Jeff McCracken credits prayer with saving his life. Now with a clean bill of health, McCracken is undertaking an ambitious project: the Lazarus Walk in order “to showcase to the world the power of prayer and to petition God to spread healing grace on all who are afflicted with addictions.” His daily walks started on Nov. 19 and will continue until Dec. 31. He will walk each day for four hours and 13 minutes beginning at 4:13 pm. He walks in prayer for self and others. His route is the cart path on County Road 466 between New Covenant United Methodist Church and Hope Lutheran Church. McCracken invites anyone inspired by his story to walk with him, or join him in prayer. It was a long road that brought him to this walk.
In March, as Tom and Mary Kay McCracken sat at the hospital bedside of their son, Jeff, they were told by doctors he had only weeks to live. He was moved to hospice.
A few days before, in a final act of desperation the McCrackens had enlisted the help of Rev. Michael Beck, the pastor of recovery ministries at New Covenant United Methodist Church, to lead an intervention for their son. Jeff, the author of several Christian children’s books, had spiraled out of control. He had progressed to daily drinking, and had little hope of recovery or even a desire to live.
“When we went into the apartment, you could smell the death in the air. It was early in the morning, and Jeff was already drinking,” said Beck, who has led numerous interventions. “I have never seen anyone who had deteriorated in their alcoholism as far as Jeff, he was literally yellow, even his eyes, and his limbs were bloated.” At first, Beck thought the situation seemed hopeless, but Jeff did agree to go for treatment that day.
The treatment center was unable to take Jeff; his condition was beyond their capabilities to treat. He was immediately sent to West Marion Community Hospital, where they attempted to treat him, but within days he was sent to Tuscany House Hospice of Marion County. His parents, devastated by the news that their son would die within weeks, didn’t give up hope. They began to pray, and they invited the churches of The Villages to pray with them, including the people of New Covenant UMC where the McCrackens are members, along with Wildwood United Methodist Church and Hope Lutheran.
Tom and Mary Kay requested Rev. Beck to lead a prayer team and pray for Jeff.
“We organized our Celebrate Recovery team, to come in and lay hands on Jeff, anoint him with oil, and pray for his healing. That’s what the Bible tells us to do. He was in and out of consciousness,” he said.
Beck said his own faith was shaken.
“I’ve never seen someone this bad, and I’ve never seen anyone come out of Hospice, but I always had faith God could heal him if he so desired.”
Days after that prayer gathering, with churches all over the area praying for Jeff, the doctor came in to see him and share some good news. The doctor informed Jeff that he was getting better, that his organs were starting to function again.
On April 25, Jeff left hospice and entered House of Hope, a faith-based, non-profit, residential substance abuse program. While there, he returned for visits and testing with his doctor.
“After one of the visits where they ran numerous tests, the doctor called to tell me the results. All of my organs had returned to normal function; I was completely healed and that a follow up was not really necessary,” McCracken said. “Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God, because I knew he did this.”
He and Rev. Beck continued to communicate throughout his treatment.
“Pastor Michael said to me, ‘you are a modern day Lazarus, you were literally in the tomb. You’re a dead man walking!’” McCracken recounts. This inspired him to begin the “Lazarus Walk” in The Villages. The inspiration for the 4 hours and 13 minutes came from a passage in the Bible, Psalms 4:13. Jeff has a website for those who want to know more, www.lazaruswalk.com or you can email him at [email protected] Donations received for this will be used to support Celebrate Recovery.
He plans to make this an annual event. Plans are underway for a 41.3 mile walk on April 13, 2016 in Washington, D.C.