Theology 101

Things Were Going Well—Until I Died

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Editor’s Note: Hugh Whelchel, executive director and founder of IFWE, was recently a guest on the Creator Entrepreneur Podcast with Stan Hustad. Below is a partial transcript of that conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety here. We encourage you to subscribe to the show on whichever platform you get your podcasts.

STAN HUSTAD (host): I had the privilege and the pleasure of getting to connect once again with my good friend Hugh Whelchel and he has a story to tell. Hugh, you got my attention. And now the listeners are eager to hear your story.

HUGH WHELCHEL: Thank you, I appreciate it. Well to start the story, the last couple of years I had problems with shortness of breath and I couldn’t figure out what it was. And all of my friends were worried about my heart. But I had that checked and it was fine. Finally they found that I had a problem with my diaphragm. And the doctor told me, “You need to see a neurologist to make sure it’s not a symptom of a larger problem.” And of course I didn’t know what that could possibly be. 

Once the neurologist did all of the tests, they came back and told me I had ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Most people with ALS live between two, maybe three, sometimes up to five years. It’s a terrible, terrible disease. You get paralyzed. Your mind works perfectly, but your body just wastes away. 

So we began to look around. All of our friends were praying for us. We were fortunate enough to get introduced to a doctor in Harvard who also runs an ALS clinic out of Mass General in Boston. She helped us get involved in several protocols, one of which has just been finished that has promised to slow down or halt the progression of the disease. So we were trying to get on that and of course we couldn’t get in the study, the study is over. It hasn’t been approved by the federal government yet so you can’t buy the drugs through your insurance. 

So she told us a place we could get the drugs, but we have to pay for them—very expensive—but I’ve been on that for about three or four months and I’ve had no additional problems or symptoms of ALS since I started taking that medicine. So we felt like God was answering our prayers. We were going in the right direction, and everything was going really good right up until the day I died. 

“The Day I Died”

One morning my wife came in and we were getting ready to go to work. I was slumped over the chair. I wasn’t breathing. No pulse.

Fortunately, my son-in-law was here with us. My wife called 9-1-1. He began to give CPR to me for the next seven or eight minutes until the emergency responders got here. And then they, by the grace of God, brought me back to life. 

I don’t really remember anything for three or four weeks. When I woke up and finally realized what was going on I had a tracheotomy and was on a breathing vent, which I’ll probably be on for the rest of my life. 

An Incredible Vision

The interesting thing, when I was dead, I saw things. Incredible visions. I’ve always kind of laughed at people who have had near-death experiences. I don’t anymore. One I can share with you—it brings me to tears every time I think about it. The Lord took me in the Spirit to a plain, rocky plain with no trees, no grass, no plants, nothing but rocks. It was kind of dark. There was a cold wind blowing. 

In the distance I could see a huge wall; it looked like something out of The Lord of the Rings. In the middle of the wall was a huge double gate, and that double gate was open about four or five feet. 

And in the gap of that gate stood a lamb, the Lamb of God. And out of the Lamb flowed light, energy, goodness, blessing, everything you could possibly imagine good. Everything in my body wanted to run to the Lamb as quick as I could. 

But immediately God brought me back. 

We All Have A Purpose

And I can tell you, I truly believed that I was trying to do what God had called me to do. Before this happened, I had no doubt in my mind that He brought me back for a purpose. And I often wonder, in my condition, I’ll never be able to do the things I used to be able to do. My speaking engagements are over, but I can still write, so I assume that’s what I’m supposed to do. 

But I can tell you without a doubt, I know God has brought me back for a purpose. But indeed, the reality is that we are all here for a purpose. We’re here to work. We’re here to bring blessing to the communities that God has called us to serve. And that blessing flows from us, it’s Him working through us, to bless the people that we come into contact with. And we have to really grab on to that reality.

You don’t have to die to be brought back to life like Lazarus and like Hugh Whelchel, to understand that great reality. It’s something that we all need to grasp and do everyday, realizing that the work we do, even the most prominent things we do everyday, are meant to bless the communities where we serve—whether that’s your vocational calling, the work that you do in your community, the work that you do in your family, or even the work that you do in your church. All that work, no matter how simple it is, is very very important to God. And through the work of your hands, He wants to do incredible things. 

Thank you for listening to me. Pray for me. I need the prayers of God’s people.

Support Hugh’s Work

HUSTAD: And thank you for telling me that story, Hugh. First of all I’m just going to simply say that I think God would like for you to do this more often. You have the spirit and the voice for perhaps a podcast or two within you over the next few years and we are going to hopefully celebrate that. But Hugh, how can people get in touch with you and with the Institute? Tell us how to reach out.

WHELCHEL: I’m still running the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. If you want to help support my efforts, particularly much of the medical things that we’re doing are not covered by insurance so it’s very expensive, my staff started a GoFundMe page.

But more than that, I covet your prayers more than anything. It is the prayers of God’s people that have sustained me so far, and I know will sustain me until I’ve completed the mission that He has called me to do. 

HUSTAD: Thank you Hugh, and indeed we will pray along with you and with many others throughout the world that you will indeed be given the power, the strength, and the wisdom, to do what God has called you to do. Thank you.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to Hugh’s continued work through IFWE, you can do that here, just note that the gift is for “Hugh Whelchel Support.”

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