What those unfortunate and blessed martyrs didn’t know was that Walt’s heart was being changed by their faith. You see, Walt’s heart was sick. He just didn’t know it yet.
In Christian circles there is much talk about the heart, mirroring the Scriptures myriad of verses on the heart. Jesus Christ focused on the importance of the heart in the Sermon on the Mount and God told Samuel not to look at outward appearance because the “Lord looks at the heart." For all of us, as we first encounter Jesus, the heart must be made new with the life found only in Him. Walt Grudowski has been on a path of heart change, and most recently, it has paralleled the story of the heart beating in his chest.
Let me tell you Walt’s story.
Over the course of the last decade and a half of war on terror, Walt had come to despise and hate Islam and those who would brutalize in the name of their beliefs, terrorizing others with violence. The stories of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East have been a major headline for some time now as stories of their affliction have been broadcast in the media. They are heartbreaking, brutal, and remind us just how comfortable we Christians are in the United States. Even so, we forget the power of the tales about believers refusing to recant their beliefs and paying the ultimate price. Yet it was not just the stories of terror that affected him; he was seeing repeated stories of Christians being murdered because they would not alter their professed faith to save their lives. What those unfortunate and blessed martyrs didn’t know was that Walt’s heart was being changed by their faith. You see, Walt’s heart was sick. He just didn’t know it yet.
The steadfast faith of those martyrs caused Walt to ask himself a question: “What does that say about Christ’s love in their life?” Walt had come of age in the Roman Catholic church and found himself distanced and unfulfilled. He had written off religion as an answer. However, he never found a satisfactory answer outside of the church either. In 2010, discerning the faith of the martyrs led him in his search to follow a friend to Apex Community Church. He instantly felt connected, at peace. He believed he found a home. After attending a service he signed up for Foundations, the Sunday afternoon class that explains the fundamentals of following Christ. He had come to realize just how sick his heart was, and how much he needed something outside himself he realized how much his heart needed Jesus.
Immediately after the class he accepted Christ as Lord of his life. His heart had changed.
What he didn’t know was that there was another significant heart issue around the corner. This time, it was the one pushing blood through his body. On January 20th of this year, Walt’s doctor told him he heard a murmur. Walt had never had a murmur before. During the echocardiogram the doctor showed immediate concern and ordered a CAT scan.
They told him he had a heart aneurism and would need emergency open heart surgery.
Upon hearing this, Daniel 3:16-18 came to his mind. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego told Nebuchadnezzar that they would never abandon their God for his. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire;” (v17). Walt was peacefully confident that God would see him through this. As he was being anesthetized, he remembers thinking, “Thy will be done.”
That’s a far cry from someone who walked away from the church as a teenager.
Walt told me how he has recovered faster than anyone expected. Some research revealed that it typically takes one week to be released from the hospital. Walt was released in 4 days. 3 weeks later he was back to work. He was able to return his heart monitoring device (called a “heart hugger”) sooner than experts said. “I give it to Christ for healing me so quickly,” he said. “My God is a great God, He will see me through this. Even though I have this scar, I feel more in touch with Him. He’s had me in His hands.”
Truly, through heart surgery both physical and spiritual, Walt’s life has changed. Feeling physically better, he now has a desire to serve and reach the people of Islam in order to share Christ’s love. He has attended Bridges, a ministry that focuses on educating people about Islam, the beliefs and culture, and equips Christians to effectively reach those who follow it. He has also gotten involved with the Bill Glass prison ministry.
Only a Master Surgeon could effect such a repair of the heart.
Author: Jonathan Allain
Photographer: Hilary Tebo