Kelcy Steele ~ Pastor, Interrupted: What Nearly Dying Will Teach a Minister

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In the early morning hours of April 23, 2015, I felt myself dancing in between every stanza of Saint John of the Cross’ poem, when he narrated the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. The journey is called “The Dark Night”, because darkness represents the hardships and difficulties the soul meets in detaching from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which St. John of the Cross related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God.

A pastor in the AME Zion church, I had woken up on April 22, 2015 feeling happy about myself and proud of my spiritual maturity and union with God. I had won my weight loss battle that I had fought for almost three years. I have gone from over 330 pounds to 195 pounds. I am a 32-year-old African-American man in good health except for being anemic, which was remedied by taking a daily iron supplement.

In these last three years I have become a fitness advocate and I enjoyed promoting healthy living, proper nutrition, and exercise. I was proud of my accomplishments and those who helped me on my journey, but with the weight loss came sagging skin on my stomach, which was becoming irritated and developing keloids. As I was awaiting my shuttle to my surgeon’s office I was optimistic about this next phase of my journey.  I went into surgery at eight o’clock in the morning and everything went well  – no pain or complications – so I was on my way home by about 12:30 pm.

Once I arrived home I took the medication the doctor had prescribed me and went to sleep, only to wake up with nausea and vomiting violently. I didn’t know that as a result of the vomiting and motions of my body, a few stitches had detached, and I was losing blood.

I laid back down to try to get comfortable and by the early morning hours of April 23rd I started vomiting violently once again, but this time I saw myself sitting in blood. I got up from my recliner in my office, went to the living room, my wife got her sleeping gear and asked if I needed anything; not knowing the severity of my condition from blood loss (a hazard with that particular physical crisis), I told her no.

Soon, though, I started talking out of my head and began to go in and out of consciousness. I babbled to my wife that I need to go to the emergency room and get some medical attention; thinking it was just a reaction of the medication, she called the doctor, using the emergency number on the post-surgery care instructions sent home by the surgeon.

And as they were in conversation, all I could see was the blurriness of death, being detached from this world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. I wasn’t scare of death, because it was as if God was ministering to me through the misery of that night and showing me all the things that I had left to complete and accomplish.

I came back to consciousness and my wife was still talking to the doctor; she brought me something to eat and I was going between consciousness and unconsciousness. Once again I lost consciousness only to be brought back by my wife handing me clothes to put on and starting the car so that she could transport me to the hospital.  I put my clothes on and fell over the chair, which caused more damage to my already-open wound. My wife whispered in my ear, “you can do this Kelcy,” and I started repeating in a faint way, “you can do this Kelcy.” I tried to walk out the door and I fainted on the pouch and when I came back my wife was saying, “why are you doing this, Kelcy?” and I tried to respond, “what am I doing?” and then she gave me her arm to grab and somehow I got up and made it off the stairs. When I got to the door of the car I fainted again, falling into a rose bush, which aggravated the wound even more.  She helped me in the car and I didn’t regain consciousness until we got to the parking lot of the hospital and I woke up sitting in my blood in my car. Then I heard and saw my wife running back to the car saying that she went for help and they are coming to transport me from the car to the hospital and the staff brought a wheelchair and pulled me out of the car and rushed me in.

All I remember after getting into reception is my wife getting heated when she was told that hospital policy restricted her from coming back yet.

As soon as they saw the severity of my condition, a team of ER workers surrounded me and attempted to stop the bleeding. They ordered me to be put under general anesthesia and then performed reconstructive surgery in order to repair the wound.

I had to receive six bags of blood through a blood transfusion because I had lost so much.

When I came back to consciousness in the operating room recovery area, I woke up to the voice of my wife and the image of one of my friends and ministry colleagues. After four days of round-the-clock care, I was finally released.

Since that night I have difficulty sleeping.

It causes me to cry every time I think about it; it’s not something that can just be filed away and put behind you easily.

It was not just physical trauma, it was “soul trauma.”

I believe that God allows all things to happen for a purpose and that this crisis will forever be a turning point and refining moment in my life.  God taught me in those moments that you have to make the best of your life and reevaluate and lay aside every weight that is preventing you from not accomplishing and making full proof of your ministry. I will walk away from this stronger, wiser and much better.

I am empowered to share his kingdom; my testimony has intensified, my worship and ministry are in overdrive.

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A South Carolina native, the Rev. Kelcy Steele and his wife Natasha live in Los Angeles, where he is the pastor of First AME Zion Church of Los Angeles. Visit www.thepastorsteeleshow.info/ to learn more about his regular radio broadcast.

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