Coke, crisps and hope

notice board
Many churches have been rising to the occasion and using their notice boards to encourage passers by. This one was found by a Twitter user from the States recently.

Sick of the stream of depressing and disheartening chatter that is the daily Covid-19 news cycle? Here's a coronavirus story that will lift some of that gloom.

It's a story about a cleaner, a can of Coke and a packet of crisps and how they helped pull a man back from the end of his rope.

Lee McClelland is the pastor of The Ark Church in Belfast. He had tested positive for the virus and was in isolation in hospital. Despondent, fearful and alone, he was going through a deep dark night of the soul.

His YouTube account of what happened to him in hospital has seen his church inundated with responses and messages of cheer.

Speaking about two nights he says were his "nights from hell", he says in the video. "I remember those two nights particularly in the hospital when I didn't know if I would make it or not.

"I was under incredible pressure and thought I was moments away from ending up on a ventilator."

Lee said he cried out to God for help. "I asked Him to help me, to somehow encourage my heart, even supernaturally to bring me through this."

And that's when things began to happen for Lee. "You have to understand that being in isolation...nobody can come in," he says in the video. "No friend, no family member, nobody. But when nobody was allowed in, God sent a cleaner."

And not just any cleaner. This cleaner had been a missionary to Nigeria for 14 years. He spoke to Lee, encouraging him and, as he left his room, said a prayer for him.

"He asked the Holy Spirit (the unseen presence of God) to touch me, to heal me, to touch my lungs," Lee said. "He pleaded with God Almighty to save my life."

Lee said his condition improved that very night. It improved in the time-honoured way of a sudden uptick in his appetite. Lee went from having no appetite at all to a sudden craving for prawn cocktail potato crisps and Coke.

Unfortunately, crisps and Coke are as a general rule not easily found in isolation wards. Enter Lee's new friend to clean the room the next day. This time, he came with a bag of goodies. In the bag were two oranges. A can of Coke. And a bag of prawn cocktail-flavoured potato crisps. Exactly what Lee had been craving - and something the cleaner could not have known without some divine prompting.

Lee's testimony has touched many lives and sparked scores of comments such as these:

"Amazing the way the Lord works and how that cleaner went in in a time of need and how God got Lee what he asked for through the cleaner. Nothing is impossible with God."

"Amazing testimony of God's power! Your testimony has reached all the way to the Cornells household in California, USA and has been shared many times. Thank you pastor Lee McClelland !!!"

"I watched your video last night and cried. Lovely story of faith and hope amidst such fear and sadness."

The video has not surprisingly sparked many questions to Lee about his faith.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, he says this virus has led to a growing awareness that we are frail, along with fear and anxiety.

"There are people who have been encouraged but others are still sceptical. As a Christian and a pastor, my greatest focus isn't this earth, my focus is eternity," Lee says.

"People have been contacting me saying 'I'm hurting, does your God have any hope for people like me?' "

To people everywhere, Lee's message is simple: "Folks, God is a personal God. I want to encourage you that He knows what you have need of. He knows your hearts' desire and He is an incredible Saviour - right down to when one of his sons desired a packet of prawn cocktail crisps He found a way to get them to me.

"So don't tell me that God doesn't know...He knows our every need, our every desire. My new cleaner friend passed the bag through the door and said 'this is a gift from the Lord.' "

And to Christians he says: "Never underestimate how God can use your life or what He can do through you. He can use anybody."

Lee is home with his family and has months of recovery ahead. He hopes to one day meet the cleaner who in simple obedience and faith pulled him back from brink of the abyss.

"One day I would like to give this man a huge hug because his gesture meant so much. What he did that morning was incredible. I don't know if he knows how much it encouraged me."

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