The Miracle Match
In 2016, I realized my plans are nothing compared to God’s plans for my life.
One of the most faith-driven years I’ve ever experienced began in a very ordinary way.
In March, before packing up to head home after a very long day at work, I started to swipe through social media and came across a post from my friend, Sam Walker.
It was a photo followed by an abnormally long post. Nine times out of 10 I’d just keep scrolling.
But I didn’t.
In Sam’s post, she shared about Luke, who had been living with her and her husband for the past few months. Luke, who is deaf, brought great joy to their house, but what many didn’t know was that he was in end-stage kidney failure. Luke desperately needed a transplant.
The original Facebook post that I couldn't get out of my mind and led me to donate my kidney.
Moment of Truth
My heart sank. Driving home, my mind would not stop thinking about that post. A few days went by, and still, for some reason, the post about Luke had not left my mind.
After work one day that week, I was driving and came up to a long stretch of road I called “my happy place.” If you catch it at the right time, you can see beautiful farmland and mountains in the far distance as the sun is setting.
Why couldn’t I get this off my mind? I prayed and asked God what He wanted me to do.
As clear as I’ve ever heard the Lord before, He told me, “Mercedes, you are the one who’s going to help Luke.”
In that moment, I thought I was crazy! I had no clue what to think or do next.
Later on, my best friend, Caitlin, and I were driving to the store. I told her about the post and Luke’s need for a kidney. Without really processing what was supposed to come next, I just said, “I think I’m going to give him mine.”
The blood pressure monitor I had to wear as part of testing to donate my kidney.
Testing began April 21. The day consisted of blood work that would be sent to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and I had to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours that went off every 15 minutes. Needless to say, that night I got no sleep.
From there we played the waiting game.
A month went by, and we hadn’t heard the results. It caused confusion in my mind and worry that this wasn’t going to be a match for Luke.
Luke had no idea that I had decided to be a possible donor, or even that I started the process.
God had all of this mapped out.
I was, in fact, an exact match! The day I found out by phone, Sam, and her husband, Craig, told Luke everything I was doing that evening.
“Why would she do that? Wow!” Luke responded in sign language. “Remember I told you God told me I would have a kidney soon? Remember? I hope I get a kidney this year!”
In mid-June, I endured days of the most in-depth testing I would experience this entire journey.
There were multiple blood tests; a CT scan; X-rays, a kidney function test; an ultrasound; an electrocardiogram. I had to talk with a dietitian, a surgeon, a donor coordinator, a nurse, a chaplain, and a social worker, who all had to decide if I was a suited candidate for transplant.
Then we played the waiting game for the second time to get final and official results that I was a match to Luke.
I was not happy about being stuck with a needle for my blood work, but it was worth it!
Lessons From A Friend
In the two weeks I waited for the final results, Luke and I were given the opportunity for the first time to build an incredible friendship.
Luke shared what had caused his kidney failure, his story of how he ended up in Anderson, and he showed me all he struggled with each night to do dialysis.
Luke never threw a pity party or acted as he expected anything to be just handed to him. I learned from him true patience, trust, and the faith that comes only from God.
The bond we share is something not many can relate to.
One night I asked what was one thing he’d like to do if we find out I’m a match and we were able to do the transplant. Luke replied that he dreamed of being able to swim again.
The dialysis port and the risk of infection prevented him from doing something I had just done, days before, without thinking about it.
In that moment, my heart broke for the situation in a whole different way.
My whole life I’ve been beyond blessed by the simple things, and I’d been so selfish about it all.
Thank God He gave us one kidney to spare.
The Miracle Match
At the end of June, the final test results showed I couldn’t have been a more perfect match! I was in such shock I just sat at my desk and tears of joy started flowing!
There was nothing else to do in that moment but stop and give God complete glory. He had all of this mapped out before I started praying that simple prayer back in April!
To be told you couldn’t be a more perfect match with somebody you’re not blood-related to is very, very rare. To be able to donate straight to Luke is a miracle.
I never felt doubt or fear, which to me is wild to wrap my head around.
We all decided it was going to be best for me to tell Luke the good news in person. Luke came down the stairs and asked why I was at the house.
I told him I had just heard from MUSC, and we were a match! He smiled and signed, “Cool! Now I can finally be healthy like I’ve always prayed for.”
Everybody in that room who saw Luke’s face when he heard the good news would never be the same!
Sam and her husband, Craig, supporting Luke for the transplant surgery
The Gift of Obedience
This was one of the highlights of my life — to give a gift to somebody who did nothing to deserve it; who had only hoped and prayed for months for a new kidney and never lost faith in the Lord.
With surgery set for Aug. 24, we set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for these trips to Charleston, Luke’s medication, and all the necessities pre- and post-transplant. We gained so much support from all around.
I don’t think we could have asked for a better support system in the love and prayers of our friends and community at NewSpring.
You obey God’s plan for your life, no matter how crazy it sounds.
I never felt doubt or fear, which is wild to wrap my head around. I just kept asking the Lord to keep me humble and to remember this wasn’t about me. That created anxiety for me. I didn’t want any of the attention or praise.
It’s tempting to get wrapped up in a situation like this and let it get to your head when people come up to you saying you’re a hero.
Yes, in the world’s eyes, I was a hero. In my eyes, I just said, “Yes” to the Lord and was obeying a calling.
#MissionKidney was our fundraising brand. Throughout the transplant journey, Sam, Luke, Caitlin, me and Craig were one big family.
A Sign of Love
When using sign language with somebody who is deaf, in time they give you what’s called a “sign name.” This isn’t easy to receive.
The person has to know you pretty well to receive one. Luke decided to wait until the evening before surgery, while at dinner, to give sign names to me and Caitlin, the friend who supported me throughout. He said we finally earned it!
When we were leaving dinner he gave me a huge hug and told me he would see me tomorrow.
I moved 800 miles from home for a reason.
Now to most people, this wouldn’t be much before you’re about to give someone one of your organs.
But for Luke, this was his way of expressing any type of emotion he had for what was to come.
Before bed that night, my friend Travis called me and spoke to me a few verses that had been on his heart the past couple days and was led to share with me.
In Joshua 1:1-9, Moses promises Joshua that God will guide his feet with every step and tells him three times, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
This passage of scripture has a lot of meaning for me. And Travis had no idea.
Cutting up in Luke's room during the long hospital stay
A Perfect Path
A little over four years ago, when I moved to South Carolina, I took a trip back home to Michigan for a week, and I had so much anxiety and lack of faith, I almost didn’t come back to South Carolina.
Reading my Bible one night, looking for some type of direction, I opened up straight to Joshua 1. The Lord kept telling me to go back, and to trust that He was with me every step of the way — to be strong and courageous.
I got that verse tattooed on my arm as a constant reminder that I moved 800 miles from home for a reason.
Everything now made sense. An 18-year-old Yankee girl moved to Anderson, South Carolina, so that a boy from Texas could move here, meet Jesus, receive a Kidney and, ultimately, a second chance at life.
WATCH: Luke Benoit’s story: Deafness Didn’t Stop Me from Hearing the Good News.
The two of us celebrating God's grace and a successful transplant
A Brother For Life
In the time since the surgery, Luke has become like a brother to me. The bond we share is something not many can relate to.
Spending time together is always a joy. And it’s special to know something that was once in me is now allowing one of my best friends to live a healthy life, serve the Lord to the best of his ability, and that we’re able to create many memories for years to come!
I run into people I’ve never met before who tell me how I’ve changed their perspective on life.
But when you’re a follower of Christ, you live a life that is worthy of the Lord. And you obey His plan for your life, no matter how crazy it sounds.
God is always in control. He will guide every step of the way and give you the courage you never thought you had. All of that is such a blessing.
I’m thankful to have one kidney. I’m thankful that it wasn’t easy. And I’m thankful I have Luke as a friend for life who is doing so well and following Jesus the best he knows how.