Pastor reveals value of a promise kept
May 22, 2014
By CAROLYN NICHOLS
Florida Baptist Witness
HIGH SPRINGS (FBW)––Derek Lambert found out this week what it was like to give life to another person. The pastor of First Baptist Church in High Springs was scheduled to donate one of his kidneys to someone he does not even know.
"We once drew conclusions based on the risk, cost and pain on our person, but now our decisions must include such impacts on others as well,” Lambert wrote last month, in a letter to his congregation explaining his decision to be an organ donor to his congregation. “Loving our neighbor as ourselves demands that we consider their risk, cost and pain.”
Last Monday, the 36-year-old pastor was scheduled to have one of his kidneys removed at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, marking the end of a four-year-long journey that began when a deacon in his former church needed a kidney.
In 2010, while Lambert was serving as pastor of New Hebron Baptist Church in Central Mississippi, Deacon Michael “Micky” Little had a kidney transplant. Little, who has battled kidney disease for 30 years, received the kidney from a cadaver, but a blood clot forced the removal of the kidney three days later, and he began dialysis. With no family member eligible for kidney donation, a call went out for kidney donors among his friends.
|The Lambert family includes Derek, Nichole, Alana and Isabella. Derek Lambert’s organ donation was “a family decision,” he said. Courtesy photo|
About the same time, an anonymous donor gave the Lambert family $40,000 for wife Nichole to have full-mouth rehabilitation after suffering “a major dental crisis most of her life,” her husband told the Florida Baptist Witness.
“As a husband and a dad, I was used to fixing problems for my family, but I could not meet her need. But God did, and we gave Him the glory,” Lambert said. “I came to the conclusion in prayer that I could not write a $40,000 check, but I could give a kidney.”
Lambert was one of five friends of Michael Little who stepped forward to be considered for a kidney transplant. Three were declined after health examinations, but Lambert and another deacon were asked to participate in the Paired Donor Program at UAB. They may not match their friend, but they may be asked to give a kidney in honor of their friend, and in turn, he would get the transplant he needed, they were told.
Meanwhile, Lambert and his family moved to High Springs in Central Florida in 2012. Michael Little’s search for a compatible kidney continued even though doctors told him he would match only 2 percent of the world’s population.
When Lambert retrieved his voice mail upon his return from a mission trip to Sumatra last February, he was told that “a perfect kidney” had been found for Michael Little. About the same time, a young woman walked into UAB to volunteer for kidney donation. She offered “an odd kidney” in a program in which everyone is either in need of a kidney, or is offering a kidney in honor of someone who needs one.
Her offer of a kidney sparked a “donor chain” that resulted in kidney matches for 21 people, all of whom registered at UAB, Lambert said. The donor chain will be the subject of an ABC “Nightline” segment planned for July, Lambert said.
“Donor chains can happen, but they usually involve people in distant places. The lady who went to UAB didn’t know anybody who needed a kidney, yet she helped so many people. I was told she gave all the glory to Jesus,” he said.
Lambert traveled to Birmingham in March to begin the matching process. He met with a psychologist, anesthesiologist, transplant coordinator and a plethora of physicians. Twenty-three vials of blood were taken, and he underwent a CT scan, urine test and chest X-ray. After all of his examinations, a transplant team made the decision based on “What is best for me?” he said.
The team deemed Lambert eligible for kidney donation, and the matching process proceeded. When he was accepted as a donor, the Lambert family—Nichole, Alana, age 13, and Isabella, 11—had to grapple with Derek’s four-year-old decision.
“Four years ago this decision was just in theory, but when I got the call it became real very quickly,” he said. “It was a struggle for all four of us. I heard, ‘You’re not Micky’s pastor anymore. Our lives and our circumstances have changed.’ At the same time I was preaching through James, and I realized that our changing circumstances don’t affect our keeping our word. After all, God knew we’d move to Florida.”
|Michael (Micky) Little, a deacon who served with Derek Lambert in Mississippi, received a new kidney April 11. Dr. Jayme Locke, assistant professor of surgery at University of Alabama at Birmingham, is slated to also perform surgery on Lambert. Courtesy photo|
Michael Little received a kidney from a living donor April 11, and seven other patients received kidneys the same week at UAB. Although the transplant team already knows who will receive Lambert’s kidney, Lambert asked the team to delay his surgery until after Easter and after a May 8 Night of Inspiration for pastors and their wives at First Baptist Church. The same surgeon, Jayme E. Locke, assistant professor of surgery at UAB, performed Little’s procedure and will also do Lambert’s surgery.
First Baptist Church has been “strongly supportive” of its pastor’s organ donation. The personnel team suggested that he use the “sick time” he has built up for his recovery, but that he save his vacation time for its intended purpose. The church “wants to be a part of this ministry, too,” Lambert said.
Lambert already has signed a document allowing the recipient of his kidney to know who gave it, and he is hoping that the recipient will not remain a stranger.
“My desire is not just to add years to this person’s life, but to share the Gospel—to provide eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.
Lambert also hopes other Christians will consider organ donation. He admits it makes little sense to “go into the hospital feeling great and leave feeling poorly,” with a lengthy recovery, but “my life is not my own.
“I was bought with a price. Jesus assumed my risk, cost and pain. He did my dying for me. I was a long shot, but He did it anyway,” he wrote to his congregation.
Following the laparoscopic procedure that typically leaves a 3-4 inch scar, Lambert will be out of the office for two weeks, and he can expect a full recovery in six to eight weeks. He has been told that he may notice a decrease in his energy level for several months.
“After a while, my one kidney will begin to grow and to compensate for the one taken out. It will assume 25 percent of the work of what was lost. That’s God’s amazing design.” he said.
To read an update on Derek Lambert, click HERE
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