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“I now understand how hard it must’ve been for them to ask for help": Former surfer-turned-missionary hopes recent health battle will help him serve others better

“I now understand how hard it must’ve been for them to ask for help": Former surfer-turned-missionary hopes recent health battle will help him serve others better

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It wasn’t the way Michael and Karen Hymen had dreamed of beginning their new life together.

But surprise heart surgery will derail even a honeymoon.

“For the first part of our marriage, she was with me in the hospital all the time,” said Michael, who after marrying his wife Karen in March went on to have not one but three serious surgeries, including a triple bypass.

None of the procedures, which occurred over seven weeks, had been foreseen, he said.

And even now, a few months later, it’s hard for the Tulsa couple to enjoy being married.

Michael, who also had large tumors removed from his neck and spine — the first of which was cutting off blood flow to his brain — is still dealing with complications from his recovery. And the situation has multiplied their financial worries.

No longer able to work after being self-employed in the concrete business, Michael’s money situation was already shaky after a recent tragic loss.

Big waves

A former competitive surfer and triathlete from California, Michael said it was finding God that led him to give up his life of chasing “big waves.”

That, in turn, led him to Tulsa and his first wife, Lynda, with whom he would go into ministry.

For 10 years, the couple served as missionaries overseas before returning to Tulsa to raise their family.

But in 2017, after nearly 30 years of marriage, Lynda died from cancer.

For Michael, who stopped working to become her full-time caregiver, it was a gut-wrenching experience.

“It really came out of left field,” he said.

But the brave and inspiring way in which Lynda battled changed Michael forever. Initially given just weeks to live, she made it almost two years before succumbing. In the process, she taught him a lot about faith.

After Lynda’s death, Michael never expected to marry again, he said. But about a year ago, through a mutual acquaintance, he reconnected with Karen.

The two once attended the same high school in the Los Angeles area. Although only barely acquainted with each other then, the new relationship felt like it was meant to be, they said.

It was Karen, who previously ran a nonprofit in Denver, who was familiar with the Salvation Army and recently suggested they reach out for help.

With out-of-pocket medical expenses climbing to more than $10,000 and bills piling up, the help came at the right time.

“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to ask for help,” Michael said, adding that when Karen first mentioned the Salvation Army he said “I can’t do that.”

The feeling of needing help

Following his spiritual awakening three decades ago, Michael believed that God was calling him to go to Tulsa, he said.

He couldn’t explain it and he didn’t know why initially, but he followed through.

In Tulsa, he went on to attend Rhema Bible College and go into mission work.

However, nothing in Michael’s past — which was focused more on giving than receiving — prepared him for the humbling experience of the last year.

He’s now seeing God’s hand in it more clearly, though, he said. His recent struggles, he believes, are preparing him for the next phase of his life.

Karen, who ran Seek and Save the Lost, a faith-based basic needs charity, in Colorado, is planning to start it up in the Tulsa area with Michael.

From her own life experience, Karen has learned that “you can’t run a charity effectively, unless you know the feeling of needing help,” she said.

She’s emphasized that to Michael, helping him find meaning in his recent troubles.

“Now I really can identify with a lot of the people (in need),” he said. “And I understand how hard it must’ve been for them to ask for help.”

“It’s really been eye-opening and heart-awakening.”

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Tim Stanley


Twitter: @timstanleyTW


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