by Eric Elder
Note from Eric: Last week my friend Dan Okall shared about his upcoming move from the US to Kenya, and how God is helping him and his family through the transition. This week I’d like to do something to help him, too, by for your prayers and financial support of their work. Since my wife, Lana, died of breast cancer 21 months ago, I’ve wanted to do something special in memory of her. So today I’m announcing the creation of a fund called “Lana’s Hope.” My hope is that “Lana’s Hope” will help to fund projects that are in keeping with Lana’s heart for helping others in practical ways and encouraging them to put their hope in Christ for everything in their lives. I hope you’ll read this special message, and consider making a donation to “Lana’s Hope.” We’ll send you a special thank-you gift to help you remember that “Lana’s Hope” can be your hope as well. Read on to learn more…
A few weeks ago I woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night saying, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” It wasn’t a dream that caused my middle-of-the-night panic, but reality.
Unfortunately, my sister, Marilyn Byrnes, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, it’s not the type or stage of breast cancer that my wife, Lana, battled and which eventually took her life. But after surgery my sister needed a place to stay while she underwent radiation treatments. They didn’t have a big cancer center where she lives, so she was trying to find a place to do it. I offered for her to come live with us for the 6-8 weeks it might take, as I wanted to help if I could.
As the time got closer, my sister asked if my family and I were really up for having a guest in their house for possibly 2 months, going through treatments and all that goes along with it. That’s when I went to bed one night and later woke up in a sweat thinking “I can’t do it!” As much as I wanted to help, it just started to feel overwhelming, having just gone through all we went through with Lana, plus all that I’m trying to do with my work and my kids and my new life as a single parent.
As I lay there in my bed, I suddenly remembered a project my friends Dan and Emily Okall told me a few months earlier that they were starting in Kenya (Dan wrote last week’s article on transitions and how God is helping him and his family as they prepare to move back to Kenya in a few weeks). Over lasagna and laughter with our families at our dining room table, they told me they had secured a home near the capital of Kenya where women from remote villages could stay while undergoing radiation treatments at a big hospital nearby.
Dan and Emily also told me they had decided to name the house “Joanna’s House” in honor of two special women they knew named Jodi and Lana (my wife), so they came up with the name “Joanna.” It was a touching moment to me to know that they would honor Lana in this way. They said they wanted to include write-up about Lana that they could frame and put on the wall at Joanna’s House about Lana and her faith in Christ, as their hope is not only to minister to the physical needs of these women, but their spiritual needs as well. I told them I’d be glad to do a write-up, but more than that, I wanted to help with their project in other ways if I could.
I wanted to help because Dan and Emily were not just friends who wanted to honor my wife’s memory, but I wanted to help because it was through their work that we first discovered that Lana had breast cancer at all. Lana and I had just attended a talk here in the US one afternoon day where Dan and Emily were sharing about their work doing breast cancer education in rural Kenya; that night Lana and I discovered a lump in her breast. It was only 11 months later Lana had passed from this life to the next.
Although we all wished our outcome would have been different, those 11 months became some of the most precious months of our entire lives. Even though the doctors gave us no hope, but God gave us tremendous hope, having shown us what was wrong and giving us time to say an extended goodbye, at least for now.
So having been so personally touched by Dan and Emily’s work in Kenya, even here in the US, I wanted to help them in their work if I could. But it wasn’t until I woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night saying, “I can’t do it,” feeling overwhelmed about the idea of helping my sister through her treatments, that I realized the impact Dan and Emily’s work would have on the people in their remote village back in Kenya.
For here I was in the US, now facing the question of whether I could house my own sister who needed a place to stay while she underwent radiation treatments for possibly 2 months. As much as I wanted to help, I found the idea overwhelming. I thought: If it’s this overwhelming to work out the details for this kind of treatment here in the US, what must it be like in Kenya? I lay there stunned in my bed. God had just given me a wake-up in the middle of the night about His heart for Dan and Emily’s project.
After talking it through with my sister, she worked out an arrangement with her company to do her treatments in a different city. She starts her daily radiation treatments tomorrow, Monday, August 25th, and we’re all praying for her health and strength and peace. (If you’d like to send her a note, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know she’d love to hear your encouragement, even though she may not be able to reply right now. Marilyn’s beautiful piano music has been a regular feature of The Ranch website from the beginning, and you can listen to it here.)
So my heart is with Dan and Emily on multiple levels, from believing in them as people who love the Lord and are directed by Him, to believing in the work they are doing as Lana and I were so personally touched by it already, to believing in what they’re trying to do with “Joanna’s House.”
When Lana died, I wanted to do something to honor her life and memory and the hope that she had. I know many of you have wanted to do the same. In that light, I’ve created a new fund within our ministry called “Lana’s Hope.” My hope is that God will use this fund to help finance projects that would help others in practical ways and help them put their hope in Christ for everything in their lives, just as Lana put her hope in Him. As Lana said in one of her blog posts, quoting from Psalm 25:
“No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame…” (Psalm 25:3).
Lana’s hope was in God, before cancer, after cancer and now in heaven with Him forever. I know if she could say anything to you, she would want you to put your hope in Him for everything in your life, too, knowing that He loves you so very much. No matter what you’re going through, know that God hasn’t left you. He hasn’t walked away from you. He hasn’t forsaken you. You can’t go wrong putting your hope in Him.
Having said all of that, now you know more about why I’ve started this special fund called “Lana’s Hope.” The first project I’d like to help fund is Dan and Emily’s ministry for breast cancer education and care in Kenya. If you’d like to join me, I’d be glad to send you a special thank-you gift as a reminder that Lana’s Hope can be your hope, too.
About 10 years ago, when Lana and I were raising money to travel to Africa to help with another ministry project, we offered supporters some simple rubber reminder bands that they could wear on their wrists to pray for our trip. So in honor of Lana, and in remembering her first trip to Africa, I’ve ordered 200 reminder bands for this project, too. The reminder bands simply say, “Lana’s Hope is My Hope.” It’s a simple way to honor Lana and join your heart with hers in saying that your hope is in Christ, too.
I’ve included links below where you can make a tax-deductible donation to our ministry, and we’ll pass your gifts along directly to Dan and Emily’s ministry, Dala Development. When we receive your gift, we’ll send you a reminder-band, anywhere in the world, as our collective way of saying thanks.
I’ve also included some links below where you can learn more about “Lana’s Hope” in her own words, from the beautiful blog post she wrote on the topic just a month before she passed away, to a short video that a film team team made called “Lana’s Hope” just two weeks before passed away.
To make a donation to this special fund, just choose a colorful reminder band from the links below (we even have one that glows in the dark!), then enter the amount of your donation on the following screen. We only have a limited number of each color, so order soon to get the color you want!
Before you click, though, can I encourage you to take a moment to pray and ask God how much He would want you to give to this project? The Okalls are trying to raise $3,400 a month over the next two years, and are currently at about 50% of that goal in monthly commitments. Their initial expenses, such as flights, vaccines and the first month’s rent have already been raised, so they are preparing to leave next month; but there is still an urgency to raise that remaining 50%.
$3,400 a month may seem like a lot, but you might be surprised that this amount will cover the salary for their 11 staff members (who are currently reaching over 300 people a month through their outreaches on a part-time basis), their office, the rent and needs of Joanna’s House, and their operational and personal expenses while in Kenya! So whether you donate $10, $100, $1,000 or more, know that your gift will be used practically and effectively for the work of Christ and His kingdom. (And if you’d like to make your donation a monthly one, just use the same links below, then check the box that says “make this recurring (monthly)” on the following page. Either one-time or recurring gifts will be a blessing!)
Thanks for hearing my heart for this project, and thanks for your love and support, both now and over the years. I truly appreciate it!
To make a donation by credit card or PayPal, and get a colorful reminder band as our way of saying thanks, just choose a color from the links below:
- Donate and get a “Black and Glow-In-The-Dark” reminder band
- Donate and get a “Purple and White” reminder band
- Donate and get a “Teal and White” reminder band
- Donate and get a “Royal Blue and White” reminder band
- Donate and get a “Cardinal Red and White” reminder band
- Donate and get a “Black and Lime Green” reminder band
- Donate and get a “Royal Blue and Lime Green” reminder band
- Donate and get an “Aqua and Hot Pink” reminder band
Your gifts may also be sent by mail to:
Eric Elder Ministries (write “Lana’s Hope” in the memo line, and let us know which color reminder band you’d like)
25615 E 3000 North Rd
Chenoa, IL 61726
Your donation will be processed through Eric Elder Ministries, a fully-recognized, tax-exempt religious organization here in the US.
To learn more about Dala Development, click here.
To read Lana’s beautiful blog post “Lana’s Hope,” click here.
To watch the inspiring video “Lana’s Hope,” which was filmed just two weeks before Lana passed away, click here.
P.S. Next week, we’ll continue with our series on transitions as my friend Candice Irion (who put together the touching short film “Lana’s Hope”) will share how God is helping her through a transition in her own life. If you’d like to hear more, in person, about how God can help you through whatever transition you may be going through right now, join us here in Illinois in October for our fall retreat where our topic will be “Transitions.” Click here to learn more or to register.
If you need a boost in your faith, we hope you’ll join us for our 2nd Annual Ranch Retreat here in the heart of the Great Midwest on Columbus Day weekend, October 10-12. We’ll have great food, great worship, great messages and great fellowship. Why not get away and see what God has to say? Click here to learn more or to register.