Illness in the Family
At the end of October I received word that my brother’s little five year old son had the flu. When Larry and Carole took him to the doctor it was discovered that little Tyson had a brain tumor. That explained his on-going violent headaches and vomiting. How I longed to be with my family and offer what comfort I could. Every day after school I came home and stretched out on the floor to do business with my heavenly Father in Ty’s behalf. Toward the end of November I began to hear the Lord ask me to go through Larry’s and Carole’s house with oil for a spiritual house-cleaning as I had done in my own house.
Desperately I tried to negotiate with the Lord. They have a big house! It will take some time and I’ll be alone. What if I run into trouble with some entity l can’t deal with? When the time comes you will know what to do.
During the Christmas holidays I borrowed Larry’s and Carole’s house key from Mom. I went on Sunday morning while the family was in Sunday school and church, so I had about two hours. Everything went well until I got to the master bedroom. As I walked across the floor I staggered but didn’t think much about it. Eventually I got the impression that a spirit of death was attacking me. Unafraid, I did battle with it, and it had to give ground. In the bathroom off the hall between the bedrooms, however, I met a spirit of unnatural death. I couldn’t seem to drive the ugly thing out no matter how I warred, so I forbade it to influence anyone until it could be expelled. Time for the family to return from church and I didn’t want them to find me here because I didn’t want to try to answer their questions.
Second semester I continued to petition God for Tyson’s complete healing. I was glad I had obeyed the Lord regarding the spiritual housecleaning because it gave me some insight as to what Larry and Carole must be fighting.
To get better acquainted in the community where I was teaching I joined the village Garden Club. Not exactly my cup of tea, but it was an opportunity to meet local women. One lady about my age was a horse lover as I was, so Doris and I began looking for a gentle horse for her husband. Driving all over the countryside was fun and we saw a lot of “dogs” – bad horses.
Classes seemed to go well, too. When I was away on weekends I left a key to my house with a senior high school student who fed and played with Kitty Inky. Vandals were getting into the science classroom. One morning I found broken glass slides in the gerbil cage. I didn’t think much about it; gerbils have more sense than to chew on glass. Someone put fox scent in the science room heat vents, so classes were suspended for half a day. Another morning, the irradiated seeds a student was growing as a project for the state science fair were found setting on the heat register, all wilted. My car was rotten egged and tomatoed frequently. Although I was irritated, these pranks seemed typical of the behavior of small rural insular communities (remember the Ozarks school?), so I tried to ignore them.
After school one beautiful spring day, I received a phone call from Doris who was nearly hysterical. It seems that two boys and a dog had been seen chasing my Arabian mare and her foal. The foal ran into a five-strand barbed wire fence, stripping the hide from her neck down to between her legs. An unknown witness immediately called the area veterinarian and Doris, who came to wait at the pasture with me. While we waited for the vet I poured out my distress to Doris: classroom vandalism, my little nephew’s illness, now this.
An Unexpected Visitor
One day after school I was at my desk when the classroom door banged open and a stranger barged in.
“My name is Janet Barnes. Are you Joyce Baumgardner?”
“Is it true that you are a witch?”
“Hardly!! Would you believe me if I told you I am a Christian?”
“Yes, I would believe you. I don’t think a witch would say they were a Christian. Do you know who I am? I am a charismatic leader in this area.”
“Oh? I am Spirit-filled, too.”
Janet continued to cross-examine me carefully. “Where do you go to church?”
“I drive to a church about 30 miles from here.”
Then she seemed a little puzzled. “Did you know your students are telling around that their science teacher is a witch? To prove it, they say you have a black cat that is your familiar.”
“I do have a black cat. Does that make me a witch? Is everybody who has a black cat a witch?!”
“Get rid of the cat!”
“The cat stays,” I snapped. “He was given to me by a student’s mother my first year of teaching, and he is 14 years old. I won’t get rid of the cat!”
“I have friends with children junior high age who had planned to move into this school district but they won’t if the science teacher is a witch,” Janet explained.
“Tell your friends that whether or not I am a witch, they should feel free to move to this area because I will be resigning at the end of the term. There is illness in my family and I plan to move back home to be near them.”
This last bit of news seemed to soften Janet a little, and she was silent momentarily.
“The rumors need to be stopped. Will you accept some advice?”
“Tell your students in all your classes tomorrow that Janet Barnes was here to talk to you. They will know who I am. Tell them what we talked about. The rumors need to be stopped.”
Having had plenty of experience with gossip, I was skeptical.
“Why should I believe that telling my students about your visit and our conversation will make any difference to them?”
“Promise me you will do it? It can’t cause any harm. My group and I will pray for you that the students will listen.”
So I reluctantly agreed, with no confidence that anything would change.
The next day l began each class by relating Janet’s visit and our conversation. I even expressed my doubts that the rumors would stop. Much to my surprise, one by one, after class the cheerleaders came to me and tearfully confessed their part in maligning their science teacher’s character. Needless to say, I was amazed at their willingness to confess. The classroom vandalism and rotten egging stopped. Apparently Janet did indeed have influence among the charismatics, and they must have been heard for their prayers regarding the local science teacher’s wellbeing.
About a month before school was out, doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital sent Tyson home to die. Radiation treatments had destroyed his pituitary gland – the master gland. If he survived he would be short and hairy. He would have no regulation of hunger and thirst. Secondary sexual characteristics wouldn’t develop. And radiation had destroyed his optic nerves. He was blind.
Tyson didn’t die, however. At the end of May I moved back to Illinois. That September Larry and Carole enrolled Tyson in kindergarten. Understandably, the kindergarten teacher was horrified to have a very fragile blind child in her classroom. But Larry insisted. And slowly Tyson regained his sight. Did we get excited? We were ecstatic!
One Sunday after church the whole family met at Larry and Carole’s house for lunch and began talking over the ordeal we were living. Larry told about coming home from St. Louis one morning to look after some business. He was in the hall bathroom with the intention of taking his life when the phone rang. He went to answer the phone and when he returned to the bathroom he no longer felt like taking his life. Then it was my turn to tell about praying through the house in spiritual warfare and the unnatural death spirit I had engaged in the hall bath.
Although I had been Spirit-filled for several years, my family was third- generation denominational church members, members in good standing, some of the extended family being church planters, ministers and missionaries, district superintendents and missionary field superintendents. But when Tyson began to show medically documented recovery, our exuberance made the local church leaders nervous. One Sunday morning in front of the whole congregation we were asked to leave. I was elated because I knew the next step would broaden our faith and glorify God. We all left together to attend a church that believed in supernatural healing, and subsequently a major community renewal erupted.
Tyson is now a college graduate, nearly six feet tall, with normal vision (he still has no optic nerves), he drives a car in a large city, and is married with two little girls. As for me, I have come to value the privilege of seeing that angel during the summer storm, having the terrible dream, and understanding God’s incredible love and care for His children in their deep distresses.
It was during Ty’s illness that my dad gave his heart to Jesus and became a changed man. His heart was broken to see his little five-year-old grandson blind, unable to eat, with violent headaches. He apologized to his adult children for being the mean man that he was when we were small, and healing flowed through the whole family. Larry interviewed him on video and this tape was played at Dad’s funeral.
When I moved from Iowa, back to Illinois be near my family, I found a job nearby where I taught five years. I noticed that China was now open so to make myself more saleable I returned to university for a Master’s degree in K-12 Public School Administration. I couldn’t find an organization to sponsor me to China, so I wrote to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for an application to teach in a university of their choice. In May I graduated and in September I was on my way to China. I was scared spitless and had serious misgivings about withdrawing my Teacher’s Retirement funds to finance God’s call on my life. But I was obedient to The Call.