I Am With You Always
The Lord sometimes leads us to unexpected places, in unexpected ways. And when He does, His promise to be with us always is true.
That is what FMC missionary and staff member Michael Henderson learned last year.
Let’s back up a little…to 2015, when Michael and his wife, Veronica, joined FMC with their family and went through Intake formation. They served first in Mexico for a year, and Taiwan for three years, before the Lord called them back to the USA in 2020.
They didn’t feel called out of missions, but they wanted to do more to evangelize in the US. They saw the confusion in the culture, especially among the youth, and wanted to bring Christ into those challenges.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hendersons returned to Texas, Michael reopened his automotive shop, and the family opened their home to others for Bible studies and evangelization training.
But they were feeling a burning in their heart to serve the poor again. “Why is my heart burning for the poor if I am not called to live with them?” Michael asked. “The Lord told me that I’m surrounded by the poor.” This confirmed the call to serve the spiritually poor in the US.
The Henderson family received a call back to FMC—literally. One of FMC’s directors called Michael and invited his family to consider becoming the “camp family” at FMC’s Stillwater Retreat Center. Leadership continued to extended the invitation until Michael and Veronica felt that the time was right. And when they did decide to open their hearts to that discernment and visit FMC again, their hearts were filled with peace.
On February 1, 2022, Michael began to work full- time for FMC. And on that very day, Michael also received difficult news. “That’s the day I went full- time with FMC and the day I was diagnosed with colon cancer,” Michael recounts.
Immediately Michael and Veronica went to the chapel to pray and, by God’s grace, were overcome with peace. “We came out of the chapel so peaceful, it was crazy,” Michael recalls. “The Lord held his hand out to us; He said he was going through it with us.”
“We came out of the chapel so peaceful, it was crazy. The Lord held his hand out to us; He said he was going through it with us.”
While in the chapel, Michael had noticed that the image of the Lamb on the tabernacle looks like He’s moving upwards and leading. “Where is the Lamb going? He’s going to the slaughter,” he observed.
The next several months were filled with immense suffering. Michael explains, “I thought, ‘I’m a tough guy, I can crush this.’ But chemo was really, really bad. [After the first treatment] I was sitting in adoration thinking, ‘I cannot do this eleven more times.’”
He was challenged during this time to recall what he had been taught about redemptive suffering and offering it up, particularly through the teachings of St. John Paul II. When Michael prayed about how inadequate he felt in his imperfect suffering, he felt the Lord say, “I suffered so that I can join you in your suffering.” He was in awe of the great love that God has for him and for every soul.
At the same time, there was supernatural peace. One day Veronica asked Michael, “Should I be more upset than I am?” People were asking her if she was okay, and she really felt peace in knowing that this is where the Lord has them, and He was bringing them through it.
At one point during the course of chemo treatments, Michael got covid. He was sleeping on the floor under the fan one night and asked the Lord to be with him.
“It was like [The Lord] started laughing,” Michael recounts. “‘I’m always here. YOU be with ME.’”
“That was the most terrible night of my life, but it was the best night of my life. The Lord was like, ‘That’s how you do it. When you’re suffering, you pray.’”
Every time he woke up that night, he was flooded with prayer intentions: for the pope, the synod, FMC, and many others who came to mind or who had shared needs. He had a whiteboard where he wrote prayer requests as a visual reminder. There was much pain, but so much peace.
“That was the most terrible night of my life, but it was the best night of my life. The Lord was like, ‘That’s how you do it. When you’re suffering, you pray.’ When I start suffering, I get flooded with intentions [of] prayer. For some reason, He designed it so that we could take part.”
In all of this, Michael realized that it wasn’t only in suffering that he could share this close union with the Lord. He heard Christ’s voice say, “This is how you do it all the time. You can be yoked to me in everything.”
“God means what He says and does what He says. He is with us.”
Thanks be to God and His healing power, Michael finished chemo six months ago and recently had a clean scan.
Michael wants to encourage others who are going through difficult times:
“God means what He says and does what He says. He tells us when we go to Him. He is with us. We have a God who is so personal that He can relate to everything we go through so that we never have to be alone. God wants not only to be there with us, but to help us flourish in suffering. Monetary or physical suffering can still be a time of love and peace. I can trust that He will be there. If He says it, He means it. His word is never void.”
Michael, Veronica, and their nine children now serve as the camp family at Stillwater Retreat Center and help lead stateside mission trips.
Michael says that he loves creating space for people to encounter Jesus. He hopes that his efforts, often behind the scenes, help to create a place of encounter where people leave transformed.
Michael shares some words of thanksgiving: “Thank you all for your love for us, for God and His Kingdom! Please join my family and me today and praise God for His presence, His love, and His goodness! He leads us.”
Michael was interviewed for this article by Cate Broadbent, managing editor of SERVE.
Learn more about the Henderson family at hendersonfamily.familymissionscompany.com.
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