New York Times best-selling author, latest, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? (2012)
English and creative writing teacher, Hope College, Holland, MI
Married: Mitch since 2009
Deep in the Arms of the Lord
The 700 Club
Rhoda was raised in a Mennonite family in Michigan. “People get it confused with Amish,” says Rhoda. “We live a simple lifestyle.” No radio, no unsupervised TV, no toys that “smelled of worldly values,” (only toys like yo-yos, Slinky and badminton). Rhoda left that lifestyle, her home and her faith to attend college and become a professor. In 1991, Rhoda met Nick, an atheist, and they were married 6 weeks later. After 15 years, Nick left her for a man! Rhoda, then 43, returned home for 4 months. “I hit rock bottom and had no where to go,” she says. While Rhoda pursued what she says was her secular path of education, Rhoda never rejected the idea of God.
One day in 2008 while in the grocery store, Rhoda was approached by a man named Mitch in the parking lot. He offered his number on a piece of paper saying, “If you are a single woman of God, I surely wish you’d email me.” Rhoda put the paper in her pocket. The next day, she emailed Mitch and set up a coffee date. “My heart sank when I approached the coffee house where Mitch was waiting for me,” says Rhoda. “Even from across the street I could see what he was wearing around his neck: a 3-inch square-headed nail on a leather thong.” (The nail was a tribute to the nails used to crucify Christ.) Rhoda learned that he had been married twice, had been sober since 2001 and attended church. “And wow, I liked him,” she says. He took her to his Pentecostal church where she saw people who weren’t afraid to worship God. Rhoda liked that the “Pentecostals” were willing to be sidetracked the the Holy Spirit. Mitch even took her to a healing service where she witnessed the senior pastor give Words of Knowledge and lay hands on people with illnesses.
Eight weeks after they were dating, Rhoda had an ultrasound which revealed that she had breast cancer. That night, she stopped by Mitch’s office to deliver the bad news. The tumor was so large it was inoperable. “I say we call it quits before it gets ugly,” Rhoda told Mitch. “Ain’t nobody gonna bail. You watch and see what the Lord’s gonna do,” he said. Mitch stuck with Rhoda through her chemotherapy. That New Year’s day, 6 months after they started dating, Mitch asked Rhoda to marry him.
“The cancer diagnosis clarified my values and revealed Mitch’s character,” says Rhoda. She started seriously attending church and it moved her forward spiritually. She discovered the power of prayer and understood that what comes out of one’s mouth is so important to one’s faith. Through this process, Rhoda was healed from cancer. “If your mouth is filled with cancer, it is like your mind and your whole body is consumed with cancer. Stop talking about it and redirect your energies,” says Rhoda.
“Faith can and should always be changing us,” says Rhoda. “We can be in a comfort zone and locked into a niche. If faith is doing what it should be doing, it should be propelling us forward. We should be willing to be flexible and go where the spirit leads,” she says.
Having a sense of humor connects what we believe. “It’s not stand up and late night TV. It’s a gift from God and when used in our fullest sense can take the focus off our self. It’s not just smiling and laughing. It’s about seeking God.”
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