HOUSTON (BP) -- The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has garnered national attention and raised nearly $100 million dollars in donations in less than a month. But few participants can say they have already been cured of the lethal disease.
JJ LaCarter is one of them.
LaCarter, a deacon at Houston's First Baptist Church, joined pastor Gregg Matte in taking the Ice Bucket Challenge in a fountain outside the church's Loop Campus, Aug. 25, to raise awareness for ALS and to tell the story of LaCarter's miraculous healing. Houston's First posted his story along with a video (http://houstonsfirst.org/news-updates/i-was-healed-from-als/) of Matte and him participating in the challenge on the church's website.
LaCarter was diagnosed with ALS in 2008 following extensive tests by a neurologist at the Texas Medical Center. He then underwent additional testing by one of the world's foremost ALS research doctors, who confirmed he had the disease.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a fatal condition that affects more than 30,000 Americans, with no known cure.
"Over the course of about 2-5 years, ALS progressively paralyzes all the muscles in the body, including the muscles that control speaking, breathing and eating -- eventually resulting in death," LaCarter said, adding that he and his wife Barbara "were in total shock" at the diagnosis.
LaCarter says his church family rallied around him in support and prayer.
"People would stop me in the hall just to tell me they were praying for me," LaCarter said. "I know that when you ask people at Houston's First to pray, they really do. My own prayer was for me to continue to walk, talk and breathe. Each Sunday I thanked the Lord that He allowed me to walk up the stairs to our Life Bible Study that met on the second floor."
In spring 2009, pastor Matte was on a tour of Israel when a tour guide at the Pool of Bethesda encouraged him to pray for someone in need of healing. Matte sensed the Lord laying LaCarter on his heart, so he prayed for LaCarter's complete healing from ALS.
Seven months later, during a scheduled visit, LaCarter's doctor told him he did not have ALS anymore. Shocked, Barbara LaCarter asked the doctor whether the initial diagnosis was an error, but the doctor was certain that he had the disease.
"We immediately told him that it was answered prayer and God's healing," LaCarter said. The doctor "said, 'Maybe so,' but we knew it was. I asked him if he had ever told anyone else this before, and he replied, 'Only three patients since 1982.'"
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media-driven initiative sponsored by the ALS Association (ALSA) to raise awareness and financial support for ALS research. Participants douse themselves in a bucket of ice water and donate money to ALS research before challenging a number of their friends to follow suit. The initiative has been fueled by online videos of high-profile athletes, politicians and celebrities participating in the challenge.
Many pro-life advocates have raised ethical concerns about donating to the ALSA because the organization has funded embryonic stem cell research, which destroys unborn humans. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention released a list
of frequently asked questions on the ethical implications of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The website includes a list of alternative organizations recommended by Christian bioethicist David Prentice that do not fund embryonic stem cell research. See related Baptist Press story
on ethical dilemmas surrounding the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Along with the story and video of Matte and LaCarter's participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge, Houston's First included on their website a list of alternative ALS research organizations and a link to the ERLC website. The church also included an online prayer request form and the phone number to its Prayer Line, offering to pray for those with ALS or other illnesses.
Keith Collier is editor of the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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