Jansen Bagwell, head of the discipleship/deliverance ministry under the authority of our parish Priests, experienced a tragedy recently. It is one of those tragedies or traumas that could make a person bitter and angry at God. However, Jansen offered thanksgiving and gave his son, whom they named Gabriel Paul, back to God. I feel certain the name Paul is because of the impact Saint Paul had on Jansen’s conversion to Catholicism.
He offered thanksgiving as his son was dying. Do you know what that is? That is prosperity in virtue. That is the love of God. That is the Prosperity Gospel. It’s freedom in God that is grounded in thanksgiving. Eucharist means thanksgiving.
This man and his wife are not perfect, none of us are, but Jansen is the closest thing I have seen to a true disciple of Christ this side of heaven. Jansen brings Christ to the people but not in a way that judges them, rather in a way that walks with them and lets the person make his own choice. Often times Jason will get to a certain point with someone where there will either be a breakthrough and major healing will take place, or the person will choose to walk away. Jason’s approach exemplifies the approach Christ takes with each of us. Christ does not try to force us to love or even to be healed. In the world, we live in many regularly walk away from the Lord at the exact place He wants to heal them. Jason and his wife’s story is also an example of their choice to love, even when it seemed impossible.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
On Thursday, October 24, 2019, at 19 weeks pregnant with her fifth child Jansen’s wife, Amanda, started bleeding heavily. They called 911 and the ambulance rushed her to the hospital. The surgical team was waiting for her and due to the severity of her complications, they performed a hysterectomy removing her uterus. Her placenta had grown through the uterine wall and had almost reached her bladder. She had almost no amniotic fluid and was in danger of death. In order to save her life and stop the bleeding, they had to operate and deliver the baby who was not yet at a viable age. There were no other options because otherwise, they both would die. The baby was delivered, he did not survive.
Baptizing and Confirming the Newborn
The following is my recollection of testimony of Father Dan Reehil (yes, the one of Harry Potter fame, who happens to be one of the best Priests I know – a true Apostle of Christ). Father Reehil was present at the hospital with the Bagwell’s and he gave testimony in a homily on Friday, October 25, 2019.
Father Reehil stated he got the news that Amanda and the baby were in distress so he hopped in his car and began to drive to the hospital. He said that on his way to the hospital the Lord told him that he would send three Priests to show the presence of the Blessed Trinity. He said when he arrived, it was just him but a short time later another Priest, Father Nick Allen, showed up, and a little while after that another, Father Bala. Three Priests, just as he had been told. The other Priests were the Associate Pastor and the Pastor from our church.
Father Reehil began to cry during his homily as he explained what happened next. He said they brought the baby to Jansen, who held his son. He said Jansen prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for the child and told the Lord that the child was never his but had always belonged to God and he offered him back to the Lord.
Father Reehil with the assistance of the other Priests baptized and confirmed the little boy during the surgery and commended him into the arms of his good Father as he passed away. This gives us another saint in heaven. Father said it edified and strengthened his own faith to see Jansen’s prayer and that if we all had faith like that the world would be a much better place. Father Reehil continued to cry through the consecration. He later told me that it was a Mass truly from his heart. I knew it to be true.
The Baby’s Death
As I sat in the pew listening I cried louder than I ever have in a church filled with people and I didn’t care if they saw me openly weeping. Then, I wanted to shout, “Amen – Amen I believe. I believe because of the power this testimony!” I experienced healing in a more profound way for my own miscarriage from an ectopic pregnancy when I too almost died from blood loss. The Lord was using this witness to heal me more deeply. The Bagwell family has no idea how many people their testimony will impact.
It has been very emotional for Jansen’s family. His wife experienced a lot of pain and does have a bit of a road to recovery but she seems to be physically recovering nicely. Jansen said they can see the tiny miracles in the small things, like the timing. On a Tuesday before, Amanda had had an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine doctor who had discovered that there was almost no amniotic fluid with the potentially life-threatening complications for her and advised her of the severity of it. Because of this, she advised Amanda not to travel anywhere that would be further than 2 hours from a major hospital. Amanda listened and canceled her work trip to switch her work plane flight to the middle of no-where Illinois. This saved her life because she was supposed to be on that plane when the bleeding started. The path has been overwhelming and emotional, for all in their family – including their older children. Please keep all of them in your prayers.
Love and Trust God
We don’t know God’s ways, they are not ours, and Jansen displayed love and trust in God’s plan in a way I have never seen before. Reminiscent of Job who continued to say God was good, even in the midst of his pain. And when Job is taken into the whirlwind he cannot even speak at the immensity of all God is.
I have often heard people speak about having gratitude in everything. Gratitude towards the God that loves us even when we suffer. I wondered why gratitude is so powerful? We know it is because it takes our breath away when we see it. It struck me that gratitude is intertwined with mercy. A thankful person is a person who holds no grudge, who forgives to the fullest. Even the things we cannot understand.
It is not God who wills our suffering but when I see a tragedy like this it can often make me question God, ” Lord, why do bad things happen to good people?” Saint Paul explains;
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church ( Colossians 1:24).
I don’t know why they had to suffer this, but I know in the turning to Christ with it they have partaken in His Cross. His Cross always brings resurrection. It already did for me and my own healing. Their afflictions and uniting it to Christ strengthened me, a part of the Body of the Church.
I had asked the Lord, after Amanda’s Tuesday appointment, if she and her baby would be okay and I sensed the word “yes”. So when this happened, I questioned God again before I finally understood that God’s promises are true and both mother and baby are more than okay; one is in eternity with Him in heaven and one, after a path of healing on earth will continue His work.
A New Intercessor
We now have a new intercessor. In the age we live in, where the womb, motherhood, fatherhood, and children, are attacked on a regular basis, we now have a Holy Innocent who sits with the Father and intercedes on our behalf. Father Reehil said the Confirmation name Jansen chose for his child was Elizabeth. Father Reehil saw great wisdom in this choice because the child’s entire life was in the womb. Elizabeth’s womb was a very significant place for Saint John the Baptist; where he received his vocation from Jesus during the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.
At only 19 weeks gestation, what a life he lived. It was a life of witness.
Gabriel Paul Elizabeth had a funeral Mass and was buried on the Feast of Saint Elizabeth, as God would have it. Besides his family and the Priests, the parish members and friends were present to bid farewell to this child we never met but who had a great impact on our lives.
In our world of confusion, when we don’t know what’s what, neither inside the church or outside of it, it is immeasurably beautiful to see the Sacramental life fully embraced and lived in the people around us and in the community we share. The Mystical Body in action gives clarity in a world of confusion and it keeps our eyes on Christ.
Saint Gabriel Paul Elizabeth of the womb, pray for us.