get bad news, or discouraging news, or news that you were uncertain about, how did you continue to remain faithful to what you believed?
Grant (09:17): Yeah, and that was the hard part, was it felt like wave after wave of just bad news. Again, as I said earlier, every time that we moved from point A to point B to point C it felt like, surely the previous point was the worst point. We are on the downhill, we are in the clear, this is good, and then just, boom. Something bad would happen, different scan, different report, wrong diagnosis, or whatever. And so, the big thing that, I think, we discovered throughout our time in the NICU was just the, you know, what endurance looks like or what steadfastness looks like for us because, in every other area of life, like take running for example, if you want to remain steadfast or endure a marathon, you can do that with the greatest attitude in the world or the worst attitude in the world, you could win first place, get last place, but as long as you finish 26.2 miles, you endured it, like you’re good. And then, changing to being in the hospital with our daughter. Ok, like how do we endure this? It’s not like in a race if I can’t endure it anymore the race is done, the trial is lifted. But if we said that with Remi, it’s like, no doctor is going to bust in and say, “congratulations, I don’t know what just happened, but a miracle, Remi’s totally healthy.” But rather, whether I have the right action or attitude or not, it’s going to continue to persist. So, I think what we learned, endurance being far more than a tangible action. It is a choice of an attitude that we have to take, and I wish I could tell you that we did that perfectly and always had a wonderful James chapter 1 “Joy in trials” attitude, but we definitely did not. There are more than a handful of times that, yeah, frustration and doubt and fear definitely was the predominating emotion. But, again, I think we learned a ton about: what does it look like just to trust the Lord and know that his idea of what is best may not match up at all with our idea of best, but to trust, he is infinite, we are finite. We may never understand this if this thing turns South, but God has a plan, and we’re going to do our best to trust the plan. So on our good days, we walked in that endurance, and on the bad days, we definitely did not.
Chad (11:28): Grant that reminds me of Romans chapter 8, the passage that people love to grab hold of and say, you know God is working all things for the good for those who love him who are called according to his purposes, and how often we get the word good wrong. You know how quickly it is that we are to go, “What’s good for me?” You know, what’s good in the moment? But really, it’s God’s good, and he’s doing something altogether different than maybe we realize. Would you say that was kind of y’alls experience.?
Grant (11:59): Yeah, He’s playing on a far larger scale than we are. He has eternity in mind, I have the next 10 minutes in mind. And my idea of good is always the easiest, most pleasurable thing, when God cares about my soul, and he cares about the souls of the people around me. And so it’s just crazy, he has far more than Grant Gaines in mind whenever he was doing that and when he’s doing different moments in our lives that he could be saying, “Hey this moment of suffering for you could turn out for someone else’s good.” Like we see multiple times out of the book of Daniel, where Daniel goes through a difficult time, or Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego go through difficult times. And the story concludes by focusing on the king’s repentance, and him turning to the Lord. It’s almost like God was using someone’s suffering to sin a bystander himself. Just crazy. I mean, God is sovereign, as we’ve said, and he’s bigger than us. It’s just tough to remember, again, when you’re in the heat of the moment.
Chad (12:52): Yeah, and that, I mean that’s really, for our listening audience, why if you’re an alumni or a friend of the institute, and you’re in a period of your life where you’re going through something big: one, we hear you. We feel and have felt where you’re at, and I think we want to be reminded from the Word of God that God’s good is always greater than our good. And it’s so easy to live life with a magnifying glass and when we’re going through those difficult times, to zero in so tight on the suffering that we’re going through that God is still sovereign and working in a really mighty way all around you. And your interaction with the nurses and Remi and family members and the people that you got to interact with as you suffered, God was doing his good in a really powerful way, and so often we can just get that narrow-mindedness when we’re going through suffering and so, we’re going to come back for part two of this topic of suffering and endurance and we’re going to talk more about the steps you took to process through what you had gone through and a little bit about just the scripture, and what the scripture has to say about the issue of suffering and endurance and why it’s so important. Not just important, but really vital for a Christian who’s going through the process of being sanctified and looking like Christ, that we would endure and endure differently than the rest of the world. So we’ll be back with part 2 next time with Grant Gaines. Thanks for joining us here on the Kanakuk Institute Podcast.