By Will Hall, Message Editor
As Ricky Belgard spoke from the pulpit of Philadelphia Baptist Church at the Horseshoe Drive campus in Alexandria, he said he was thinking of the lengthy ramp that would have been needed only seven weeks ago for him to have made it up on the platform.
“Now, I’m standing on higher ground,” he celebrated.
Belgard shared with the congregation that evening, June 4, how God had healed him from being bound, long-term, to a wheelchair while facing the prognosis of a slow death from the combination of two deadly conditions.
LIFE OR DEATH
“I have had Multiple Sclerosis for many years,” Belgard shared, “then the doctors discovered I don’t just have MS, but I have a problem in the brain stem. The brain stem controls all of your bodily functions that are supposed to be automatic — like your breathing and your heart — all those things you’re not supposed to think about.
“Well, mine started shutting down,” he explained. “And so, four and a half years ago, I’m in the hospital and I already know what’s coming up because this disease is terminal.”
BAD TO WORSE
Belgard had signed a “do not resuscitate” order and despite requests by the nurses and doctors to intubate him and put him on life support as his body was shutting down, he was steadfast in refusing extra measures to keep him alive, insisting instead, “Send me home. Send me home.”
At home, his condition worsened such that his son, a Department of Defense member and daughter-in-law were flown home from Germany to be with him before he passed away.
“During this time, our prayer partners at church began to have a prayer meeting,” Belgard recounted. “They started a 24-hour prayer meeting just for me, just to pray for me and ask God to turn this around and for God to put His hand upon me and to heal me.”
But his condition continued to decline: His doctors limited visits to five minutes due to his frailty; his voice failed, and he was forced to “talk” via computer; and, he started having strokes, one behind another.
“I started losing all the ability in everything on my right side. I lost all the ability to move my arms and hands and legs,” he recalled. “They literally had to pick me up and pack me wherever I needed to go.”
POWER OF PRAYER
Belgard shared how God gave him an experience he described as “a trip to Heaven” – in order to emphasize that prayer works, and, to make him realize that God was about to do something to glorify Himself.
“I’ll just tell you this,” he offered, “that there is a place in Heaven that once you cross you can’t come back from. And you know that when you get there.
“I’m about to step over that place,” Belgard continued, “and I knew that once I did that I could never come back.
“God put His hand right on my chest, and said, ‘Not, yet.’
Belgard said he knew immediately why God was not allowing him in Heaven, yet: “Because of my prayer partners. Let me tell you something folks — if you don’t know this — prayer works. Prayer works!
“So I came back, and from that day forward I started getting better, and getting better, and getting better,” he said.
Importantly, he said he finally realized that he was in that wheelchair so God could demonstrate His power and receive glory.
“I knew I had victory,” he declared.
THE LAME LEAP
Belgard detailed how he began working his legs, exercising and building muscle tone, “trying to do what I could to get back on my feet again.”
Then he declared to his wife, “Honey, I’m getting out of this wheelchair.”
“And so, we just began to pray,” he said.
Sometime later, he just got up.
“I was like a newborn baby, walking around like this and holding onto this and holding onto that,” he said while demonstrating how he wobbled at first. “And it got better and better and better.
“And you just saw me come up the stairs, not holding onto anything,” he pointed out.
“I’ve been in a wheelchair for four and a half years. I just come up those stairs and didn’t have to hold onto nothing. Somebody better praise the Lord!”
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Belgard said he knows now the Lord let him “ride four and a half years” so that people “all over” would praise God for the miracle.
“I tell you that the doctors cannot take credit for this. They still don’t understand why it’s happening,” he said, adding that CT scans and blood work have offered no medical explanation. “They don’t have a clue how this is working. It’s not supposed to work.”
Then Belgard shared about a particularly special blessing God gave him out of the ordeal.
Belgard was a former piano player who had to stop because of the crippling effects the multiple strokes had created.
But he had faith.
“I began to just work on one song that kept going through my mind, over and over and over, again: ‘His Eye Is On the Sparrow.’”
Belgard said he worked on it for a year and a half, starting with just one finger, banging out something with his left hand, but with no control over his right one.
And he prayed.
“I said, ‘God, you know my time with You on that piano is my worship time,’” he shared, telling the crowd how his “alone” time was his special time with God.
Then using crossovers and pass-unders and manipulating the keys with runs and fills, he played “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” “Goodbye, World, Goodbye,” and “Holy Ground.”
“I just want to show off my Lord, what my Lord will do when you pray, when you believe.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus,” he reminded the audience as he closed his testimony.
Then he challenged them.
“Do you ever pray a prayer you don’t believe? Don’t waste your breath. Because if you’re not going to believe it, don’t pray it. But when you pray it, believe it!
Ricky Belgard is prayer minister for Philadelphia Baptist Church, Deville.