Larry Sweeney and his wife, Cathy, have been at Christ Chapel for nearly 10 years. To say they enjoy being a part of the CCBC family is probably a vast understatement (Larry is active in Band of Brothers and Mondays with the Master while Cathy heads the Serve Our Schools Ministry. Together, they are in a home group and attend the Sages class). What’s not an understatement in their lives is Larry’s need for a kidney transplant.
 
Larry has suffered from kidney disease for years, but after a fall at home in 2017, he was required to go on dialysis. Since then, he has been waiting to find a kidney match either by way of a living donor volunteer or a deceased donor volunteer (who signed on their driver’s license to donate their organs at time of death). I had the opportunity to sit with Larry and ask him a few questions about what it’s like to wait on God for an answer to an overwhelmingly present need. His answers, I think, will encourage you no matter what you, yourself, are waiting for with God.

What’s the experience like of waiting on God for a transplant?
We’re all in need of something. There’s nothing in life that comes easy. God didn’t plan it that way. People ask me, “How are you feeling?” “I’m doing okay.” I don’t feel good all the time, Waiting is waiting day after day. Some days are good, some days are bad. It’s just a matter of keeping a mindset that says, “Okay, this is temporary.” Everything in this life is temporary and so you just persevere even though you don’t feel good. Even though sometimes your faith is tested pretty strong when things go really bad.

The world tugs at you. I think our spiritual foundation allows us to overcome that even though at times we’re in weakness. It’s not that God hasn’t done His part, it’s just that we don’t see it at that time. I’m here to shine a light on whatever we can do to make people understand that this church has a lot of need for compassion. We’re not all healthy, wealthy and wise. There’s a lot of hurt – that’s one reason why I like doing Mondays with the Master. Not that I like to see hurt, but I like to see people’s needs and I like to see answered prayer and that’s the best place I know of to see it.

How as your life changed in the last few years, when the need has progressed to the point of a transplant?
I was truckin’ along in a very long career and when I left Lockheed in 2016, I had every intention to continue working somewhere. I was a work person. Most of my life was centered around work, stuff we do at church, volunteering, being with my wife (we don’t have children so we spend our time with each other doing things together). My concept of not working was more of spending time with Cathy, traveling, picking up more hobbies, trying to continue being a life-long learner. And then when I got to the point where I was comfortable not working, I had the accident. And then I had a new range of limitations. Having to do the dialysis, having the hip replacement, for three years I’ve been adjusting to my new lifestyle. When your body function and capability is diminished, it seems the world’s corruption takes over. You don’t know what the next issue will be.

You see people who have received kidney transplants and the hope is like night and day. It doesn’t take much in terms of kidney function to give you what you need – I guess that’s why God in His mercy gave us two. Hopefully He planned that if you didn’t need both of them, you get to give one away. There’s a lot of things that you can’t live without – and you can’t live without kidney function without external support. Once you have kidney function again, you don’t need the external support. And over time things get normal again.

What are you most looking forward to after receiving a transplant?
I’d like to be able to travel. Right now I pretty much I have a length of a hose that goes to a machine at night and that’s the extent of my travel. I spend 7 to 8 hours a night hooked up to a machine. Just the routine of doing that, the same repetitive routine day after day after day. Cathy and I spend as much time together as possible doing things, but again, we can’t get out of sight. We can plan to do something, but if I don’t feel up to it …

I’m looking forward to getting away from that lifestyle and having the freedom to say “Why don’t we just get in the car and drive to Austin this weekend?” Or plan a trip down the coast and go fishing.

What do you think you know about God going through this experience that maybe you hadn’t experienced of Him before?
I know that God is on His throne. I know from having finished the study in Revelation with the Men’s Ministry a year ago that God’s got this, He’s in charge. This is a temporary situation. And as long as you have the fundamental belief and knowledge of what God did in reaching down to us by His Son Jesus Christ, nothing overshadows that. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep that perspective because you don’t feel it, but feeling isn’t everything. Feelings are false. Feelings are what the world does to you. You just have to keep falling back on your confidence and that confidence is that someday I will be with Him in glory. Whether it’s a year (it’s been almost three now), another three or the rest of my life [that I wait for a kidney]. I could never get a kidney. You have to face those types of issues. I may never get that type of cure, but I am ultimately going to healed. That’s where you have to put your confidence. I don’t want to call it a struggle, but it is. There’s no other way to describe it because we are human. And that human nature keeps tugging at us, especially when we don’t feel well. The deal is to get past that and say “Tomorrow is a new day and let’s go with that.” You’ve got to face it.

Are there any verses that you’ve come to love over the past few years?
I don’t know that I would say there’s a lot of verses I go to immediately. I kind of fall back on talking with God. “You know, I don’t feel good today. What is the issue? What am I doing that I need to change? What am I to learn from this situation?” My wife Cathy says, “Why don’t you tell people how you feel?” and I say, “I don’t want to give the wrong impression.” I don’t want them to think I’m taking anything away from God’s will for my life. The face I put on to other people is very important to me. I want them to see that I am victorious. Even though the victories are won one battle at a time. The only way to do that is to accept the circumstances I am in and to struggle with what they mean to me and what they mean to other people. I think that’s how we give other people hope. If we can’t share our hope, why are we here?

Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
I guess the thing that’s really paramount in our minds right now is creating a sense of awareness — awareness of need. I couldn’t begin to tell you all the people in this church that if we were to have an emergency, would within minutes line up to give blood because giving blood is something that people are accustomed to. But for someone to say, “I could give a kidney,” it’s not as likely. Thousands of people do it every year but the problem is we need tens of thousands of people. I read the statistics of how many people are on the waiting list, how difficult it is to match. Whether it’s signing up to be a live donor or just fixing it on their driver’s license so it’s available to people when you die, it’s a very simple thing to do.

If you are interested in becoming a living donor, please visit Baylor Scott & White’s Living Donor Transplant website to learn more.

 

Caitlin Rodgers

 

 

 

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