One donor's story: Erick Bates
I am the middle of three sons and I now have two incredible daughters of my own. My mom’s parents were the corner stone of our family, as they instilled in us the value of faith in God, service to others and strong family bonds. Some of my earliest memories of my grandparents were as they retired and I helped them serve lunch to seniors at the East Side Neighborhood House in Minneapolis. We also spent at least 6 weeks a year camping or vacationing with extended family throughout the states. I was active in our church youth ministries programs up until college. When I got married, we moved to Portland, Oregon 2 days after the Halloween blizzard of 1991, leaving behind our friends, family and faith. Believing as many young couples do, all we needed was each other.
It is important to me that I am not viewed as a hero. Because, the glory really needs to go back to God for what He did in my life in March 2011, where He directed my path to Florida at a time when my heart and soul were in total despair and disarray. It was during that time I saw in the eyes of another, the peace, hope and joy they had in Christ, which I needed in my life, more than I needed air to simply survive. I just did not know how to get it. But God also had waiting for me, the book “Life’s Healing Choices” by John Baker, which outlined the plan of how to get what I saw through Celebrate Recovery, a ministry I then found at Brooklyn Park Evangelical Church. I can never say thank you enough, or repay the ones that have given me hope during my journey the last 2 ½ years, as I came to know that not only did Christ die and rise again, so I can accept by faith His free gift of eternal life. But He also wants a relationship with me personally to provide new life here on Earth as He renews my heart, soul and mind each day. Because He has granted my hearts’ desire from 2011 and I have come to know the peace, hope and joy that I was desperately seeking, despite life struggles I still endure. So now I can serve my God of healing and restoration by being the example to others, living a message of hope and new life that can be found in Him. I have also learned that even the smallest act of kindness, simplest of prayers, or words of encouragement, can provide someone strength and hope that they can cling to as they struggle to overcome their hurts, habits or hangups that rob them of the joy that life has to offer.
October 31st 2012 I received an invitation on Facebook to an event that was creating an awareness for a woman that needed a kidney donation. I began to think this may be the answer to the question I had been struggling with over the past few months. How do I repay all the people that have given me hope, encouragement and support during the darkest period in my life? Where, within 24 months I had suffered the loss of my career, home, family business and a 22 year marriage, but can now honestly say I have no regrets. Because I have come out a stronger person of faith and conviction from what I have learned through the struggles God carried me through.
I thought back to October 31st, 2011 when I took a very difficult step and let go of my pride to receive assistance from CROSS food-shelf in Rogers. Because at that time I could not even afford to buy milk for my daughter, and did not want anyone to know my circumstances. Then when I got home I was overwhelmed with gratitude and tears in my eyes. I could picture in my mind how God had moved the hearts of people to work together, hours, days and years beforehand, to make that moment possible, to provide in my time of need. What I received that day was so much more than simply food. It was an incredible gift of hope and encouragement, realizing I was not alone, and that God does care and provide through the hands of others.
So now I understood that I was asking the wrong question. Because I cannot repay a gift of hope and encouragement like a debt. But I can accept it, and pass it on to others to strengthen their heart and soul. By letting God work through me, sharing His love and compassion, to get them through a time of darkness and struggles, empowering them to become stronger than they thought possible on their own. So the question then became “How can I give others encouragement and hope, in a real and tangible way that can change their lives forever?”
The day after Thanksgiving 2012, I called the Transplant Coordinator Eugenia Steffens to begin the donor process to become that answer for someone. I was not a match for the person I initially saw a need for, but made myself available as a non-directed donor in the Kidney Paired Donation program. Which Tuesday morning July 2nd 2013 began a chain of surgeries involving 3 donors and 3 recipients in MN, GA, and MD. An incredible answer to prayer for many people on multiple levels. Because not only does it free someone from the bondage of dialysis and give them a chance at a new and longer life of independence. It is also an example to others to be self-sacrificing and consider how we can each impact the lives of others in a positive way, giving of our time, energy, resources and our selves.
So I thank God for the all people and events, positive and negative, that were brought into my life to change my heart and soul to be able to say “yes” to this opportunity and become a blessing to others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4