Kidney Brothers

A teacher gets involved when he learns about a former student in desperate need of a transplant.

“God, use me. For whatever You need, use me.”

While serving as a leader on a student ministry mission trip in the summer of 2018, I dropped to my knees with my arms stretched out and said these words one evening during a prayer service: “God, use me. For whatever You need, use me.”

The very next day, as I checked my email while eating lunch at our worksite, I came across an email from my coworker. She was letting the staff know that one of our former middle school students was in desperate need of a new kidney. 

The more I read and learned about the situation, the more I felt God calling me to get involved.

This immediately pulled at my heartstrings. And the more I read and learned about the situation, the more I felt God calling me to get involved. I thought, Bobby is type O. I’m type O. I’m a teacher on summer vacation. I can do it. 

I decided to start the process as soon as possible. So, upon returning to our base camp that afternoon, I registered online with the Miami Transplant Institute.

During that evening’s worship service just a few hours later, the pastor preached about Matthew 10:8. He reminded us that Jesus sent out the apostles, instructing them to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received” (NLT).

I felt the Holy Spirit talking to me as though I were the only person in the room. My prayer that evening and throughout the rest of the summer was, “Use me, Lord. If You orchestrate this, I’ll follow through on my end.” 

“Use me, Lord. If You orchestrate this, I’ll follow through..."

After returning home from the mission trip, I shared with my church’s youth pastor that I felt God calling me to donate my kidney to this student. She prayed with me, and I was thankful to have her support. 

Once the Miami Transplant Institute approved my registration and interview, I made several trips back and forth to Miami for chest X-rays, CT scans, renal scans, EKGs, and a variety of other tests. Throughout this time, I continued to pray that God would use me and help me follow through with His plans for me. 

Julio and Bobby share a special moment together just before surgery.

According to my timeline, I would donate my kidney during the summer, and the process would be complete before school started. But God’s timing was different. In fact, God had been orchestrating things for Bobby long before I knew anything about his need for a transplant. For example, a few months prior to summer break, another school had reached out in hopes of recruiting me. As wonderful as everything sounded during my time with that principal, I ended the day’s interview by telling her I’d have to pray about it. But every time I brought it to the Lord, I felt as though He was calling me to stay at my current middle school. Even though the grass looked greener over there, I knew that teaching at my current school was my ministry and God had planted me there for a reason. If I had changed schools, I never would have received that coworker’s email about Bobby’s need for a kidney donation. 

As the summer was nearing its end, I received a phone call one afternoon from the Miami Transplant Institute while working in my classroom. They were calling to notify me that I had been selected as a kidney donor for Bobby. After praising God right there in my classroom, I shared the news with my principal. 

Since I hadn’t started teaching at the middle school until after Bobby had moved on to the high school, we had never met. So with my permission, my principal reached out to Bobby’s parents and connected us. I had the privilege of meeting my future “kidney brother” a couple of weeks later. On that very special occasion, as we all stood in a circle, holding hands in my classroom, I was able to lead Bobby and his family in prayer. 

God had been orchestrating things for Bobby long before I knew anything about his need for a transplant.

Then, Bobby and his mother shared a story that was yet another sign of God’s hand in all of this. They told me that they had begun attending the same church that I attended a couple of weeks before I was chosen as Bobby’s donor. After the first week of the church’s introductory class, Bobby approached the youth pastor, the same one who had prayed with me, and asked for prayer. Together, they prayed and asked God to provide a kidney. One week later, Bobby told the pastor that the Miami Transplant Institute had called and notified him that they had found a donor. As we put the pieces of the story together, we marveled at how God had been present, orchestrating circumstances and directing us the entire time. 

When the day of the transplant finally arrived almost a month after school had already started, I arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. to meet with the transplant team. Bobby and his family arrived shortly after, and together we shared a time of joy and praise. Once again, standing in a circle, we prayed and asked God to watch over us, protect us, and give wisdom to the medical staff. 

One of my favorite moments was just before the doctors and nurses rolled us away. Bobby and I were next to each other in our hospital beds, holding hands, laughing, joking, and sharing this special occasion. As the anesthesia started to kick in, I said my last prayers out loud and drifted off to sleep.

"Kidney Brothers," Julio and Bobby, celebrate their "transplantiversary."

After the kidney transplant, Bobby and his parents became like family to me. Bobby and I still lovingly call each other kidney brothers, and to this day, we still celebrate our “transplantiversary.” 

Through this experience, God gave me a platform to share His goodness and faithfulness with students, staff, parents, and the community. Coworkers and strangers would approach me and ask questions. Most commonly, people wanted to know if I was afraid during the process. Each time, I was able to share my faith. Before the surgery, even my own father questioned me, wondering what would happen if my daughters needed a kidney in the future. I reassured him that I was filled with peace because I was confident that God is in control and since He called me to do this, God had my daughters covered too. This experience allowed me to truly understand what it means to have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:6-7).

“God, use me. For whatever You need, use me.” 

When I recall these words that I cried out to God during that mission trip’s evening prayer service, I’m amazed. I asked God to use me, and He did. Bobby asked God for a kidney, and He provided. When we ask God to use us, we don’t know what He will do or when He will do it. But, one thing is for sure, God is always faithful to answer our prayers according to His will when we live in His presence.

Julio Vega is a Christian Educators member, 6th-grade science teacher, and athletic director in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He also serves as a faculty sponsor for First Priority Club. He is the proud father of two daughters, Isabella and Olivia, and loves volunteering in his church and spending time outdoors paddle boarding, hiking, and fishing.


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