Kevin Thomas and his wife, Sandra, exemplify what love, life, marriage and Christianity are all about. Christians for 33 and 38 years respectively, four years ago the couple were living the good life. Kevin worked in a high-powered job as European E-commerce Business Manager for a blue-chip company, whilst his wife, Sandra, was Head of Spiritual Care in the NHS for Birmingham and Solihull. Both served in leadership ministry and were just enjoying loving each other, their two children and serving humanity through Christian service.
However, in 2009, their idyllic life was shattered when Sandra suffered a brain aneurysm that left her partially paralysed. Kevin gave up work to become her full-time carer. Despite their experiences, Kevin still serves in ministry and is currently a Regional Overseer of Renewal Christian Centre in Solihull, West Midlands. He and his wife spoke to Keep The Faith about their life, the challenges they experience, and the enduring faith they have in God and their love for each other.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): Your marriage is definitely a case of Christian love and sacrifice in action. How did you and Sandra meet, and what made you decide she was the woman for you?
KEVIN THOMAS (KT): I first saw Sandra after one of the first morning services I attended after becoming a Christian. The very first moment I saw her, I knew our lives were destined to be together. As I was a new Christian, I didn’t know how to approach a Christian girl, so over the following months I prayed about it and, after a while and a very clear word from God, my convictions grew stronger. She, however, took a lot longer to convince!
KTF: What made you decide Kevin was the man for you?
SANDRA THOMAS (ST): I’d been serving in church a few years before I met Kevin and, at first, saw him as another young brother in church. When his feelings towards me became apparent, I gave him a wide berth; it took seven years – and a couple of failed attempts at courtship – before we finally got together. One thing that really made an impression on me was when a young pregnant mother in our congregation was due to give birth to her first child. The baby was breeched and needed to turn around for a safe delivery. We met as a congregation to pray for her. The way Kevin prayed for her and the unborn child was filled with so much passion and care, it made me see him in a totally different light, and think that if I were married and in that same position, I’d like the person I get married to to pray for me exactly like that. That was the turning point. Almost three decades later, here we are today.
KTF: When did you get called into ministry, and how did you go about pursuing your calling?
KT: As a young Christian, I had a great passion for the Word of God, and realised that God had given me a pastoral heart and teaching gift. I also had an aptitude for anything technical. Initially, I just served by doing whatever needed doing, but I sensed that the more I served in ministering the Word, leadership or counselling, the more aware I became of God using me. Over time, my pastoral and teaching gift became the most prominent, and up until Sandra became ill, I served as part of the leadership team at our local congregation and as a Regional Overseer.
KTF: Your life was totally transformed when your wife suffered a brain aneurysm. Can you recall that fateful day?
KT: Yes. It was early Saturday morning on 12th September 2009. We were both due to attend a wedding. Sandra, a minister at the time, was also going to conduct the ceremony. She awoke at around 7am and complained about an overwhelming headache; the pain became so intense that she collapsed in our bedroom. I called the ambulance and texted a few friends, asking them to pray.
The ambulance came very quickly, which was a miracle because our home is along a very obscure driveway. Sandra was rushed to hospital and didn’t regain consciousness.
The consultants assessed her, and told me that she had suffered a severe brain aneurysm – at the time, I didn’t even know what an aneurysm was – and that we should prepare ourselves for the worst. In addition, she required specialist neurosurgery, but the hospital didn’t have the facilities for this type of operation, and none of the other local hospitals had any beds available. I remember saying to the Consultant, “Doctor, I respect your medical prognosis, but we are Christians and believe that God can do miracles. Do all you can to save her, and we will do what we know to do: that is to pray.” He responded by saying, “You seem like very caring people, but I have to tell you she is very deep in the woods.” I can’t describe how it felt to hear those words, as I watched my wife lying on a hospital trolley, dying.
KTF: How did your church family and friends respond?
KT: As news of Sandra being taken ill spread, our family and friends from church began to arrive at the hospital. I shared what the doctor had said, and that God has made certain promises over Sandra’s life which had not yet been fulfilled, and asked them to stand with me and believe God for her recovery. Everyone prayed fervently for Sandra’s life. Within 10 minutes of praying, the Consultant said that Queen Elizabeth Hospital had phoned and said they would create a bed space for Sandra, and to send her over immediately. Sandra went on to have a number of operations, and is still on the road to recovery, even to this day.
KTF: How has your life and that of your family been transformed since your wife’s brain aneurysm?
KT: The aneurysm left Sandra severely debilitated. Although we have seen some great improvements, she is still on the road to recovery. She suffered left hand side paralysis, partial memory and speech loss, and requires full-time support to manage routine day-to-day tasks.
Subsequently, she has retired from work on ill health grounds, as well as from full-time ministry. I became her full-time carer to support her with her recovery. My primary concern was giving Sandra the best possible means of support. My employer at the time was very supportive and, even though I knew we would have to make some sacrifices, I remember thinking, ‘As long as you have your health, you can always get another job, another car, even another house, but you can’t replace the one you love.’
KTF: Sandra, how has your illness affected your life and your faith?
ST: Being totally honest, there are times when I wondered if God has forgotten me, and had somehow ‘lost my files’ in His great filing cabinet, but those thoughts only last for a short while, as I also see His hand of goodness in many aspects of our lives, like the kindness and love shown by our family and friends, and the fact that God does keep His promises.
KTF: Do you still minister?
KT: Since Sandra’s aneurysm, our primary focus has been around her care. She is not ministering at present, but occasionally will share a thought, or
pray with the women at one of the regional Connect groups we have at church. Though her voice is still a little frail, the few occasions she has shared have really encouraged the other women when they consider how far she has come on her own personal journey. My role is now more of a supportive role to the other congregational leaders, and I occasionally bring the Word, too.
KTF: With Christmas fast approaching, how do you plan to spend it with your family?
KT: Christmas will mainly be focused on getting together with those we don’t normally get to see throughout the year, and we truly do see each incremental year as a gift, knowing how differently our lives could have been each year since, so for us it’s about spending time with the extended family.
KTF: If there are any life lessons to be learnt from your marriage and your response to your wife’s illness, what would you want them to be?
KT: Firstly, Jesus tells us, through the parable of the House on the Rock, that we aren’t exempt from life’s trials, but if He is our Rock, we won’t collapse under them either.
Secondly, we have a clear example that Jesus left for us to follow, of what it means for husbands to love their wives: He laid down His own life for us, the Church. In the same way, the principle of love that lasts has to be a willingness to live our lives with each other’s best interests at heart. Thirdly, every single day of life is a precious gift, that’s why it’s called the present. Cherish them all.
KTF: And lastly, what message of hope for Christmas would you like to leave with readers of Keep The Faith magazine?
KT: It really is true that the best gifts in life are free, like all the ones we take for granted, like our health, our wellbeing and that of our loved ones. When your life hangs in the balance, you’ll be amazed at how valuable these ‘gifts’ really are.
This year, remember that the ultimate Gift God has given to all of us is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Make room for Him in your home and hearts this Christmas, and make His love, joy and peace remain with you – not only at Christmas, but also in the year to come.
If you would like to learn more about Sandra’s and Kevin’s journey, visit www.sandrathomas.org.uk.