Chronicles of Hope: Phone Calls from Heaven

Phone Calls from Heaven - By Steve Hanlon

The unexpected phone call that rings long after the sun sets can bring the same fears to the angry atheist as the big-time believer. The same thoughts fly as the shaky hand reaches for the vibrating device. These emotions are completely human. Who is calling me at this hour? A silent pause. I hope that everyone I love is all right? Pulse races, and the heart speeds up. Lord, please let this be a wrong number. Anxiety builds just before the traditional "Hello."

Josh Unsworth received a call like this in his past. A time of tireless trepidation had seemed to pass. Then – in an instant – his phone rang in the thick darkness of night. "They told me to get to the hospital ASAP," Josh said. "They said it was an emergency."

His wife, Laura, was fighting for the child in her womb. A specialist with 47 years of experience told both parents that the little girl was not going to make it. Their miracle of life was expected to die. "The doctor told me to abort my baby," Laura said. "There was a lot of doom and gloom." Her child wasn't growing at the normal rate. If they decided to complete the pregnancy, there were complications expected for the child. The chance of Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome, and other developmental complications were very possible. They were precursors for the threat hanging over their days.

But that's when Josh got a call from Heaven.

"I did not want to put the doctor's report over what I believed God could do," he said. "I felt peace in that moment." Laura and her child were having an overnight monitoring session at Community Hospital in Munster. Josh went to sleep at home that night, believing things were improving. But the baby's heart kept stopping. Complications began to overtake Laura's body. Consequently, an emergency C Section was called for immediately by the medical staff. That was when Josh's phone rang.

So he jumped in his car and started the drive from Hebron up north. Josh Baldwin's song "Stand in Your Love" moved through the speakers. The lyrics spoke to him in this somber moment.

"When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow comes to steal the joy, I own
When brokenness and pain is all I own
I won't be shaken, no, I won't be shaken
Cause my fear doesn't stand a chance
When I stand in Your love."

Laura was waiting for her husband, along with the hand of God, to sweep down into that sterile room. "I just kept praying," Laura said. "I said, 'Fear, you do not own me.’” A few hours later, Rosalee was born. The youngest of three in the family is now 3. Sister Brightyn is 7, and brother Brayden is 5.

"It was such a joy to see her after everything we'd been through," Laura recalled. "God was with us every step of the way. Despite the bad things we were hearing, he was always there. We felt his peace all the way."

It wasn't just one night of dread, one phone call. It was days and weeks, and months of fear emanating from the words of the doctors. Despite all the negative comments and a few weeks' stay in the ICU, Rosie is now perfectly healthy.

The long-time members of Living Hope Church in Merrillville also found the love and strength of having brothers and sisters in the faith holding them up. It happened several times. Out of the blue, some might say.

On a Sunday morning, someone would walk up and speak the same thing over and over again. A week later, it was a different person talking. "God woke me up the other night. He told me to pray for you. I did not know why but I did it anyway. And he wants me to tell you that no matter what, everything is going to be OK."

Miracles in bunches

The miracle that Rosie received was not the first miraculous occurrence the Unsworths experienced. Not even close.

In 2012 Laura received another unexpected call in the night, and the news was just awful. Her brother, Andrew, was riding his motorcycle and was hit head-on by a van. Hope was fleeting. "They told me to get to the hospital," she said. "They told me not to hurry." He was said to be brain dead when his broken body arrived in the emergency room. Funeral plans were inches away for the father of three.  But when he defied death, more bad news came from those wearing white coats. "They said his personality would never be the same," Laura said.

But prayer and deep faith changed another doctor's diagnosis. Andrew is doing well today. "It's a miracle," Josh said. "It really is." Life, however, is life. It rains on certain days. Weeks can roll by without anyone seeing the warm rays of the sun. January always comes to Northwest Indiana with the wind chills, ice, snow, and bitter cold. Stubbing your toe after midnight comes the good and the bad. Life is life.

Andrew's daughter, Alyssa, developed brain cancer, and the family learned the awful news in December. Talk about a shocker for a youngster full of life. Doctors found three tumors on the back of her brain. Chemotherapy and radiation were used to fight the frightful forms. Originally, the condition was dubbed "terminal." However, emergency brain surgery and radiation treatments eradicated the tumors. She is bouncing back and forth between home and the hospital as she is still undergoing chemotherapy. "We are hoping and believing for a cancer-free report this fall," Laura said.

All of the travails the Unsworth’s have faced in recent years have been a challenge. Rosie's fight for life in the womb. Alyssa's current battle with brain cancer and fully overcoming its hard times. Along with the other miracle of her father's near-death battle with Covid 19, Josh and Laura have lived their faith in these tough times. "It was like Moses," Laura said. "When we couldn't hold our arms up, we had people in our church there, holding our arms up. It was a blessing having so many like-minded people surrounding us. We were believing for full healing for Alyssa. Our church family was there with us, believing the same thing."

Another call from above

But like the guy who hit the lottery, won a new Rolls-Royce, then married Kate Upton – all in one day – there was even more love from above for the Unsworth's.

Laura's father, Mark Katona, was diagnosed with severe Covid a year ago in October. He spent three months in the hospital, with some time in the ICU. Both lungs collapsed. He developed Sepsis, which is a body's extreme response to an infection. The CDC reports that 270,000 Americans die each year from this ailment. "They were expecting him not to make it," said Laura. But the Christian faith, this family clings to saw God's hand in another difficult situation. Just like it always has.

"When her dad was in the hospital, we had no idea where these words were coming from," Josh said. "We did not know what was going to happen to Mark. We had no clue. It could've gone either way. But we knew we were going to love (God) no matter what happens. In all circumstances, we were going to put all of our trust in him." As his healthcare advocates, the family received prompts from the Holy Spirit, who gave them the right words to say at the right time. And some of these utterances were in areas that they had little knowledge of or about.

Out of the blue, right? Mark dreamt of doing the things he loved again while lying ill in his hospital bed. Hunting and camping were at the top of his list. And right on cue, miraculous healing embraced their days.Mark and his grandson Braydon went turkey hunting this spring. The family also went camping on another weekend, where the once-deathly-ill man did not need oxygen treatments while he biked around the campground or went fishing.

"What a miracle," Laura said with a smile that lit up the room. "God is so good."  And while all family photos of late are filled with smiles, Josh understands with a whole heart that not every story is filled with a happy ending. Remember, life is life. The phone can ring at 2 a.m. for anyone. "Yes, we've received miracles," Josh said. "But we've also gotten heartaches. I know this. Through it all, we never stopped asking, and we never stopped believing. "That is what we all have to do no matter what we're facing."