In December of 2014 we received word that our oldest granddaughter, Maggie Beth, was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called Myelodysplastic Syndrome or MDS for short. Maggie went to be with Jesus on Labor Day of 2015. We knew Maggie was in Heaven but, needless to say, this was the worst day of our lives and left me in a state of shock. Depression set in and I went from living life to just existing.

My wife, Mary, and I have attended numerous churches in our 42-years of marriage. However, during this time we were not regularly attending any church with any consistency and were mainly “church hopping” trying to find the best fit for us.

We live near The River Valley Life Center and would drive by it wondering what this place was. Honestly, I thought The River was a radio station or maybe even an event center because of the barn. One Sunday we happened to be driving by and saw people leaving the barn and it appeared that they were holding a church service there. I got on The River’s web site and learned that it was in fact a church and that their beliefs aligned with ours. We decided to give it a try as soon as we could.

That same week I had a doctor’s appointment to learn the results of a recent prostate biopsy. I was quite confident that the doctor would tell me everything was OK and that the tests were negative. Just the opposite occurred. Of 12-tissue samples taken, 11 of them came back positive and I was diagnosed on the high end of medium grade of prostate cancer. I thought first our granddaughter and now me. God, what is going on here? Why is this happening? We believe in Your gift of healing and health. We believe in living a victorious life through Jesus Christ!

The following Sunday, Father’s Day 2016, we decided to give this River church a try. We walked into the old barn and they had a buffet line set up and people were eating breakfast. Also, most of the men were wearing these hideous blue jeans. I mean, these jeans were about the most horrible things I think I ever saw! There were people on stage singing and playing instruments and everyone looked like they were having a good time. I thought “what kind of crazy church is this?” We were greeted by a number of folks andgot the “who are these people” stares from others. One thing that did strike me was everyone was happy and smiling. You could feel the warmth and love in this place. There was a great sense of joy. It was what I desperately needed. I just wanted to be happy again.

Once most everyone had eaten the pastor gave a short message explaining that the buffet was a tradition they did on Father’s Day. We were also very relieved to learn that people did not typically dress in these horrible looking blue jeans and that they were simply having an “ugly blue jean” contest. As the pastor was concluding his message he asked if anyone needed healing and that there were many trained members in the congregation that can pray with you and for you for your healing. Being our first time there and not wanting to make a scene, I simply wanted to slide down into my seat and not be noticed. However, my wife (being much wiser than I am) pointed down at me proclaiming “He needs prayer for healing”!

I looked up and I saw this lady with bright blue eyes coming at me telling me that she will lay hands on me and pray with me. It was Cindy Teagarden and she asked my wife what was going on, so she knew how to pray. Cindy later commented that she felt in her Spirit what I needed prayer for . Go figure? As Cindy prayed, numerous others joined in prayer while laying hands on me. On that day, June 19, 2016, I received my healing. Praise Jesus! Something also happened that day that I really have not told many people. Joy and happiness started to come back to life in me. I started to laugh again. Life became exciting and fun again. I knew tomorrow was going to be better than today because the Love of Jesus came back to life in me.

A couple weeks later I was in another service at The River and Pastor Bishop spoke about the gift of the Holy Ghost. He asked people to come forward if they wanted to receive this gift. I was no stranger to this and had received this gift years earlier. I stayed in my seat and in the state of prayer and worship. You could feel the move of the Spirit that day. While standing there I received a word from God. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It is hard to put into words. As I stood there, praising God for His goodness and greatness, I heard this. “I have heard your prayers”. I accepted that this was my affirmation that my healing had manifested!

I do not take my health for granted. Life is a gift from God and should not be taken lightly. I did go and get treatments. I did what a responsible person should do. However, I knew that I was healed! No one was ever going to convince me of anything else. God’s word said I was healed and he confirmed that to me in my Spirit.

At one of my many doctors’ visits, one of my doctors came in and said that they had found a spot on my femur. She was absolutely convinced that the cancer had spread into my bone and I would now be in stage 4 cancer treatment. She ordered a biopsy for my hip. I told her it was a waste of time because there is no cancer in my femur. In fact, there was no cancer in my body. I reluctantly agreed to have this procedure done but did so kicking and fighting. The biopsy came back negative. I knew it would because I was healed!

It is now more than 18-months later and we have found a church home at The River. I have had numerous doctors’ visits. Every visit ends the same way. The doctor says “Mr. Gastaldo, you are doing great. All your tests have come back negative. Everything looks great.” Why wouldn’t it be great? “I was and still am healed by the Stripes of Jesus”!

I could go on and on about this testimony. I could tell you about my time spent at The James Cancer Hospital and the wonderful people I got to meet and hopefully influence their lives in a positive way. It was an experience that forever changed my life for the better. But I will conclude with this. We serve a great and loving God. A God who wants us to be victorious in every area of out lives. He wants us to be happy and healthy. He wants us joyous and prosperous. He wants us to live life without guilt or shame because Jesus took all of that to the cross with Him. He shed His blood so that we could have life and life more abundantly! What God did for me on June 19, 2016, He will do for each and everyone of us. God is not a respecter of persons. What He does for one He has to do for all. If this were not true, His word would be false.

By standing in faith, believing in His Word, we all can be victorious. That is what I did in June of 2016. I made the decision to stand on my faith and believe God’s Word. I turned it all over to Him. It was the best decision I have ever made!

Phil Gastaldo