After a battery of tests at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore., Josiah Hill listened to the specialist. "Josiah doesn't have leukemia, MDS, or PNH. That's the good news." But the doctor continued, "He does have aplastic anemia, however." Good news?
At age 17, Hill's senior year took a radical turn because of the disease. His blood counts nosedived dangerously; thus he required frequent transfusions and was at risk for bleeding and infections that could prove fatal.
Until the onset of aplastic anemia, Hill's life seemed ideal. He and his brothers, Daniel and Jonathan, lived in the sparsely populated mountain community of Appleton, Wash. Their parents, Jim and Irene, homeschooled the boys, and all of them attended the White Salmon Church, serving in various ways, including playing piano, trumpet, guitar and running the church PA system.
Upon learning the diagnosis, Hill asked to be anointed. It was early August 2007, the evening pastors Pat Milligan and Larre Kostenko joined with church elders and family members in Hill's hospital room for the anointing and prayer. And when Hill awoke the next morning, he declared, "I don't see that it really matters."
Puzzled, his father asked him to explain.
"Well, whether I get to serve God with a long life, or whether it would somehow glorify Him for me to die from this illness, it doesn't really matter," he said. "What's 70 years in light of eternity?"
From that point of surrender, Hill and his family entered a narrow path to travel a God-led journey beyond aplastic anemia. First, they discovered that Hill's brothers were not matched donors for a bone-marrow transplant. Next, they learned the pitfalls of immuno-suppressive therapy, including a high rate of relapse and/or development of leukemia or other blood disorders. Then Hill was miraculously directed to a treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. When his insurance company refused to pay, family and friends made donations. A Christian couple of another faith, who had spoken to Hill only a few times, provided almost half of the $125,000 needed before treatment could begin. Meanwhile, a prayer chain was organized, so every quarter-hour of every day someone was praying for Hill. More funds poured in, and on Oct. 18, 2007, Hill boarded a plane for Baltimore.
Seven weeks — and many trials — later, Hill returned to Portland with rebounding blood counts, no more need for transfusions and only one remaining infection to conquer. And by January, his bone marrow had recovered. In July 2008, he demonstrated full recovery when he climbed Mt. Adams, worked at a summer camp, then traveled to Weimar, Calif., to enroll at Amazing Facts College of Evangelism.
After graduating from AFCOE in November, Hill returned to his home church and taught 16 members (ages 14 to 66) how to canvass door to door and give Bible studies. The project was successful in gathering interests for a future evangelistic series.
The following summer Hill took off for Phoenix, Ariz., to do Bible work with Youth for Jesus, an ASI outreach program.
Then almost two years from the day Hill had entered Johns Hopkins for treatment, he and his AFCOE roommate, Tanner Martin, stood in front of the White Salmon sanctuary and launched a six-week "Revelation of Hope" series. The two young men took turns preaching. The result: Harry Oium of Carson, Wash., was baptized, and about a dozen more people continue with ongoing studies and church fellowship as they draw nearer to Jesus.