When Rock Church East County Worship Pastor, Andre Hudson, and his wife Rachel, noticed their baby daughter sleeping an inordinate amount of time, followed by bouts of vomiting, it was the beginning of every parent’s worst nightmare. A visit to the doctor turned into many visits to many doctors which revealed that little Olivia, just two years old, had a brain tumor and the prognosis was bleak.
Over the next 24 months, Olivia endured multiple rounds of different types of chemo, more than 100 radiation treatments, two brain surgeries, and just about every painful and invasive procedure at the doctors’ disposal to try to bring the cancer under control. Nothing worked.
With Olivia deteriorating under all the treatments, the Hudson’s suffered to watch her little face and body morph under the weight of the medications; her hair fell out and grew back over and over to bring added visual reminder of the toxic battle that was being waged inside her little body.
With month after month going by and all attempts at a cure meeting failure, the Hudson’s cried out to God and pleaded, “Lord, either heal her or take her home but please don’t make us have to keep putting her through this.”
Finally, with time running out on her life, she slipped into a coma, at which point, the doctors were going to try a new kind of chemotherapy. But once more, a roadblock presented itself. The port into her body was clogged, and they would have to open her up to replace it. Nearly two years after it all started, Andre, at Olivia’s bedside, turned to Rachel and wearily said, “We’re not supposed to being doing this anymore.”
Rachel, as if waiting for him to say it, nodded her head. Yes, it was over. They were not going to ask her to suffer again. She was now God’s to heal on earth or embrace in heaven.
And so, with Olivia home and in bed sleeping between her mom and dad, God woke the Hudsons just in time to witness two miracles—God calling Olivia home, and a smile forming on her face. A stroke had taken away the left side of her face’s ability to function. Her smile was a sign from God.
The ordeal had finally come to an end. They cried and kissed their little girl and were suddenly thrust into life after Olivia.
The Rock Church caught up with Andre to learn about the aftermath.
What did you learn from your ordeal? Where did you see God in it?
Everywhere. God was everywhere—because God is sustaining you, getting you through the moment by moment pain. There were many times when I told God that I was through, that I couldn’t go one more day with this kind of pain, and sure enough, He would pick me up and take me 10 days more—to show me though I was weak, He was strong enough. Then there were His people. Scores upon scores of our fellow believers came to our aid to pray, to cook, to clean, to raise money. They raised $18,000 for us and did everything from wash our clothes to pay our bills—which is a good thing because when you are in a situation like ours, you simply don’t have the capacity to think about anything else.
It doesn’t seem like God was in the situation so much as He was the situation.
I also think it’s important to remember that the devil’s call sign is to STEAL, KILL, and DESTROY (war, divorce, disease). But God’s call sign is LIFE and LIFE TO THE FULL. This is God’s heart and these are God’s actions. He is always good, and You trust Him. You are never on your own. He is with you always.
What would you say to someone who might have a difficult time accepting that here was God trying to teach you He was strong enough to get you through this ordeal, but at the cost of your daughter? Does that seem like a fair trade to you?
I will see Olivia again. I will hold her in my arms one day. But her life and death have brought tons of people to faith in Jesus and meant so much to so many. Sometimes that is the means by which God reaches out and brings people to Himself. Even a song I wrote while sitting at Olivia’s bedside has touched many people and given them strength or has come alongside those in need of courage or some inspiration. This ordeal wasn’t just about me and Rachel and Olivia. God had bigger things in mind.
At one point as your lives were falling apart, Rachel gave birth to your third child—who immediately had serious breathing problems and was helicoptered into the same children’s hospital as Olivia. Did you wonder what God was doing and why He was doing it to you?
Actually, at one point we did wonder if we had unconfessed sin in our lives that would cause God to react that way. It’s a funny tendency that we humans have—to always try to find what we’re doing wrong. But that’s turning the relationship that we have with Jesus into a religion, where God is delivering blessings and punishment based on our behavior. But that is simply not our God. With Jesus, there is no tit-for-tat. Although He has not caused the trials, He will use them for bringing us closer to Him because we are called according to His purpose. Pain is a transition.
How did your marriage hold up under that kind of pressure?
Actually, there came a time when we had to come together and sort of agree that we would not be taken down by this; that we would not let it crush us—because the weight of our circumstance was so heavy that almost nothing could survive it. We could have walked away and nobody would have blamed us. But for the sake of our vows before God and for the good of our kids, we knew we would have to stay together no matter what. God has blessed us with an even stronger relationship than before. It’s what happens when you both have to seek God just to survive another day. God becomes your everything.
What is your relationship with God like now?
I know it seems like the cruelest thing God can allow in someone’s life, but I believe in Him now more than ever. And I believe in His love now more than ever. And I believe in my purpose for being here now more than ever—to reach people for God. Only God could take something so awful and make something so beautiful.
In that way, my little girl lives on.
Click here to watch a video about the Hudson's and their breakthrough in this tragedy.