MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
REV. JONATHAN BLANCHARD
September 4, 2016
My Spiritual Journey: HEALED, SAVED, TRANSFORMED
Introduction: By way of Introduction, My name is Jonathan Blanchard. In the past 20 years I have lived in 7 different locations and served 8 different parishes. You may think I am a nomad. That’s good because to me nomad means always happy. You will also find I play with words and pun alot (especially on third downs). I am not like any other priest. To me that is okay. As parishioners of St. Thomas you may wish for the good old days. Unfortunately I cannot turn the clock back. We are in the present and at the present I consider this parish as a God’s present to me. My prayer is that you give me time to grow on you (considering the fun guy I am).
This first Sunday I will to share my personal testimony of God’s healing and gracious hand on my life. At eight months of age I contracted the measles. Eighteen months after my birth in Qalandarabad, Pakistan where my parents were serving as medical missionaries, I contracted a brain infection called encephalitis. This infection caused scarring of brain tissue which resulted in petite mall seizures. These seizures manifested as a catatonic or “fugue” state many times throughout each day. Doctors in Pakistan could do nothing to control or cure these seizures.
At the age of four, during the summer of 1972, my mother and I travelled to the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During my stay in Minneapolis there was no improvement or change in my condition. My mother took me to a Kathryn Kuhlman healing mission in St. Louis, Missouri. During one of the healing services a woman very near to where I was seated had her hearing restored. My mom, in a facetious manner, asked God to come one row over and visit me with his healing hand. A couple of months later on Halloween there was a remarkable change. I was able to pay attention and did not experience any more fugue states. Here is a quote from my mother Madeline Blanchard about a conversation she had with the doctor:
“The next day, I got a message that Dr. Lockman wanted to see me. As soon as I entered his office, he asked me, “What do you think of Jonathan?” I cautiously responded, “I think he’s a little better.” At this, he jumped up out of his chair and said excitedly, “Not just a little bit: it’s like night and day. He’s seizure-free!” Despite this, the medical staff was reluctant to let Jonathan leave Minneapolis where they could provide close follow-up. We wanted intensely to return to Pakistan and the family. When it became apparent to Dr. Lockman that Jonathan was stable, he finally acquiesced with the proviso that we send back blood samples so they could monitor the drug levels. They insisted on keeping Jon on the drugs for 5 years free of symptoms before declaring him cured. When he became ten years old, they weaned him off all medications.”
Ever since that conversation, I have never again experienced a fugue state. The doctors, educational psychologists and behaviour modification specialists all believed that I would never be able to lead a normal life. Perhaps they were right because I am having a most extraordinary life! The most any of these professionals would admit to was that this changed state is an inexplicable medical anomaly. I prefer to call it a miracle!
At the age of eleven I asked a friend why he was doing so well in school. He told me that the difference was Jesus Christ. That evening I invited Jesus into my heart. I know Jesus accepted my invitation. There was no audible voice and no flash of light. God assured me of my salvation through dreams and scriptures. In spite of all my trials God loved me. In grade six my teacher asked each student what profession they would like to be. I wrote down an author or a priest. I then decided to scratch out author as I thought it was not a very financially secure profession. Once again, the choice of being a priest seemed a trifle selfish, but Jesus transformed the choice into a calling. Over the next several years the calling became indelibly burned into my heart. I graduated from the University of Manitoba and was accepted into Wycliffe College. There were many times when I was ready to throw in the towel, however, Jesus confirmed my calling through scriptures, family members, church members and my wife.
The final year of seminary was the most stressful for me. In that year the Bishop of Rupert’s Land (The Rt. Rev. Patrick Lee) told me there were no positions available for a postulant. This left me searching for a new Diocese and a new Bishop. Just one month before graduation I was interviewed by the Rt. Rev. Caleb Lawrence, Bishop of Moosonee and accepted as a postulant. In that month I heard God ask me “Would you be willing to go wherever I send you?” I responded yes and then another question came, “Would you be willing to go far north?” The result of that conversation was a three month posting in Chisasibi, Quebec, a Cree reserve near the north end of James Bay. These three months were challenging for two reasons. First, my wife Deanna and I did not know the culture or the language of the James Bay Cree people. Secondly, Deanna was suffering from extreme morning sickness associated with her pregnancy.
There were two invaluable spiritual lessons I learned in those 3 months. God taught me that the body of Christ encompasses more than one language or race. There is a unique and wonderful mosaic of expressions of faith in Jesus Christ. The second and perhaps biggest spiritual lesson I learned was that pastoring needs to be culturally specific. When I first arrived I wanted to say or do something for the Cree people who needed pastoring. The Cree people only expected me to be with them. No fancy words or prayers, just my presence with them.
God has kept us as a couple and now as a family on the move. Clergy ministry has given us the opportunity to minister in Kirkland Lake, Ontario; Geraldton, Ontario; Iroquois Falls and Matheson, ON; Surrey, BC, Winnipeg MB, and now Thunder Bay where we currently live. Each move has brought me closer to Jesus, as well as to my wife and my children.
I believe everyday is an opportunity for me to be improved and transformed by an ever-faithful God. Jesus began his work in me by sending the Holy Spirit into my life over 30 years ago. He will complete that good work in His time! I feel truly blessed to be healed, saved and transformed. I know God has much more excitement in store for my family and me.