Monday, April 20, 2009

Yesterday We Lost A Member Of Our Church Family

His name was Matt. He had a very unique and amazing story.

Matt was born in January to a 15 year old girl at the University of New Mexico hospital. The doctor who performed the delivery was Steffen Brown. He and his wife Rachael are friends of ours at Desert Springs Church where I work.

Being so young and single, the birth mom immediately decided that she was going to put the baby up for adoption. Steffen and Rachael quickly decided that they would try to adopt this baby. A very courageous and beautiful decision quickly turned very scary.

After about 24 hours they found out that Matt had a rare condition known as hydranencephaly. This is a brain disorder where the brain fails to develop correctly. The front part of the brain is fluid instead of functioning tissue. The disease is a terminal, which gave Matt roughly 4-12 months to live. This condition technically deemed him unadoptable; normally one with this condition would become the property of the state where he would be institutionalized and made comfortable until he passed.

This placed the Browns in a very difficult situation. Do they go the hard road of the cross, knowing the gut-wrenching pain that would soon ensue from having to watch this child die or should they turn him back over to the state? They chose the former and I know today they can joyfully say with tears in their eyes that without a doubt that the phrase "it was worth it" doesn't do justice. It was beyond "worth it". It was true Christianity in action and provides a bittersweet joy that is beyond words.

My wife and I have learned much from the Browns. Oh how I long for more families like them! What would it look like in our culture of death for more Christians to be willing to take the hard road of the cross and lay down their lives for the poor, weak and defenseless?! This is not to say that all are called to adoption, but all are called to lay down their lives by taking up their cross and following Jesus on the road to Golgotha. We know that Golgotha is not the final stop! The resurrection is true, for Jesus and for us. There is a "joy set before us" that can move radical obedience to a place where it is no longer seen as "radical", but rather, "normal".

I am so glad that the Browns were willing to take this courageous step. Make no mistake, this was not an easy road for them. Among other challenges, Matt did not sleep well at all and they have two other older (but still young) children. Any parent knows that sleep deprivation can drive a person completely nuts while you try to care for the needs of your other children. Steffen is also a very busy OB resident and his very demanding schedule was also a challenge. Toward the end of Matt's life he suffered greatly as his body began to shut down. I can think of nothing worse that watching one of your children die and knowing there was nothing you could do about it.

Yet I am convinced that when Christians take courageous, faith-filled steps like this, the positive ripple effect throughout the kingdom of God continues to radiate out beyond our comprehension. This ripple will be seen by believers and unbelievers alike with corresponding impact in different ways for each group. Unbelievers are perplexed as to why one would do such a thing and believers are challenged to do similar acts of loving sacrifice. We need more of this.

And what an opportunity for the Church to step up! When a family bears a cross such as this, do we not all bear this cross together (Gal. 6:2)? This bonds us together as one. This is what we are called to be. I know that DSC exhibited this oneness with the Browns. I am very proud of our church today.

Would you remember the Browns in prayer? Maybe stop and pray for them now. Also, I think we should pray for ourselves that when faced with a situation such at they did, we would joyfully say yes to the hard path knowing that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). May we seek a real, lasting blessing!

This section from one of their blog posts was especially moving for me. I think it will encourage you as well:
Matt doesn't respond positively to all the love and care we shower on him, and despite the fact that I knew in my head he wouldn't, I still want him to smile back at me. Instead of smiling, he either stares at me blankly or screams in response to my best efforts to communicate with him. The discouragment I feel at his failure to thrive only evidences the selfishness of my endeavors. Before Matt, I was tempted to believe I loved my children with at least an inkling of selflessness. I now know that I expect at least some return for my investment. At the very least, I would like a two-month smile and a 3-month squeal of delight in response for the long nights and endless feedings. I am humbled further to think of the earthly reward I am tempted to expect from my older children. Each day with Matt, it looks more and more like all of our reward is being deposited in heaven (or not, because God loves a cheerful giver, and sometimes, I am just not). Frankly, I am not all that happy about the choice of accounts. While I may have previously thought I wanted to deposit all of my treasure in heaven, I now know I am more or a 50/50 or even 75/25 kind of girl; I would like some treasure in heaven and most of it here.

It may be this very realization of further indwelling sin that God seeks to remedy in part through our love of Matt. I once thought we were called to care for orphans and widows in their distress because by caring for them, we would see buckets of fruit in our own lives. I now believe, we are called to selfless acts because in our attempt to selflessness, our selifishness is exposed. I am utterly incapable of selfless love apart from Christ at work in me. So, exposed and helpless in the wake of selfishness, we have no choice but to rest completely in Christ for salvation. By faith alone, we are saved. Through our attempts at "good" works, we become all the more aware of our need for salvation. Praise God that His grace and love cover us completely and instill in us the hope of heaven!

It is sin to seek self above the good that God has willed for our lives. Sin seprates us from the love that Christ has for us. It is this very separation--the separation that death embodies--that Christ died to overcome. Death stinks. We all hate it, but God more than hated death. He did something about it. Jesus came to overcome death once and for all at the cross. Our hope isn't in life now. Our hope, like it or not, is in heaven. Our hope is not in miracle cures, our hope is in a sound doctrine of suffering that begins and ends in the cross.

So, I am thankful for Matt because he has further exposed the blackness in my heart and my need for the the forgiveness found in Jesus. I am sick because I seek physical healing, signs and wonders, rather than the One to whom the signs point. Jesus is our hope. Spiritual healing is our calling and our destiny in Christ. Someday I will watch Matt run and play and laugh. Until we finally make it home, we rest in His finished work and long for its realization in heaven.

For those of you from DSC or otherwise, in lieu of sending flowers or something of that sort, the family wishes that a donation be giving to the Desert Springs Church adoption fund. This fund exists to help families attain interest-free loans to be used toward adoption costs. If you would be interested in giving toward this end on behalf of the family, please click here and then hit the button in the top sidebar to donate.


M S said...

Being part of DSC, how did I not even know about this?

Vitamin Z said...

We tried to get them to do an interview on Sunday morning, but with Steffen's crazy OB resident schedule we just couldn't get it nailed now.


M S said...

I mean before, while the little guy was with them, while they were joyfully, stressfully enjoying caring for him for the few months of this life?

Patricia said...

Zach, this story inspires and challenges me on many different levels. Thank you. It will be my privilege to keep them in prayer.

amy romero said...

i had been following the blog. what a sad story...but what blessing to this little one to have had Godly parents while on this earth for such a short time.

Christopher Lake said...


Thank you so much for this post, brother. I am praying for the Browns and will be praying for them. The excerpt from their blog is so true and so challenging. Oh, that I would live with less self-interest and more God-passion in my doing of "good works"-- and that I would do more of them, for His glory!

Do you have the URL to their blog (if it's public)? I would like to start reading it. I echo what MS wrote-- how could I be at DSC and not know about this couple and their situation?

In that light, brother, I know you have a passion for building community at DSC, and I am right there with you. I have some ideas, as to how to do that, that I'd like to run by you some time this week, maybe tomorrow? Will you be in your office?

Kim said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I am convicted and moved and touched. Tell them for us...we too are changed because Matt lived.

M&M in Japan said...

So so good, and so so hard. Thank you, Z for posting this. I thank God for this amazing testimony of love.

Tree Newt said...


No words here. I'm blown away by the love of Christ being lived out in His body, and yet I'm so convicted and humbled by the lack of it in my own life. I have two beautiful, healthy daughters, and I can be the utmost of selfishness with them. How blessed we are. And how blessed we are to have people like this in the Body of Christ.

donsands said...

Awesome. God. His children loving Him. And so loving the least of these, and showing the great grace and love that Christ embodied.
To Christ be all glory, absolutely Christ alone. And yet he shall commend us for our deeds done in trusting Him.

These parents have great rewards in glory. Jesus Himself as the greatest of course, but more than that. I long to see that day when they receive their rewards.
What an honor for such a sinner as me to be in that presence.

Carrie Allen said...

this is very encouraging. thanks so much for sharing.

chill said...

What a sweet reward it'll be to get to see that little boy look in their eyes and smile and thank them in heaven.

Mom Of Many said...

I found your blog thru another bloggy friend.

Thank you for sharing this precious story of baby Matt and his amazing mommy and daddy. Their selfless love was truly being Christ's hands and feet, what sorrow, what grief, yet to know that Matt was comforted and loved till he met Jesus face to face - that's where the rubber hits the road!

A pastor's wife in Durango, CO...

Unknown said...

Please let the Browns know they are in our prayers. From a daddy who's son, born with Trisomy 18 on April 3, 2009 and went to Heaven on April 20, 2009, I understand the emotions that are going on in your heart and mind today. My heart's prayer is that the Lord will give you the perfect peace in trusting in Him and that He will give you the grace you need to see you through. May God continue to bless you and your family.

Drew said...

Thank you so much for this story, it meant a lot to me to read of this families struggle and God's grace in their lives. Your writing was a blessing to me today.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this powerful, touching story.

Erica said...

Wow Zach. I'm humbled and convicted. What an incredibly amazing example of walking out what we say we believe. Thank you for posting this. I think I'll post a link on my blog as well. Praying for the Browns and mourning the loss of baby Matt with them.

Anonymous said...

I will be praying for this precious family! My husband is a pediatrician and so I am familiar with the many ways over the 28 years of his serving the Lord in this capacity that he, and our family, have been used of God as he has laid down his life for his patients and thus proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world. I pray constantly for the Lord to raise up more faithful Christian doctors to used of God in this way! I will be praying for Steffan and his family, as they serve in this calling.
Baby Matthew was blessed and is a blessing to the Brown family and to the larger family of God. He will be used by God to further the Kingdom of God and bring glory to His name! Their suffering is not in vain and has an eternal purpose. May they feel the great peace and comfort of God in their suffering. Please pass this on to the Brown family if you can.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

The blog is at

Kristi J said...

beautiful post! Amazing!! kristi

Anonymous said...

this is such a beautiful post and this family inspires all on how we should truly live. They took in and gave a little boy a life who wouldn't have had one.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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