For more than 8 years Dale Perry has lead the congregation at Tyler's Friendly Baptist Church, knowing that his past would eventually catch up with him.
"As a young man, in the 70's, made some choices that were wrong choices and those choices included drug use," admits Perry.
Those choices, believes Perry, is how he contracted Hepatitis C thirty years ago. For the past eight years he has known his liver was dying. In August this year doctors finally determined, to live, Perry must have a transplant. He came to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas for the operation. And for the first time in his life, he was in need of prayer from those he had prayed for, for so many years.
"I had always ministered to people but Friendly Baptist Church taught me how to be ministered too and I had never known that," says Perry, "and its a true picture of grace, its a true picture of how God's family comes together and the pastor is just part of that family. He's the pastor but he is just part of them. That changed my perspective in ministry so much and it's humbling."
Doctors believed the surgery went well...but in just a few days it was discovered that the artery to Perry's new liver had closed and that new liver was quickly deteriorating. Perry was told to prepare for the worst.
"We could have kept him alive for a few weeks, in the hospital with anti-botics but it would have been a down hill spiral," says Baylor Transplantation Chief Dr. Goran Klintmalm.
"I called the church and talked with those on staff and told them, here is what I want done. And here is the music I want, here is what I want done in the service and I want to take care of it now so that we don't have any problems," remembers Perry. I had reached a point where I didn't say I wanted to die, but I was tired of living. I mean you just get so tired and that's when the Lord takes over and that's when you get to the point where you say Lord I can't do this anymore. And that's when he begins to take over in your life."
While plans for a funeral were being made, Perry and his church began to pray again. Finding a liver for one transplant is not easy..but to find a second in a matter of a few weeks is almost unheard of... Of the many prayers Perry remembers, one especially comes to mind. The efforts of a church member who prayed and fasted for a week.
"About five o'clock after he broke the fast, we got the phone call that the second liver was available and for me to come over and get ready for the transplant. You will never convince me and you certainly will not convince him that it wasn't prayer that did it," says Perry.
That phone call came just 19 days after the first transplant. Doctors performed the second transplant six weeks ago and while still weak, Perry's prognosis is good. While he is far from being out of danger, perry says there is nothing he would change about this journey of faith and the power of prayer.
"Now I see the answer to that prayer but at the time you really wonder that's what faith is all about and how god brings that prayer to fruition but its not always in our time frame," says Perry. "And I would not give, even as difficult as it has been, I would not give up one single day of what I've been through the last three months or so for the growth that the Lord has done in my life in just showing me those simple things. And he could not have done it without the pain,suffering and difficulty."