MATOON, Ill. (BNC) by Ronald Bartanen — What does brotherly love entail? Does such love make demands of us, some of which many would consider unreasonable? For many of us, to love our brothers and sisters in Christ means little, if any, more than being on good speaking terms with them. Occasionally, however, we see examples of a love that exceeds the norm.

Such was the case with David Ferguson, minister of the Lake Land congregation in Mattoon, Ill., and Bill Livesay, whom David had baptized in 2017. Livesay had been on the church’s prayer list for some time due to kidney failure and being placed on dialysis. He and his wife Cecillia had moved to Mattoon from Kentucky a couple of years ago, and began attending the Lake Land church. Experiencing kidney failure, he was deemed eligible to be placed on the transplant list, and the search began for a donor. One problem was that his blood type is B-Positive, a rare type shared with only 9% of the population. Eligible donors would be few.

It was then that Ferguson searched his heart and decided to undergo tests to determine if he could possibly qualify as a donor. Not even knowing his own blood type, he had his blood tested, only to find out that he, amazingly, also had type B-Positive blood. Diabetes or cancer would have also disqualified him, but he had neither. A colonoscopy revealed no cancer, and a urologist gave him the A-Okay to proceed.

Although Ferguson had a heart attack in 2014, a stress test and an EKG revealed that he had completely recovered, and was given the go-ahead by his cardiologist and general practitioner. Psychiatric evaluations also supported his qualifications to be a donor. Twenty-four hour urine tests and countless blood tests likewise revealed no problem. Nor did a CAT Scan of his kidneys indicate any kidney stones.

Having passed all these tests, Ferguson was convinced, as a viable candidate, that it was God’s will for him to donate a kidney in Livesay’s behalf. He commented,

“As you can see, it would have been very easy for me not to have been a viable candidate to donate my kidney. In fact, the statistics were stacked against me. I can’t help but believe that if God had not wanted for this to happen, he would not have brought Bill and me together in the first place, and he would not have made me this healthy physically.”

He added, “I was also motivated to do this as a Christian, exercising agape love for a brother in Christ.” His wife and children supported him in his decision

Ferguson, in addition to serving as minister of the church, is an elder. He reminds us of the example of Jesus Christ, who said a shepherd should be willing to lay down his life for the sheep, and that’s exactly what Christ did. Ferguson commented,

“I see this as a wonderful blessing given me by God to do something even more tangible than offer a prayer for one of our sick. I can actually do something MORE by donating a kidney, which is a specific answer to many prayers offered on Bill’s behalf! It is a great feeling knowing that God is using me in this manner to help substantially a brother in Christ. His expected lifetime will now increased by twelve to fifteen years.”

He also said that Livesay had made several attempts to talk him out of making this sacrifice for him. He is aware of real, though rare, serious consequences to himself in making this decision. He had been told the surgery would be about four hours, and, as with any such operation, death is a possibility, resulting from either anesthesia or bleeding. Other possible side effects include slight paralysis, infection, and the possibility of his lone kidney becoming diseased and failing at a future time, with no second kidney to function in its place.

Ferguson has been serving the Lake Land church as minister since June of 2003, and has been an elder there as well for over a year. He and his wife Carey, married for 29 years, have four sons, the three oldest living now outside their home. One son, Doug, is married to Jenny, and they have one son, Deacon, who recently turned two years old. Another son, Daniel, is in the Air Force, and is currently stationed in Monterey, California as an Airborne Crypto-Linguist specializing in Russian. A third son, Damien, and his wife Danielle reside in Mattoon, both of them active in the Lake Land church. Damien also preaches once a month at the congregation in Pana, Illinois. The youngest son, Donovan, is a high school senior, and he is still living at home.

After two delays since November, due to Bill’s health problems, the surgeries were performed on Jan. 29, 2019. The transplant was a success, and the kidney is doing great. Livesay is, however, experiencing peritonitis. Emergency surgery had to be performed to try and repair the problem. He is still in the ICU of Springfield Memorial Hospital, but the kidney is functioning quite well.

Following his surgery, Ferguson was on his feet the same day, and returned home two days later. Both Ferguson and Livesay praise God for his providential care. They realize, too, that God had the foresight to provide us with an extra kidney in case one should fail, or in the event that the opportunity could arise to donate the extra one to prolong the life of another.