Latest Update

November 3 (2:00 PM)

Thank you for your continued prayer. There are three parts to this update. 1) I want to share an answer to prayer and a special request. 2) I want to try to answer the question of when Pastor may be able to go home. 3) I want to share part of a letter from a specialist in the Neuro-rehab field which was an encouragement.

First, Praise the Lord! The prayer for speech therapy has been answered. Pastor has been receiving speech therapy three times per week for the last few weeks. The therapist has been working on two main things: helping him to get voice out and swallowing. Today, he was able to receive 15 small spoons of gelatin thickened lemon water. Soon, an appointment will be made for him to go to the hospital for a swallow test to see if he is swallowing properly and to make sure nothing is going into the lungs. Thick liquid will be dyed, and an x-ray will show where it goes when he swallows. Then the liquid given in the test will gradually be thinned to see what he can tolerate. The therapist asked me what my goal was. She said to aim for meals is too much and beyond his energy level. I told her I just want to get to the next step, whatever that is. She asked if I just want him to be able to sip water when he asks, or do I want puree like apple sauce. I responded the latter would be nice. Then she said, "Joe, what is your goal? To drink some water or juice?" to which he immediately whispered, "juice." She continued to say, "or apple sauce" to which he whispered, "yogurt." That was funny. She said that for sure if he wants yogurt the swallow test will be important because it could cause infection like pneumonia in the lungs. Please pray God continues to strengthen his swallow and that he is able to pass the test.

Secondly, here are some thoughts on taking Pastor home. Of coure our family has wanted Pastor home from day one. We miss him more than words can explain. Home feels empty without his presence. Never does a week pass without my struggling over this. Leaving him daily is heart wrenching. With all that said, here are a few thoughts on when we would consider taking him home.

*First and foremost, when it seems that his going home would be the best thing for his health and progress
*When doctors agree it's what is best for him
*When wise counsel encourages us to do so
*When those closest to him are in agreement that it's best for him
*When we have the realistic capability of doing so (house-wise, financially, practically, medically, etc.)
*And of course it goes without saying, when God gives us peace about it

Pastor has made miraculous and continual progress (though sometimes two steps forward and one step backward) in the present setting.

Medically, he is in place where medical issues that could become setbacks are able to be quickly addressed. When an ultrasound was needed recently, a call was made and before the day was over it was done. When there's any suspicion of pneumonia which is so common for bed ridden patients, an x-ray can be done immediately. Doctors, pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, a daily skin care nurse, other therapists when approved are there onsite. When he needs to go offsite for appointments, there is transportation arranged and an RT travels along.

Practically, we believe for now, Pastor is in a place to receive the most intensive help. If I were to take him home today and decide to carry the entire physical care for Pastor alone (which I would most gladly spend the rest of my life doing for him), doing the work of the nurse who cares several times per day for feeding through the tube and medicines, and the CNA's who does the bathing and changing and turning and hoyer lifting into the wheel chair, and the RNA's who help with splints and help stand him twice per week and watch him through the nights, and if I were to take on care for the tracheotomy and lung care, being responsible for scheduling appointments and transporting him instead of much of it being done in house then there is little chance I would be able to spend the many daily hours presently spent doing those things that neurologically and physically Lord willing may potentially help him improve functionally. Insurances are very limited in giving therapy, etc., so by necessity we have become his therapists; and here we are able to almost solely focus on doing so.

There are many days when I just want to take my husband home despite any rationale. Many days, I am impatient and tired and overwhelmed with going to Huntington Beach seven days per week or being away from home for close to 9 hours per day or broken hearted to kiss him good bye, or I feel a need to be closer to home for family and home's sake, or I am just plain lonely and miss him; but then I pray and don't feel peace, and none of our adult children feel it is the best thing for him right now. No medical staff has said it's time. I mentioned taking my husband home to a Pastor recently who told me that before I start making a decision like that to make sure that the folks I am getting my counsel from have been there before. I mentioned in an update before that the man across the hall wanted to go home. He was able to communicate better, was younger, and his family remodeled their house completely and did so. This lady warned me that if I was considering the same not to make a quick decision that it was very difficult (though how hard it is for me isn't my main concern). Her son developed pneumonia which they didn't have the expertise to catch. His lung collapsed. He ended up back there after being in the hospital and ultimately he passed away. Another man told me of his regrets of taking his wife home after she'd made progress and she passed away.

I think it's perhaps easy for the situation to be confused with someone who is fragile and ill who is at the point of hospice and being taken home with hospice care to die comfortably at home surrounded by family. The purpose is entirely different. There are two sides to Pastor's care: 1) keeping him healthy (the focus of the facility) and 2) encouraging his progress (what we pray and work for). So we wait often very impatiently for the day Pastor will go home. We believe he will but can't let our impatience be the determining factor. By the way, one family was visiting and asked the this question. Then they said to Pastor, "Don't you want to go home?" Immediately, with a sincere look on his face and some squint of the eyes he shook his head no. I believe he has enough understanding to know it's not best at this point.

Lastly, many have asked what the state Pastor is in is considered. This is the first time anyone actually has given me a clear description of my husband's state. Here is a portion of the e-mail I received from a specialist in the field of brain rehabilitation (not the technical terminology):

First, I am so happy to read about the Pastor's progress. All praise to our Heavenly Father! Pastor is definitely a locked-in syndrome and not minimally conscious or slow-to-recover. His brain is intact but the brain stem, below, has been impaired. The "vegetative" functions controlled by the brainstem include swallowing, breathing, vision and eye movement, control of lip, tongue muscles and control of air to produce sound for speaking. The fact that he is able to speak some words is fabulous. The weakness of his speaking is related to poor air control. There are exercises that a speech pathologist can do to help strengthening the force of air from the diaphragm. At this point, as you describe his abilities, he is far ahead of most locked-in patients. Strengthening the limbs and grasp with the hands can be exercised by gradually adding small weights and working the hand by squeezing something like silly putty or a swishy ball. Maybe you are already doing this and other things. With an intact brain, his awareness, memory, following instructions, etc. are able to function. Absolutely, he is fully aware.

With a good cough I would hope that they are aggressive about working on swallow and capping to achieve decannulation and an oral diet. In time, it will happen.

Insurance ! How I wish our patients like the Pastor had abundant funds. We can do so much with them. Yes, he will fatigue and need to rest but pick up again after a while. This builds endurance. I would have him up daily in a tilt-in-space wheelchair. A little at a time to build endurance. These wheelchairs can also have electric controls so he can drive himself around. Definitely keep him in touch with his church family. Visitations not only help him but his parishioners are encouraged to see him responding to them.

Our program (CNS) now has four facilities (3 California and 1 in Texas). We have focused on neurologic rehab for acquired and traumatic brain injury for over 35 years. It was founded in 1980 by Mark Ashley, who became a speech pathologist after his older brother, Steve, suffered a brainstem aneurysm and was a locked-in. This happened while he was in the Navy... back in the 1970s. All they did was put him in a military hospital with total care. He could do nothing for himself and could not speak. He could blink "yes" and "no." But he was very aware of everything. In those days, neurologic rehab did not exist. It was believed that no recovery of any kind was possible. The family finally brought him home and set up the living room as a hospital room. Mark cared for his brother while attending school at So. Illinois University. After earning a Masters in Speech Pathology at age 19, he moved to Bakersfield, CA to work as a speech pathologist. While in Illinois he and a classmate worked part-time in a facility caring for brain injured patients with severe behavior problems. Mark developed a protocol to address cognitive and behavioral issues after brain injury. In 1980, he and his partner took out a loan and took a step of faith: they opened the first post-acute brain injury rehab facility in the U.S. No one... I mean NO ONE... did that kind of rehab in those days. We had always been told that "you can't fix a hole in the head!"

I was working as a physical therapist in a private practice in Bakersfield. They called one day and said "this is what we are going to do and we think that you're crazy enough to join us!!!" I did and have watched that tiny little program grow and gain favor with many insurance carriers because we did great work. 35 years later, CNS is four clinics strong and is known internationally for innovations brain injury rehab. We are currently publishing the 4th Edition of our neurologic rehab text. The Bakersfield facility has just opened a beautiful state-of-the-art clinic. We are very busy in all clinics... still doing what we were told can't be done.

Steve was my first patient in those early days. You can't rehab a locked-in... many doctors told me... but we did. It was long and laborious, especially for Steve, but he gained speech, could go anywhere in his electric wheelchair, gained function in his right hand, typed on a computer, fed himself... so on. He did not gain as much physical function because of 9 years lying helpless in a bed before CNS. The VA finally coughed up funds to allow Steven to purchase a van and hired a caretaker to take him everywhere. He rented a house. The caretaker got him up, dressed him, and Steve "helped" fix breakfast and pack a lunch for the day. They got in the van and took care of business. Steve was able to manage his affairs. He was in control. Steve had taught me so much about fighting for the possibilities by stretching what knowledge you have and making it go much farther. I became a better therapist because of him. Now, at 75, I'm trying to retire but our field just keeps reaching for the next edge. Neuro-imaging technology has exploded and is now showing us the brain actually "at work." This new technology helps us know when a particular treatment is working or not. We can see the brain metabolizing oxygen and glucose and reorganize itself.... it's called neuroplasticity. While I no longer practice therapy... old body, you know... I am writing the research and developing protocol manuals to teach all therapists how to do it. Part of my job includes responding to questions... like yours about the Pastor... from all over the world. I am very blessed.

A side note from Pastor's family on her comment about visits: We would love for Pastor to have more visitors. Please just text one of the family members to be sure he is not out for an appointment, in the gym, etc. and perhaps we can have him dressed and up in the chair ready for the visit. I think at some point I miscommunicated that we discouraged visits. In the beginning while he was in ICU, the hospital requested us to limit visits as they were overwhelmed and not able to care for him properly due to the large amount of visitors. And, there was a point later where the physiatrist felt too many visitors had overwhelmed him and set him back a bit and she said just to limit the number per day and length of each visit.

Once again, thank you so much for your prayer and encouragement to us.

Please pray for the following:

  • Speech therapy to continue making progress
  • The swallow test
  • Capping of tracheotomy (He is slowly doing better, little by little)
  • Continue to pray for the miracle where one day his brain and body completely wake up. (I always hesitate in saying this because I never want to appear ungrateful for the multitude of God's goodness and working up to this place. We've come so very far—praise the Lord.)

October 3 (9:00 PM)

As we approach the second year anniversary of the day Pastor Esposito went into the hospital, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect and to praise the Lord who has been very good to us and to thank so many who have prayed and who have been such an encouragement to us. Then I'd also like to do my best to give everyone a very thorough picture of how Pastor is presently doing.

Of course, I would be dishonest to pretend that this day doesn't come with many mixed emotions. A couple nights ago, I was at my husband's desk in our room listening on our church website to some of his preaching. One of my boys stood behind me for a bit, and asked, "Mom, when will Dad be all the way better?" Talk about breaking your heart. How does one answer that question to her teenage son who misses his dad? I wish I knew the answer, but this isn't like getting your appendix out and the doctor saying take it easy for two weeks and don't lift anything heavy for 6 weeks, then you will be back to normal after 8 weeks. The day we left Memorial Hospital ICU after 40 days, the doctor said, "Now... you wait... 6 months, 6 years, we don't know." So here we are waiting, praying, and doing all that we can to encourage healing. GOD HAS BROUGHT US A VERY LONG WAY from the first night when my brother-in-law asked what the chance was of waking from the coma and the doctor just looking downward or the 10% he'd have any functionality at all if he did wake up. We do PRAISE THE LORD. We trust HIM that He is working His will, His way, and in His time.

Let me take a few moments to try to give a clear picture of Pastor's present status. For all of these miracles, we thank and praise God:

· He is "awake" in the sense he's no longer in a coma. He wakes and he sleeps though his energy is very limited, and he needs lots of sleep throughout the day.

· Anyone who spends much time just talking with Pastor believes his mind is all there. Further confirmation is that he knows things like letters, numbers, can read words, can add math facts if you ask him. He can follow any command you ask him that he has physical capability of doing like "lift your right pinky finger," "turn your head to the left," "wiggle your left toes," and "hold or drop the ball."

· He seems to have a very good memory. For example, one of our ladies asked, "Do you remember me Pastor?" And he whispered her name. A young girl he hadn't seen in a long while came, and when I asked him her name, he mouthed it. The children sat around talking about times Pastor saw them from his upstairs office window and whistled for them and they knew they were in trouble for many funny memories like that he smiles. He indicates he does not remember the day he went to the hospital, and I suppose that is a good thing.

· He is regaining movement little by little. He has pretty good use of his left arm and hand. He has a very good grip and pull especially for tug of war with the rubber rope. He has some ability on the left leg. He can participate when you exercise it. Today, he was moving it up and down quickly with me. He recently became able to lift the left leg upward while sitting in the wheelchair. He can also move the toes, foot, ankle on the left while in bed or the chair. His right side is doing better though still pretty weak. He can move specific fingers on the right. He can try to clap it with the left. This week he gave a good push and pull motion on the right leg. Well, it was noticeable that he was trying. He can move the toes on that side, and tries the foot and you see a bit of a jerk as he tries. You can feel a push. He can move his head up and down, left and right (though he avoids the right side). When standing in the standing frame if told to stand up straight, he puts effort into straightening up his upper body. He can hold onto a pipe and help lean his body forward in the chair. While in the chair, he can clearly "lean left" and "lean right". We are working at twisting his trunk. He can roll the ball around on the table, squeeze it, and grasp and release it. Though all of these take great effort, he is doing it and gradually improving.<\p>

· He has capable vision. I wanted to share this in its own update a week or so ago, but didn't. I made an appointment for an eye specialist at Western University. For a good hour Pastor very intently participated in the exam. At first the Doctor asked me how he could respond to let her know that he could see at various distances. I said to ask if he could and let him nod or shake his head. So she asked him if he could see the first letter, and with an audible voice he told her the name of the letter and so on he went. He was getting tired trying to produce voice, so as they were now numbers, he held up his hand with appropriate number of fingers (without our asking). She had him do thumbs up if he could see with his peripheral vision field, had him focus at a distance, and open his eyes, keep them closed, etc. He did everything perfectly. It was pretty exciting! She used various types of equipment, tests, etc. She determined that he needed both distance and reading glasses which we knew already, that he has astigmatism, and that he lacks vision field on the left side of both eyes which explains why he most often turns his head to the side to move his vision field to the center. She prescribed glasses that hopefully will help, and said to continue working on his vision as we have been doing (tracking, focus, etc.).

· Pastor still has a feeding tube. They'd considered doing a swallowing test, but that was postponed until further capping of the trach was tried. We are still going around with insurance to get approval for the natural feeding, but I do bring him vegetable juice daily which he has three times per day.

· Pastor still has the trach. There was no explanation why he'd do well with the PMV, but struggle with the cap. So we put it on hold until an ENT saw him. It was determined there is no blockage, so we have just begun trying again. Last night he wore it for two whole hours with Xinyi. But then this morning we made it only a few minutes before he was struggling and his oxygen was going down. Please pray for complete removal of the trach. It seems that he could make so much more progress if we could take it out.

· Pastor tries to speak. Sometimes he just lips. Sometimes it's a clear whisper. Sometimes a faint, scruffy voice comes out. He will usually respond if you ask a question expecting a verbal answer in one of the ways above. I try to ask him, "Can you answer with your mouth please?" (rather than a nod, etc.) He tries talking on his own occasionally when he really wants to communicate something. Many times those are the times I can't understand as he's intensely trying but using a whole sentence. I ask him a few times, then feel bad and begin guessing. Please pray for his speech, and that he will be able to have speech therapy soon. I requested it this week, and they are checking the insurance allowance then will evaluate. On a funny note:
o One night, Joseph asked, "Dad, do you mind if I go get a couple of tacos?" And Pastor shook his head. Joseph said, "Wait, did I ask that correctly? Is it ok if I leave and go get a couple of tacos?" "Can you just say yes or no"? Then Pastor turned toward him and said in his little voice, "It's fine!"
o The other morning I needed to walk to the room from the patio to get something and planned to leave him there. He was a bit rumbly in his throat, and so I asked him would he feel better if I took off the PMV. He replied in his little voice, "go ahead."
o One night Dan said that my husband told him clearly to take off the valve.

· Pastor's overall general health has been very good.

For every step, every little miracle, we praise the Lord. And thank you all for walking through this trial with us.

We want to end by thanking God for the journey He's chosen for us, and for all the blessings we've experienced because of it and the lessons learned.

· Had we not experienced the loneliness of this trial, we would not have had the opportunity for God to show his love through wonderful people like you, just when we need it most.

· Had we not experienced the greatest weakness of our lives, we wouldn't have been able to experience the great truth that HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.

· Had we not had times that seemed we couldn't have taken another step we'd not have experienced God's great sustaining grace. (And to look back and see how God has graciously held our hand through two years and brought us so far is amazing.)

· Had we not experienced the pain of this trial we'd never have come to a place where we can truly understand the pain of others.

· And most of all, had we not come to a place where we really didn't understand, we'd not have began the search to know God in a deeper way than ever before, nor been in a place where His Word truly is more than our necessary bread.

It's truly a GOOD, HARD place to be.

P.S. I was ending there, then God once again showed me the blessing in the tears that which makes it all worthwhile at the end of the day. Remember the struggle above to answer my son about when Dad will be better? Last night my three youngest were at their Dad's spending an evening with him so I could come home and do some things. When I returned to pick them up, my son Ben told me this story. Our two boys, 12 and 15 were outside on the facility patio studying their Bible Quiz chapters together for a while. A lady who apparently is very bitter at God walked by and saw the Bible and asked if their Dad is the pastor who's there. She said she doesn't even believe in a God who would do something like this to good people. She asked my boys why they are not bitter at God. TO make a long story short, the boys shared their faith in a loving God Who knows what He is doing and is trustworthy even when things don't make sense. Somewhere along the way 6 people ended up in a conversation with the boys, and four ladies weeping, one uncontrollably. The one who'd said she didn't even believe in God couldn't contain herself, but said something along the lines of "Maybe God does work in mysterious ways. Keep believing in HIM," as she had to walk away. You know, this is what we always longed and prayed for in our children, all we really ever wanted to have a strong love for and faith in Him. PRAISE GOD FOR THE WORK HE'S DOING IN AND THROUGH US WHETHER IT HURTS OR NOT. IT'S WORTH IT.

September 17 (7:23 PM)

Where do I begin to update everyone on the blessings God's given since our last update? In our last update I mentioned that we wanted to work out my husband being able to leave the facility for a few hours. Though I didn't specifically mention it—what we were trying to do is get my husband to Long Beach to our church for my daughter's wedding, and to "walk" her down the aisle. It took some work, but God allowed us to work out all the details one by one. On August 29, my husband was dressed in his suit and transported to Pacific Baptist Church by a van belonging to a gentleman whose wife had been in the facility (his wife died the evening of the day I'd met him and we'd tried out the van to see if our wheelchair would fit, but he graciously drove my husband for the wedding still). HVHCC was very kind to allow one of the Respiratory Therapists to bring along equipment and travel to the church and stay with my husband before, during, and after the wedding, giving us peace of mind. As all attention was on the flower girls, I brought my husband into the back of the church. The wedding march began and the doors open for our beautiful bride to enter. She took a few steps and took her Dad's right hand and down the aisle we went. Though I spoke "her father and I" when asked who gives the bride away, my husband gave the thumbs up. My husband then viewed the entire ceremony alertly from a spot we reserved nearest the door. Of course there were many tears; but great rejoicing. The last song Bruce and Sarah chose to be sung was "He's Been Faithful." How true and how appropriate are the words to that song.

I thought my husband would be exhausted, but when I returned to the facility later, I found him wide awake. And the next day I thought the same, but he was not any more tired than any other day. I believe it was good for him to be able to be back at the church. My son Joseph and the RT took him for a tour inside the new building. Joseph said he was looking all around. That building was a large part of my husband's dream to see a multigenerational vision fulfilled of training our children, grandchildren, and many, many others to serve God here, through church planting, and abroad specifically in Asia.

Recently, my brother-in-law asked if I'd jot down a few lessons learned from the trial in our lives, so I thought I'd share them here It only scratches the surface of all God's done and is doing in all of our lives and in our church. Just a few basic lessons perhaps I've mentioned in past updates.

The first lesson God taught me was His strength in my weakness. I'd always looked at "strong" people who faced tremendous trials and wondered if I'd be that strong in their shoes. I doubted I while longing for that type of walk with the Lord that would allow me to do so if perhaps a trial of that magnitude came to my life. When God graciously allowed the storm to hit my life so that I could begin to know Him in such a way, I found out the secret truth of strength. Now people looked at me and said, "You are so strong." But the truth is, you find yourself tossed in the storm, utterly helpless and weaker than you ever imagined. You cry out to HIM and you find His strength is made perfect in your weakness. While people outwardly think it's you, it's 100% HIM because your strength is all gone.

Next natural question everyone asks is what about Romans 8:28. I've learned that "all things work together for good" hinges on the second half of the verse… "to them that love God and are called according to HIS purpose." Do I really love Him more than anything in this world? Do I love HIM enough to trust what HE knows is good even when it looks bad through my eyes? Do I love HIM enough to sacrifice my will for HIS, believing by faith that His will IS GOOD? And do I REALLY want what will fulfill His purpose, no matter what that means, not what is easy and comfortable that which fulfills HIS eternal purpose, not my temporal pleasure. So in spite of my pain, my tears, my longings, and my fears if I truly love and trust my loving Heavenly Father, I can rest assured in the greatest storm that He IS working everything for good and according to HIS purpose.

I've learned that I need God's Word more than anything on earth. The Scripture passages that have been dearest to me have been Job, Psalms, Hebrews, and the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. David, the man after God's own heart, and Job, praised by God HIMSELF as perfect and upright, enter their own dark valleys. I find these great men experiencing my own feelings, questions, struggles, and they came through victorious, proclaiming God's goodness. Hebrews has been dear as I've seen Christians throughout time that have believed God's promise and lived accordingly. Some received the promises tangibly in their lives, while others seemingly died without "receiving the promise" in this life; but all kept believing in our God and pressing toward the mark whatever the cost, believing His promise though it couldn't be seen. In the Gospels I am amazed to find over and over again in a very personal way, Jesus Himself tempted in all points like as I—touched with the feeling of my infirmity facing much greater suffering than any human—yet enduring for me.

On perhaps a lesser point, God is teaching me patience—not to be in a hurry He isn't (and my husband and I certainly lived life in a hurry). I've learned God is working on His timetable, not mine. He may completely heal my husband here on earth, one day, or maybe not until we receive our new bodies in Heaven; but my impatience accomplishes nothing. (I am not saying that the deep longings don't surface, but He's taught me to stop and refocus and to do what I can do today—to be faithful today and to look forward to eternity.

Prayer Requests:

  • Please continue to pray for strength, energy, alertness. (Pastor soon will see the Physiatrist again, and I hope to request reduction of some medication for seizures and another for muscle spasms/contractions, but I want God's will. He also was given another a while ago for alertness, and I'd like to learn more on the long term affects and whether long term is good or profitable)
  • Please pray for wisdom in decisions as such.
  • Please continue to pray for removal of the track. Pastor Esposito is supposed to see an ENT soon. He breathes normally all day, and some nights with the PMV (speaking valve that forces him to breathe out through the mouth/nose rather than the trach) left in; however, when we cap him (causing him to also breathe IN through the mouth/nose) he struggles causing the RTs to wonder if there is a possible problem with the nose.
  • Please pray for his speech/voice. He sure does try hard to communicate, but needs clarity and energy to get out what he's trying to say. Please pray also for my understanding. A few mornings ago, he clearly whispered, "My mouth is dry." Other times I ask him to keep repeating, and I don't get it. In the meantime, I created a chart with several letters on each line and we are trying to follow what the speech therapist had told me a while ago about using it to try to spell out words with him by pointing and having him nod or shake his head for the row/letter.

I also wanted to include some pictures and videos that I thought maybe folks who pray would enjoy seeing including some exercises, wedding, enjoying singing, etc.

Thank you for faithfully praying and encouraging our church and family. It means so much to us.

August 11 (6:03 PM)

Praise God for His continued goodness!

Today, I stood by my husband, Pastor Esposito, in what I call our "secret garden." Through the nursing center activity room is a patio with a fountain, trees, plants, birds, etc. I asked him the other day, "Isn't it funny the way we had a life of rushing to and fro, filled with people and now here we are in our own little secret garden? Just you and me?" It is a very peaceful place to be when we stop to appreciate it. This is the place where I take him just about every day, as it is the least used of spaces at Huntington Valley Healthcare Center. (Sometimes folks come to see us and hope the wal.) But today, I was going through our daily routine of chair exercises… sit forward and back using the PVC pipe, tilt at the waste right then left, play tug of war with a rubber jump rope, grasp and release the ball, wipe the table with a paper towel, and so forth. It takes from morning until lunch time with a couple of ten minute naps for him in between. Recently he has been showing some improvement with his weaker right hand. As I asked him to wipe the table toward his stomach, he did very well. My mind flashed back coming up on two years when all we wanted was to see a finger move, or a toe wiggle. With tears I asked him, "Do you realize what a miracle it is that you moved your hand like that?" God has brought us so very far, and I realize that without Him all our effort would be in vain.

I have wanted to write an update the last couple weeks to share this exciting blessing. Recently, I took Pastor out on the front sidewalk under a tree because day every area was full of patients and family members, and I am always looking for a quiet spot. I was having a sincere talk with him, and he was listening and looking at me intently. I couldn't tell you the topic, as I think the excitement caused me to forget… but I said to him, "AMEN?" ….as if to ask him, "don't you agree?" And with what I call a Donald Duck voice he responded, "Amen." Then I said, "That was so good! Can you say 'Mary' with voice like that too?" And he did. Then I asked him if I could call the children and let him say, "Hi" to them. I first called Sarah at the church office and told her that Daddy wanted to tell her something, and I asked him to say "Hi, Sarah" with voice; and he did. She said that Joanna was there too, and he said, "Hi, Jojo." Then they said my daughter-in-law was there too, and he said, "Hi, Cindy." Then my husband's previous secretary Jaz wanted a "Hi" too, so he said, "Hi, Jaz." I called the others, and for each he said "Hi" with their names. (I was unable to reach the two younger boys at the time.) When I called my daughter-in-law Jennifer, and after he'd said, "Hi, Jen" and "Hi, Mary" to my granddaughter, Jen said, "My parents are here too." Both of her parents were on the phone screen via FaceTime and I asked, "Can you say 'Hi, Jane'" to which he replied, "Hi Jane and Robert." That was really neat. We sort of wore him out saying hi to everyone, but we all were very excited. Then he mostly slept for the next several days. Every step of progress wears him out. I didn't ask him for a while, but now am back to practicing using the voice. Vowels are supposed to be easier, so I will tell him to take a deep breath, open his mouth, and repeat the long A sound after me, then E, then I, then O, then U. A couple of days ago, I cheated and had him say A, E, I, then I said, "love", U. He didn't say it, but just looked at me. Then the next round, after "I," he didn't speak but lipped, "love U." He still has his sense of humor! He often smiles big when our staff men tell him things that are funny.

Thank you for praying for all the progress God has brought. We appreciate it so much, and it encourages our hearts. Recently someone came to visit Pastor whom we hadn't seen in a long time as he travels most of the time as a truck driver. He said that somewhere along the way he got the idea to pray for Pastor every time he finds a penny. He said he finds lots of pennies.

Please pray for Pastor:

  • Strength and energy and clarity of mind
  • Complete removal of the tracheotomy
  • Speech
  • All the logistics of being able to leave the facility for a few hours
  • For the miracle that one day Pastor's body would completely wake up Please pray for Pacific Baptist Church. Praise God for the great work He continues to do through HIS church and for our great staff and people who have continued to go forward in an amazing way.

Please pray for wisdom for the family in various decisions and for God's leading and direction in all areas. Never before did this poem I'd see on journals, etc. make sense as it has since October 3, 2013:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
…Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will…
-- Reinhold Niebuhr

July 12 (10:35 AM)

We are so grateful and encouraged by the continued prayers of many folks. My daughter Susanna sent me a picture of a handwritten prayer list by a young lady in Cambodia, and at the top it said, "Pastor Joe." (My husband used to tell the Khmer folks when we'd visit in the early days that his name was Joe, and he'd say, the alphabet in the Khmer language until he got to the 8th letter I think, which is pronounced "Joe." Esposito was way too difficult.) How encouraging this was to us!

We have continued to do with Pastor the various exercises mentioned in the last update. He is doing much better with each of them. Please keep praying for increased strength and coordination. Sometimes when he has the energy, and I ask him to use a wiping motion on the table with his hand and arm on a towel, he does it quickly as if to say, "Mary I got this already." His right hand is improving but is still very slow; but he does it!

We had been practicing holding a pen, and Pastor would hold it and move it a bit. Recently we were able to have a notary come and ask him if he agreed to give his wife power of attorney over financial matters. (Without this we have had some road blocks in different areas.) He gave her the thumbs up, and surprised us at the "signature" he wrote. It wasn't clear that it was his signature, but he was clearly trying to write a signature on the line. It wasn't just a mark, though a mark would have been legally sufficient. So that was neat and we are very thankful! It made us laugh, in a fun way, because we only expected a small mark. He did it as if really trying to write his name.

I am not sure if I mentioned it but when Pastor is in the wheel chair, we use a PVC pipe and get him to hold tightly (he does very well) and I help pull him forward so that he is sitting upright. Recently, I have asked him to lean his waist right and left, and he is able to do this on his own. It's exciting to see some trunk control and to continue to see his understanding of what we are asking him to do. He also does very well with "tug of war" using a rubber jump rope, especially when he uses both hands together. He can almost hold on against me if I hold one-handed and he two-handed.

Something else I have begun doing is asking Pastor questions with two choices for answers. For example, he often he takes a nap after the whole ordeal of getting dressed and Hoyer lifted into the chair. One day I asked him, "Do you want to work (exercises, etc.) or do you want a nap first?" "Can you answer with your mouth – nap or work?" He said, "nap", not with voice, but with breath. Later I asked him, "Sermon (listen to a sermon) or work". He chose work. Then later I asked, "sermon or nap" and he said, "sermon." Now there are times when he just looks tiredly, and doesn't respond at all, but it's exciting to see him be able to respond more little by little, and we praise the Lord for this. He also whispered to me clearly a need the other day using a complete sentence. I was so excited and sad at the same time….excited he was communicating and I understanding, but I wept because I felt so helpless and unable to help him in what he was saying. Today he tried a phrase about 8 times, and I still didn't get it. Please pray for his clarity, and my understanding.

I spent a little time talking to one of the respiratory therapists the other day about capping the trach. One thing he mentioned is that my husband doesn't have the capability to cough or clear his throat intentionally, which really should be a sign of being really ready. Please pray that he will increase in the ability to do so. I don't know if it's brain capacity, or discomfort and not wanting to do so, or a lack of physical ability to do so. He does cough when something gets into the air way – but it's not intentional but reflexive. We have done some capping trials. Two days ago he did 15 minutes, though I cheated for him and pulled it off momentarily to let him grasp an easier breath. Yesterday, he was struggling too much, so we stopped. Today his oxygen tank ran out for a while (my fault for not asking for a new one) and his oxygen level and heart rate were a bit too low, so I didn't ask for capping.

There are two different things we are checking into and about which we are praying. Please pray with us for God's wisdom. I only want what God wants and what will be best for my husband's recovery. He has continued to improve little by little under the present circumstances, so I don't want to make any rash decisions in impatience.

The first consideration is the potential of moving my husband to a place closer to home. (The facility I am considering doesn't presently have availability, but I check it out once in a while. It is on the block of our church.) Some of the benefits would be being closer to home, nearer to church and family, and MAYBE potential to take him in his wheel chair home or to church for short times. There are also "cons" to the change which I often weigh in my mind and about which we are praying. The second is that – the possibility of being able to take Pastor out of the facility on occasion – usually they give patients up to 4 hour passes….but not so often in the subacute department. I have asked for the doctor's consult…and will also see the physiatrist later this month and ask her opinion as well. In the mean time, I would have to have my own mode of transporting him by wheel chair, requiring a vehicle with electrical power (unless we just want to take the risk of not being able to suction during transport in case needed.) I have been told that wheelchair transport companies won't take the liability of trach patients, and of course I wouldn't want to transport him by ambulance on a gurney because of very high cost and impracticality. I would also want/need some medical equipment available at home and some handicapped improvements if I took him that direction to Long Beach occasionally.

We were so thankful Bro. Laudio and Mrs. Carina Flores came to visit Pastor on 4th of July. Carina sang some of Pastor's favorite songs. One song she sang was, "God's Been Good in My Life." When she came to the place where the song is written, "Though I've had my share of hard times, I wouldn't change them if I could for through it all, God's been good," Pastor lifted his hand way up right there, as in, an obvious "AMEN." That meant a lot to me. I have often wondered what he must be thinking, a pastor of 25 years, confined to a hospital bed unable to communicate. If I know my husband, He's enjoying sweet fellowship with God, praying for the rest of us to continue to faithfully trust the Lord, and waiting patiently to see what the future holds. But sometimes when I have had my own moments of struggle, I wonder if he has those moments as well.

Many times I have heard this same song sung, but often the singers have changed the words to sing, "though I've had my share of hard times, by my side He's always stood." (Which IS true, and much easier to sing!) I thought a lot about this. Not long ago, I stood and wept with a young college student whose mom had just gone to heaven what we from our earthly perspective would call prematurely. She told me she was singing that song. She said, "But Mrs. Mary, I couldn't sing that part, 'I wouldn't change them if I could'". I told her, "Not yet – but that's ok." I do believe God wants to lead us to the place where we can sing the song as written, though. But it's a process getting there. Time passes and if we will open our eyes wide enough, we can begin to see some blessings through the tears. If we'll open our heart, we'll get to know our God better; and through the pain we will be able to say those words and mean them. I can't say I always want to sing the words as written, but I hope and pray that I will more and more. I suppose I am not talking about the song "God's Been Good," but the song of my life – to desire it as God has written it, without wishing He'd change His plan. A Scripture verse I have meditated much on recently is Romans 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." I have repeated in my mind "not worthy to be compared." My "light affliction which is but for a moment" is not worthy to be compared to what He did for me or what He wants to do in or through me.

Thank you so much once again for your care and prayer.

June 11 (11:07 AM)

Thank you once again for praying so long and so faithfully for Pastor Esposito, our church, and our family. As I have said many times, it means more to us than you could ever know.

We had an eventful May. It was my husband's and my 29th anniversary. I reached my 50th birthday. Our daughter Joanna graduated from high school on the 29th. The graduation was a bit emotional; while at the same time helped us to thank God once again for the trial. Joanna did an awesome job giving the salutatorian speech, and I saw such maturity and growth in her. We used the phone to allow her to address her dad as he watched the graduation. Many tears… but through the tears I praise God for the strength and faith He is growing in our children's lives because of the trial. It was one of those glimpses at God's purpose I mentioned in the last update. (You can see her speech here.).

Since the last prayer update, Pastor had both physical and occupational therapy, for now both have ended. Praise the Lord for allowing him to have those weeks of therapy. He has made some progress through it; and has had the opportunity to demonstrate some abilities we may not have thought of working on. It has also helped to loosen him up some more, enabling better movement. I requested prayer that the standing frame would continue, and thankfully the order has been written for the standing frame twice weekly. Thank you for praying. I took lots of notes from therapy and got lots of new ideas even watching others there, and have many new ways to work with Pastor. We also were given printouts including new exercises to work on various areas as well. Here are some examples of things on which we've worked:

• Rolling a ball back and forth on the table using either hand
• Tapping on the matching card with his index finger
• Moving arms/hands back and forth in a wiping motion on the table
• Standing and exercising head and neck – moving them at request
• Pulling pegs out from a peg board
• Filling in a circle with a marker, trying to write (he switched the pen from the left stronger hand to his right hand on his own.)
• Many new exercises like turning the hand at the wrist in rotating motion, etc. (for the first time he reached up with a tissue to wipe his own mouth during one of the sessions)
• Many more, all of which we will continue to do on our own. Then later they will check his progress on all of these.

Each and every task is very slow and obviously takes a lot of thought and effort. Many times there is a long delay, then a response. Often he does what is requested once or twice then stops. Pray for Pastor's strength and energy. Yesterday, it was neat just that he picked up his right arm to try to cover a sneeze. For some time he has been doing so with his left arm. Today he did the wiping motion much better with the right arm. Sometimes (without specific permission) we walk Pastor to a nearby pharmacy. Sunday I did so, and it was the first time that he seemed to be alert enough or have movement enough to sort of look around a bit on his own instead of me getting his attention and asking him to look at this or that.

Praise the Lord for continued improvement—step by step, each of which is a big miracle in itself. Please keep praying God will wake up what needs to be awakened, and connect what needs to be connected between his body and brain. We still need a miracle from the Great Physician. Also, please pray again for the capping and eventual removal of the trach. I haven't really pushed for it since so much effort was going into therapy. Most likely it will be done when I personally ask for it to be done. Now that therapy has ended, and the schedule is more in my hands. I plan to ask daily after he's back in bed from the chair, and done with most of the various new exercises and activities. I know both will tire him greatly. Please pray that he adjusts quickly to capping and he won't be too stressed, that the muscles needed to draw in the air through his mouth will gain strength to work again, and that the brain will tell them to do so.

This morning it was very neat that Pastor was trying to speak with his voice again. It was sad though that he's trying so hard, and I am not getting it. I called the RT in and he said it again several times, but we couldn't understand. "I want…", but we couldn't get the last word. Please pray he keeps trying without being discouraged, and that we can get what he wants to say. And of course pray for his strength and ability to speak more forcefully and distinctly.

Thank you once again.

The Esposito Family

Pastor Esposito and Family

Left: Pastor Esposito pictured with his wife Mary and 8 children; Joseph (w/ wife Jennifer), Timothy, Sarah, Susanna, Daniel, Joanna, Benjamin, and Nathaniel

Right: Pastor Joe Esposito and his wife, Mary

I'm Praying

Pastor's family would love to know if you're praying! Your name or e-mail will not be added to any ministry mailing list. This is not a fundraiser. This is simply to let the Espositos know you are standing with them in prayer.