Ray and Paula June, of Cogan House Township, were young, in love and looking forward to their life together when they married in 1964. Both were the only child in their respective families so they hoped, eventually, to fill their home with children.
In April, 1969, they began attending "The Door Fellowship" in Williamsport. Ray explained what that decision meant to them.
"Early in our Christian walk we received teaching on faith as the Bible tells us. That teaching and faith in God's word has brought us through many trials in our lives. We studied the teaching of faith, based on biblical scriptures. In Romans 10:17 (KJV) it tells us that "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." As we study and put Gods' Word down in our spirit, God will bring to pass what His word says if we have faith in it," Ray said.
Ray and Paula June, of Cogan House Township, were young, in love and looking forward to their life together when they married in 1964.
Soon, they dedicated their lives to the Lord, began earnestly studying the Bible and took a series of classes about healing centered on two specific scriptures - John 10:10 and 1 Peter 2:24.
Back then, the couple could not envision that, more than two decades later, these scriptures would become a sustaining force as they faced the greatest challenge of their lives.
At 47, Ray held down a job as a fork lift operator at Shop Vac in Williamsport and tried to keep up with an active family that now numbered four adult children, their spouses and four grandchildren. The couple worked, in their spare time, restoring an 1861-era home in the village of Brookside. Ray's interest in classic cars and trucks led him to attend car shows and collect various older vehicles.
In 1990, Ray began exhibiting flu-like symptoms that culminated with Paula finding him passed out on the floor one morning. She rushed him to the Williamsport Hospital's emergency room where Ray was diagnosed with an inner ear infection. A week later his condition was no better.
"He would just lie around, stare off into space and at times seem almost coma-like," said Paula.
She called her family doctor and he advised that she return Ray to the hospital immediately.
"Our son, Brent, actually had to carry his dad to the car," Paula said. On the way, she became aware of Ray praying quietly, even though he seemed almost unconscious. Paula was encouraged that, despite his being unaware of his surroundings, he was exhibiting a kind of spiritual consciousness.
At the hospital Ray was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which is the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. The fluid normally cushions the brain but when there is an excess it creates harmful pressure. Doctors could not determine where the fluid in Ray's brain was coming from, but they inserted a shunt designed to drain the surplus into his stomach.
Within six weeks Ray was able to go back to work. For a time he seemed to improve, but by the end of that year he once again was extremely tired, began staring off into space and became very weak.
Another trip to the hospital revealed that the initial shunt had closed off, so doctors inserted a new one. The routine would be repeated many times during the next seven years. For awhile Ray would improve, then the shunt would become clogged, close off and have to be replaced. Doctors could not determine the cause of the blockages.
"At the end of 1995 when I was in the hospital, the doctors had taken X-rays of my lungs," Ray said. "They said my right lung was completely filled with blood clots and because of that it would become dead tissue and not function. They told my wife, Paula,
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that I would never work again. She told them that we were believing in God for healing my body. It only takes one blood clot to move to your heart to cause a heart attack or to your brain to cause a stroke. A few days later, they took more X-rays and found all the blood clots were completely gone from my lungs! My God had answered prayer and performed a miracle in my body. Jesus had delivered me from the jaws of death."
However, there were more challenges to come. In 1997, Ray was admitted to Geisinger Medical Center. There, a series of tests were run that revealed Ray had cryptococcal meningitis, which is a fungal infection of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges). The standard treatment for all forms of cryptococcal meningitis involves two drugs. The first, amphotericin B (fungizone), is given every day through an intravenous line. The second, flucytosine (ancobon), is taken orally.
Ray spent the next two months in the Intensive Care Unit at Geisinger. Initially, he was treated with Amphotericin B. After only two doses of the medication, Paula was told that Ray was not responding well to it and that further treatment with Amphotericin B would ruin his kidneys.
"The doctors offered us no hope," Paula said. "Without the drug the fungus would be deadly and with the drugs Ray would probably end up on dialysis. The doctors were apologetic and willing to transfer Ray to another hospital but they could not recommend one that had the answers needed to treat Ray's condition."
During this stressful period, Paula was working full-time at Susquehanna Visiting Nurses, then spending most nights at the hospital with Ray. Keeping a positive attitude about the situation was difficult some days. However, both Ray and Paula remained steadfast.
"This was a challenge, but we didn't ever feel that God had put this on us," they said. Paula prayed continuously and relied on the healing scriptures she and Ray had studied as a young married couple.
"I did not believe Ray and I would be separated by this illness," she said. Many times she reminded herself that "the Lord is an ever-present help in time of trouble."
Looking back, Ray and Paula know that any of the individual health challenges Ray faced over seven years were ones that could have killed him. So, they are grateful to the Lord in which they've always trusted that even these most dire circumstances were overcome through faith and prayer.
Seventeen years have passed since the doctors basically pronounced Ray's condition incurable. Yet, other than some weakness in his legs, which require the occasional use of forearm crutches, Ray is perfectly healthy. Subsequent checkups have shown no signs of the deadly fungus. Ray underwent a spinal tap by an infectious control physician after being released from Geisinger.
"They told us this kind of fungus never leaves the body, yet they tried six different times to grow it from the fluid they took from Ray's spine," Paula said. "They were never able to grow it. He has no sign of it in his body now."
One of his doctors recently met Ray unexpectedly in a restaurant and hugged him. "My God, man, you shouldn't be alive," the doctor exclaimed. Ray realizes he, indeed, experienced a miracle in his life.
Recently, the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary surrounded by a crowd of family and friends. Their family now numbers more than 25 married children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. On many special occasions their home is overflowing with laughter and fellowship. Ray continues to keep busy creating custom touches that make their 153-year-old house inviting to all who come through the door. His love of classic vehicles is evident in the 1953 Chevy truck that he and sons are in the process of restoring. Recently, it took first place at a car show in Coudersport.
Although their faith is apparent in all aspects of their lives, they are quick to lay credit for Ray's miraculous healing directly at the feet of a loving God. They continue to claim the power of the scripture in John 10:10 they leaned so many years ago:
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly."(KJV)