By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
In the same breath that Brent Hensley talks about God's mercy, he quickly adds a part about miracles. The Joplin man believes he experienced both last year after being diagnosed with a rare heart disease.
Hensley, 46, said that if not for God's mercy and miracles, he could have very easily died. He has what he calls "God stories" to relate to people in hopes that they will find themselves walking closer with God.
The Carthage native has decided to share his testimony at other churches, besides his own, Bethel United Methodist, near Carthage. He also shares through group meetings in order to give credit where credit is due: to God.
He calls his near-death experience "Journey of the Heart," which is much like that of a lay witness testimony in some churches. He has already told the story at Bethel and Avilla United Methodist.
"I want to tell how God was with me and my family the entire time; the God stories that occurred along my journey and just how good God is," said Hensley, son of former Jasper County commissioner Danny Hensley and Sheryl McKelvy, of Carthage. "I need to share this story because I know I can touch someone's life. If they hear a story like mine, they may begin thinking that maybe there is a God."
Even though Hensley had experienced chest pains, dizziness, fatigue and loss of energy in 2011, he did not undergo any intense testing until September 2012. That's when he found out he had had a light stroke at some point, and he needed to see a cardiologist concerning abnormalities.
After discussing the matter with his wife, Karensue, Hensley decided he wanted to go to a hospital that specialized in cardiac care. The Cleveland (Ohio) Clinic fit the bill. With an appointment set for Oct. 8, Hensley's journey began.
The first God thing on the journey, Hensley felt, confirmed that he and his wife were on the right path for his healing.
"On the way to Cleveland, we traveled along I-70," Hensley wrote in his prepared testimony. "When we reached Effingham, Ill., it was nighttime. As we came around a curve on the interstate, there was the biggest cross that we had ever laid eyes on. It was lit up and standing tall."
The Hensleys felt sure that it was a sign from God that they were on the right path and that God was leading them to Cleveland.
The following day doctors began running tests on Hensley with one question yet to be answered: Where could they stay during the nights they were there? Lodging expenses could prove to be highly expensive.
Hospitality Homes of Cleveland had the answer. It's a program where families in the community open their homes to out-of-town people such as the Hensleys, who were planning to be around for a while.
The family's home they were led to was that of John and Gloria Homolak, which was 15 minutes from the clinic.
The next God thing came when Hensley was told about the results of his testing, including the fact that he had a rare heart disease known as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.
In discussing the diagnosis with his physician, Hensley discovered another matter that he felt surely had to be more than a fluke: The doctor told him that what was really odd to him was that out of all the cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic and one phone call to the general line to get an appointment, Hensley had scheduled the physician who had performed extensive research on just such a disease.
After the testing, the Hensleys returned to their Joplin home, preparing to drive back to Cleveland on Dec. 8 for Hensley's surgery.
With Hensley's open-heart surgery completed, the couple arrived back in Joplin on Christmas Eve. Hensley's 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation began last month, and although it is a slow process of recovery, so far, so good.
Hensley said he simply wants to touch people's lives by telling his story.
"I want to show how God has worked in my life," he said in the closing lines of his testimony. "Because of my story, I may be able to let people know that, hey, if you don't know Jesus, then you should get to know him and be saved."
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@cableone. net.
Want to hear?
Anyone wishing to contact Hensley for a speaking engagement may call him at 417-439-9092 or email him at brentLhensley@sbcglobal.net.