Friday, May 2, 2014

Mary Rice Hopkins: Miracle Walking--From ICU to Life

Who would have thought I would end up in critical care fighting for my life in ICU for two weeks? For about a week I was sick with the flu and in bed, off and on.

As the week progressed, I didn’t seem to get better. I tried many different over-the-counter drugs; felt lethargic, achy, had a mild sore throat and cough. When my symptoms didn’t improve, I tried to make an appointment with my doctor, only to find that she was out of town on vacation. 

What complicated matters, my husband Gary had the flu as well. He slept in our guest room so not to wake me.

That night, about 2:00 a.m., I woke up gasping for air and unable to breathe. I was cold and shaking, so I called my friend Darcie and asked her to take me to the ER. This was more than a cold or the flu. From there I hardly remember anything. 

I’ve always been a fairly healthy person with only the occasional cold. I work out and take my vitamins. The only time I went to the hospital to speak of was when I had my two kids.

Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, CA, admitted me and put me in a room on oxygen. But it didn’t have a lung department to take care of the seriousness of my situation so they transferred me by ambulance to USC Medical Center.

The next thing I knew I was looking up and saw five medical people around me. By the movement of the vehicle, I was obviously still in an ambulance. I heard one of the medics say, “She’s breathing now.” Another one of them held my hand. And even though I felt very alone and fearful, I knew Jesus was there.

When I arrived at USC, a doctor said, “You have pneumonia in both lungs.” 

And someone else said, “and H1N1.”

They placed me in ICU. Every breath was a struggle. They must have asked me ten times if I was a smoker. I kept telling them no and told them my lungs were very important because I’m a singer and need my voice.

I had what seemed like a billion tests, IV’s and shots. There it began, and from then on I had shots every day for almost three weeks. I used to be afraid of needles, but that sure took it out of me.

There were so many people there, including my friend Darcie Maze, but I can’t remember who they all were. So many doctors and nurses, and the next thing I know they were talking about a respirator, feeding tube, and ways to keep me breathing. A sense of peace came over me every time I felt afraid. The procedure of being intubated was scary. I had to lie on my back and could hardly move. With the respirator down my throat, I couldn’t say a word. It was painful and uncomfortable. My temperature was 103 degrees. I thought of my mom.

Only two months earlier I was with Mom in ICU before she went into hospice. She wanted me to go home to rest, squeezed my hand and said, “It would just kill me if anything happened to you.” She was always thinking of others before herself, and I’ve always thought that if I could only be half the person she was, I’d be satisfied. What an amazing woman of God.

As I lay there, and my thoughts were on her… at least Mom didn’t have to be here or know about this. Maybe it’s my time to see my parents again. But then I thought about my two kids and my “undone bucket list” and my sweet husband and dogs and on and on… I heard from the nurses and doctors, “You gotta fight this infection,” and “Take slow deep breaths.”

Tears ran down the sides of my face. There were lots of unknowns. I felt like my life lay in the balance when only a few weeks earlier I was standing in Florida on the stage receiving the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for children’s ministry.

So many thoughts would rush through my mind as I looked at these four white walls with no windows. I looked around until I found the clock, but couldn’t tell if it was night or day. I’ve always loved windows and light. Now I had to search and somehow find the light in all of this. How would I find that light at the end of this tunnel? It didn’t seem to be there. I couldn’t talk, noises bothered me, so I couldn’t watch TV, and the unknown scared me. 

Then, after two days in ICU, I woke up to a colorful room. My friend had asked people to send cards, balloons, or stuffed animals. No flowers were allowed. The surprised staff didn’t realize I was a singer with a kids’ TV show. The lyrics to my songs were written in cards and on the wall. This lifted my spirits and made me fight even harder to make it through. 

The next day, I woke up to see my son David standing by my bedside. What a great sight to see! Not only is he my wonderful son, but he is a sweet, compassionate man. With the respirator in my mouth and down my throat, I couldn’t say a thing to him.

My son put a sponge up to my dry mouth and parched lips and then rubbed my arms and hands with lotion. What a healing time for me. I thought of the times he got sunburned, or had a bruise and I’d rub his arms or massaged legs with lotion. Now, the tables were turned. 

Trisha, our daughter, took time off from work and flew down from Oregon the next day. Again, I was touched. Gary had recovered from the flu and sat in the chair next to me when I didn’t even realize he was there. He asked if he could move me a little, or put a pillow behind my neck. I thought that this must be serious for the kids to take time out of their busy schedules to be here.

Later, I found out that I was a miracle walking. Code Blue had been called in the ambulance meaning I had stopped breathing and almost died, and a couple of times after that. But God heard the prayers of all our friends and family. I had no idea just how serious my condition was.

All three brothers and their wives came by several times. The Rice family was never very demonstrative and I rarely heard “I love you” growing up, though it sort of went without saying. Recently, though, with the loss of our mom, we had a closeness that I had never experienced. Suddenly, with my life in the balance, my brothers threw any conservative reserve out the window, although my room had no window. It was so good to hear them say they loved me. I was so thankful for that. They laid hands on me and prayed fervent prayers for their only sister. Their words of encouragement came like I’d never heard before. I always cried after they left when I thought about our family, Mom’s legacy, our big and faithful God, and how He brought us through so many struggles.


Update 5/6/2014: Now I'm only using oxygen occasionally at night to sleep, and even taking long walks. Top pulmonary doctor at USC hospital says that I'm still a huge "miracle walking" and defying all the odds. We know it's because of the army of people praying.

Last weekend I sang for the "Renewal conference" in Elk Grove, California for 500 Early Education teachers. At the end I shared my testimony along, with Darcie Maze, about the miracle we witnessed. I was able to sing for half  an hour and lead them in worship. All 500 gave us a huge standing ovation. I felt loved but even more than that, like it was applause from heaven. Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Defining Your Purpose for Having a VBS

If a genuine “WOW! I’M SO EXCITED” doesn’t well up within your spirit as you think about directing VBS this year, you may need to prayerfully define, or re-define, your purpose for having Vacation Bible School.

Perhaps the overwhelming responsibility of planning has blotted out your vision of sharing with boys and girls a living, loving Jesus.

God knows the best way to get things done at your church. God knows the most effective method for reaching children within the sphere of your church's efforts. Ask Him! Pray until you receive a God-given, clear vision of how to reach the boys and girls in your community.

Then always make a connection between your prayers and what you hear people saying. For instance, maybe you’ll start hearing: “We sure have lots of kids in our neighborhood. Sure wish there was some way to reach them.” Perhaps this year, instead of a traditional VBS, you feel God leading your church to sponsor one or more backyard Vacation Bible Schools. Your major purpose would then be community outreach and evangelism.

Or maybe after praying, you’ll realize your biggest headache each year are the crafts which means getting the needed personnel to help and rounding up the supplies. By eliminating crafts, this time slot can be used for playing Bible games to reinforce concepts, showing biblical DVD’s, and presenting special features.

To stay focused on your purpose, write down what God tells you through prayer and use it as a standard of measurement.

The “We’ve Always Done It This Way” syndrome can quench what God wants to accomplish at your church this year. Complacency stands as an enemy to change. Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to be flexible? Are you willing to try something only God can do? Are you willing to accept His purpose for your VBS? Are you willing to do everything possible to make this event life-changing?

Once you have a clear vision, then share it passionately with your volunteers. Repeatedly communicate the vision with clarity and purpose, until your staff becomes of one mind and heart together and rises to the challenge ahead.

Betty J Robertson

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Best Kept Secret in America: Genesee Home Pastoral Retreat Center

Angora Lake northern Sierra Nevada CA
Pastors are often fatigued with their unending responsibilities. Ministry is exhausting work; preaching, teaching, meetings, phone calls, hospital visits, counseling sessions, marriages, funerals, sermon preparation, and administration duties. Throughout the scriptures, God led chosen leaders off to be alone with Him for times of rejuvenation.

Genesee Home Retreat Center, in the northern Sierra Nevada of California, is the perfect place for a pastor and spouse to refocus. Four streams, six small fishing lakes, and numerous grazing meadows are all found on this incredible 1,600 piece of God’s creation. Peaceful forests, scenic meadows, idyllic creeks are all set against a backdrop of mountain peaks. The very location of this spectacular ranch can stir one’s soul. Quiet time for study, prayer and communion with God can be enjoyed.

The Genesee Home, a 19th century Victorian stone house once used as a stage coach stop, has recently been renovated to offer modern comforts and amenities. Every detail has been designed to provide couples a place to relax and reflect. A stay at Genesee Home includes a bedroom with a private bath, each with its own character for five nights, three meals per day, hostess gift, the use of the library and all recreation activities on the ranch.

Genesee Home wants the week to be affordable to all pastors or missionaries and their spouses. Therefore, they ask only to be reimbursed for approximately one-third of the operating expenses which is only $495 for each couple. This includes five nights stay in a beautiful restored Victorian Home and all meals. No rental car is needed, as guests are picked up at the airport!
Why not call (866) 715-REST right now!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pick a Child, Any Child

Southern California, early 1960s:

Most of my teachers didn’t know what to do with me. According to one report card, I lacked attention and self-control. Teachers tried to ignore me, but I made it difficult because I could never sit still. My second-grade teacher noted that I would rather make up stories and sing songs than do my other school subjects.

Thankfully, I had another teacher. Her name was Mom. If I hadn’t listened to my mother during my school days, I don’t know where I would be today. With tenacity, love and lots of prayer, Mom encouraged me to use my songs, gifts and talents. She made me aware of the wonderful truth that there is nobody else in the world like me. She encouraged me to be myself and to use whatever God put in my hands for His glory.

Thirty Years Later:

My mom developed a brain tumor and, at first, they thought it was inoperable. As she started sorting through the family heirlooms, my mom handed me a treasure chest of memorabilia from my childhood. In it were all my report cards that I had never seen, all the struggles of my childhood that were so difficult. When I asked her about it, she said, “Mary, I knew you were gifted and God would use your gifts to His glory.”

So it wasn’t until I was married and had my own children that I realized the extent of the challenges I had faced growing up. Funny how the report cards showed my problems, but my mother showed me my possibilities. And God showed me how to use both to become a committed musician and family-oriented minister.


After several strokes and a removal of the tumor, I praise God that Mom is with us today. My Mom was even featured with her homemade quilt on one of our weekly TV episodes. Because of her love, now I have our own weekly program that teaches good character through music and puppetry. I'm so glad she never gave up on this little child.

Will you be that one person who picks a young girl and helps her to believe she is very special and that God has a great plan for her life? Will you be willing to find that broken, wounded little boy who simply needs one person to show him God’s love and give him hope? Will you be there for the inner child of the mother who needs someone to remind her that she has the most important job in the world raising children to be all God wants them to be?

Pick a child, any child.


Creative Commons License
This work by Mary Rice Hopkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Planting God's Truth

Illustration by Pearson Scott Foresman
Acorns just aren't very fulfilled. Life is only good when they grow in fertile soil and become oak trees.
Do you think they lay on the ground, look up at the tree they fell from and think, "I wanna grow up to be just like you?"

Our children look to role models, too. We have the incredible responsibility (and fun) of helping boys and girls see Jesus as what they want to grow up to be like. We get to help make their soil fertile.

Teaching children this important principle and planting God's truth is the best job of all! I pray that the seeds we plant will bear fruit for years to come!

Gro├če Eichen

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Choosing to Care

You have probably heard the quote, "Children don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Investing in the lives of our pupils goes beyond one hour in the classroom at church.

Are we willing to invest time in the lives of our pupils?

When we attend a sports event or a musical concert, this action says "I care."

When we call a child's parents and ask permission to drop by and visit for a few minutes, this shows we care.

When we mail a letter, make a phone call, or send an e-mail this shows we care.

Praying daily for the pupils in our class, shows we care. One teacher not only prays for the pupils she presently has, but continues to pray for the students she had last year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Time spent praying is never wasted!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Lesson by Betty Benson Robertson

Bible open to Luke 17 (which you hold while telling the story).

Have you ever had measles where you got little red spots on your body? Or chicken pox where you have little sores all over your body that itch?

With either of these diseases, you get well within a few days. A story in the Bible, in Luke 17, talks about people who had a horrible disease that made sores all over their bodies. Sometimes the disease made them crippled or blind. They were called lepers.

Let’s say that word together: Lepers.
Again: Lepers.

Because others could catch this disease, the lepers had to stay away from people. So they were very lonely. The lepers always carried bells to ring, warning others to stay away. They couldn't work or live with their families. They could only stand by the roadside or outside the gates of the city and beg for money.

Then, one day, a leper said to the others: “Did you hear the good news? Jesus is coming to town! I can’t wait to see Him!”

Another leper said: “We’ll never be able to get close enough to Him. We can’t get near people.”

“No,” the first leper replied, “but we can shout!”

Soon they saw Jesus coming. And they shouted: “Jesus, have mercy on us!” And they kept shouting: “Jesus, have mercy on us! Jesus, have mercy on us!”

Let’s pretend we are the lepers. Let’s shout together those words: “Jesus, have mercy on us!” Let’s say it again: “Jesus, have mercy on us!” Again: “Jesus, have mercy on us!”

Jesus looked at the lepers. And when the lepers saw Jesus looking at them, their eyes opened wide with surprise and their mouths dropped open. Let’s all show on our faces how we look when we are surprised.

Jesus looked right at the lepers and said: “Go to the temple and show the priests that you are healed.” The lepers may have said to each other: “What? What does Jesus mean we are healed?” Then one probably said: “My sores are gone!” And another leper said: “Mine, too! My skin looks healthy again!” Another one said: “I don’t limp anymore!”

As they were all walking toward the temple, they were saying: “Jesus has healed us! Jesus has healed us!” Let’s say that together: “Jesus has healed us!” Again: “Jesus has healed us.” One more time: “Jesus has healed us.”

One of the ten lepers when he realized Jesus had healed him, turned around and went back to where Jesus was. He was so grateful for what Jesus had done for him that he knelt at Jesus’ feet and said: “Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus.”

Let’s say that together: “Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, Jesus!”

Jesus said: “Stand up. Go on your way now. Your faith has made you well. But didn't I heal TEN lepers? Where are the other 9?

PRAYER: Perhaps some of the children would like to thank Jesus for things He has done for them and/or their families recently.

SONG: “It Is Good” (…to give thanks to the Lord) from 15 Singable Songs album

BIBLE VERSE: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

Preparation: Post the scripture verse for all to see.
Activity: Lead the children in reading the verse in segments.
Segment #1: “Give thanks to the Lord.”
Segment # 2: “for he is good.”
Segment # 3: “his love endures forever”;
Segment # 4: Psalm 107:1).

Read each segment 3 times in unison before adding another segment. Now remove the verse and play “Let’s Pretend.”
Leader says: “Let’s pretend to be robots and say the verse together; let’s pretend we’re in a library and whisper the verse together; let’s pretend we’re telling the verse to someone who can’t hear very well.”

Bible Verse Poster Materials Needed
Colored construction paper
the Bible verse printed on white 81/2” x11”
washable magic markers

Activity: Have the children mount the scripture verses on construction paper and then decorate. Encourage them to take them home and mount them on the front of their refrigerators and read to their family before the evening meal each day the next week.
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