REDDING, Calif.—The president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) spoke to Simpson University students and others Oct. 3, sharing his remarkable story of illness, faith and healing.
Dr. John Stumbo recounted his journey, which began 10 years ago this month, to students during their twice-weekly “Gather” service in the James M. Grant Student Life Center. In 2013, Dr. Stumbo was elected 12th president of the U.S. C&MA. Simpson University is one of four U.S. colleges affiliated with the C&MA.
“This man loves the Lord,” Simpson President Norm Hall said during his introduction of Dr. Stumbo. “He’s got a tender heart, and he’s a really good listener. He has been on an epic journey with our Father.”
In 2008, Dr. Stumbo, an active sportsman and pastor, was suddenly weakened by a mysterious illness that robbed him of muscle strength and the ability to swallow. His wife Joanna became his caregiver during a two-year period of recovery. His ability to swallow was miraculously healed, and he returned to ministry.
Referencing Psalms 74 and 139, Dr. Stumbo emphasized that God is God of day and night, both darkness and light. “My God is the God of the best of times and the worst of times,” he said, describing the ordeal he and his wife endured, including 77 days in the hospital, no clear medical diagnosis, and not being able to eat or drink for 1.5 years.
“At first, I had the attitude I was going to beat this thing,” he said. “As the months wore on … it started to feel like sandpaper to my soul.” Going to church was difficult, he admitted.
“When you need people the most, you’re going to be tempted to be with them the least,” he said. “Staying in community is a difficult thing when everything within you is saying isolate.”
But he and Joanna learned the importance of staying connected. “Our faith was down to a little thread some days—hardly anything to hang on to,” he said. “But somebody around you is still believing for you; their faith is like a rope. And it’s legal to hang on to somebody else’s faith for a while.
“And guess what happens? When you stay in community, eventually your faith is going to be strong again, and they may need to hold on to your faith for a while,” he said.
About a year into his struggle, Dr. Stumbo said he started to gain a bigger perspective of what God was doing in his life, citing the image of a potter restarting a clay pot while it spun on the wheel.
“God, if your hands are still on my life, if you’re doing a do-over, I’m in,” he finally said.
Psalm 23 talks about God setting a table for the psalmist in the presence of his enemies—enemies that could include illness or other hardships, Dr. Stumbo said.
“Pull up a chair and take a seat,” he said. “There are some life lessons that can only be experienced in the meantime. If God were quick to answer all our prayers, we would be really shallow people.”
On a trip from Salem to St. Louis with Joanna, Dr. Stumbo began to experience healing and was able to eat and drink again. “He healed me instantly and powerfully but not completely,” he said, noting he still has some muscle issues from the illness.
“Where is God in your story?” he asked Simpson students. “The answer is this: Always active, sometimes mysterious … Trust that God is always at work within you.”
Simpson senior Nathan Bruce, a communication major, said the message was powerful. “God can be silent, but that doesn’t mean he’s not present. He’s able to do all things when he wants to.”
Having the C&MA president visit campus was notable, Bruce said. “For him to come to Simpson was a cool experience,” he said.
John Stumbo produces a monthly video blog which is available on the C&MA website and has written three books: God in You: A Conversation, In The Midst: Treasures from the Dark, and An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey.
Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university will celebrate its 30th year in Redding in 2019. Simpson was named as one of the 2018 Colleges of Distinction. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings; the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, A.W. Tozer Seminary, the School of Education, and the School of Graduate Professional Studies. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit simpsonu.edu.