Though Andy Taylor came to Incarnation from another non-profit, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, it took some getting used to going to a church everyday. Early on, it occurred to him that there were places throughout the buildings where he could go when he had the time and needed to meditate. The main sanctuary would become an important place of retreat for him.
Until summer of 2016, Andy was the business associate of the church managing accounts payable, deposits, and the Sunday offering counting. Eleven months earlier, Andy fell and injured his ankle. Despite on-going physical therapy, he wasn’t healing. Then his arm began to weaken. It was clear something wasn’t right. Andy’s general practitioner referred him to a neurologist who ordered 20 blood tests, an MRI for the brain and another for the lower back trying to find anything to rule out. In December of 2015, Andy was officially diagnosed with ALS.
“We are determined ALS will not overtake us. It has created a new normal for our family. It is not who we are, but rather something we accept and work around.”
As an adult, Andy found great comfort and healing in charismatic churches from the suffering he experienced as a teenager. Having already come to the understanding that his Father was heavenly, Andy was able to conquer the fear of a debilitating illness and death. Overcoming his earlier depression had revealed a drive previously unknown to Andy. His wife Cheryl and daughter Natalie have adopted similar resolve. “We are determined ALS will not overtake us. It has created a new normal for our family. It is not who we are, but rather something we accept and work around,” says Cheryl.
At a staff meeting early in the new year Andy confirmed the news of his diagnosis, speaking openly of his illness with grace and composure. He and the business office had made an agreement that allowed Andy to continue working for as long as he could, providing some sense of normalcy even as the disease changed his life. He was honest and direct about what he needed physically and accepted love and assistance from others with grace.
Coming to the church each day helped Andy to continue living his life as routinely as he could. It also provided him with a convenience to seek out solitude for introspection while facing the terminal disease.
“We are living in a bent world that is temporary, and we don’t have all the answers. But, in the end we have Jesus. He is the way, and my hope is for the world to come,” says Andy.
With single-mindedness Andy continues to live his life separately from the illness. “I’ve noticed that not many people like me continue to live their lives normally. I believe it is important for the public to see people with ALS,” says Andy. Cheryl and Natalie still take him to dinner and the movies and Andy takes great satisfaction out of testing ADA compliance around town. At their church, Trinity Fellowship, Andy continues to sing in the choir and at times has a solo. Doctors have repeatedly remarked that Andy’s lungs are strong. He attributes this blessing to his years singing songs of praise and his former love of running.
We do not always have opportunities as clear as Andy’s to demonstrate our faith. However, stories like his provide each of us with the occasion to reassess our lives. Andy’s effect on his colleagues has been nothing short of powerful; it has given many of us a chance to exercise our faith. His discipleship is a reminder that this world is temporary, Jesus is the way, and our hope is the world to come.
This past Advent, Andy gave his testimony at his church. Hear his full story and listen for the profound joy in his voice as he recounts the details of his life.