Pastor Miraculously Delivered from Death's Door
On Nov. 25 at about 5:45 p.m., Pastor Glen Berteau suffered a cardiac arrest. Different than a heart attack, a cardiac arrest means the heart stops dead — no irregular beats or partial blood flow. Lights on, lights off. Living, dead.
Berteau and his wife, Deborah, have led The House (AG) in Modesto, California, for the past 26 years. With 8,000 members, The House is a network of churches that include locations in Fort Worth; Hilo, Hawai’i; Slidell, Louisiana; San Diego; and downtown Modesto.
Glen, now 67, attended college on a football scholarship, and remained active and “in shape” throughout his life — even demonstrating for his grandchildren that he could still do vertical/handstand push-ups at his 67th birthday party.
When Glen suffered his cardiac arrest, it wasn’t the first time for him to have heart problems. In the late 90s, he had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) that led to a cardiogenic (heart) issue. Several years later, he suffered a heart attack, due to blockages in his arteries, that required four bypasses and stents to be placed.
However, this time there were no signs of any problems. He had gotten his cholesterol under control and the racquetball-playing pastor seemed the picture of health.
“THAT” EVENING . . .
It was Monday — prayer meeting night at the church. Glen didn’t usually attend the prayer meeting as he was often worn out from the weekend services. However, Deborah was in charge of the intercessory prayer team that met at 6 each Monday night before the prayer meeting, and they were throwing her a birthday party — she wanted Glen to be there.
The party was in the church’s fellowship hall, but the Berteaus arrived early, around 5:15, so they could stop on the far side of the church to pick up a few things from the office and then drive around to the fellowship hall.
Having gathered the items they needed, Glen headed out ahead of Deborah to the car as she finished a conversation. When she arrived shortly afterward, she found Glen appearing to be feigning sleep — like she had taken too long.
“He was in the driver’s seat, his head back and eyes closed — no sign of pain on his face,” Deborah recalls. “I asked him if he was going to start the car and he didn’t respond. Glen loves to joke, so I thought he was joking with me, thinking this was funny.”
After a few more requests for him to start the car and asking him what he was doing, Deborah got out of the car and walked around to the driver’s side and sat next to Glen, telling him she was dialing 9-1-1 if he didn’t stop it . . . he didn’t.
This couldn’t be real . . ., could it? Fear crept in and then exploded.
“Glen? Glen? GLEN WAKE UP! GLEN!”
WRONG PLACE, RIGHT TIME
“I’m part of the intercessory prayer team (at The House), and I’m normally always 15 to 20 minutes late on Monday nights because of work,” says Penny Greaves, a nurse practitioner with nearly 25 years of experience, including 10 years as an ICU nurse.
Greaves hails from Toronto, Ontario. She and her husband, Brian, were making a comfortable living and enjoying life with their two young daughters. But the pastor of the Pentecostal church they attended, Emmanuel Community Church, had planted seeds in their hearts through his ongoing theme of learn, go, and serve.
“We prayed, ‘Lord take us were we should go,’” Penny Greaves says. “We sent out applications all over the world.”
The Greaveses moved to Modesto because God answered their specific prayers concerning the move in a way that left no doubt. They had come to Modesto to serve, even though they weren’t quite sure in what way.
In the intercessory prayer team classes led by Deborah, Greaves had been learning about praying with authority and confidence. Unknown to her, this night she would come to more fully understand what that meant.
Uncharacteristically, Greaves got done with work at 5 p.m. on Monday — early for a rare change. She headed out, calling her husband along the way. She had been sick with the flu over the weekend and she was worn out. She was hoping Brian had decided not to go, making it easier for her to skip church and stay home as well.
“He paused for maybe 15 seconds, then answered, ‘No, we’re getting showered and coming, so we will meet you there,’” Greaves says.
Greaves arrived at the church at 5:35 and she also parked on the “wrong” side of the parking lot, because she was so early. Getting bored waiting for the time to pass in the car, she got out and headed toward the church entrance. As she did she noticed the Berteaus’ car and some people around it. She also heard Deborah talking uncomfortably loudly to Glen.
“I didn’t want to pry, so I didn’t look,” Greaves says, “but when I got to the door, a voice in my spirit told me to turn and look. I saw pastor Glen, slumped over, pale white; pastor Deborah was distraught; and the security team had their arms up in the air, praying.”
PREPARED TO SERVE
Greaves hurried to the Berteaus’ car, identifying herself as medical personnel.
“I checked his pulse; he was pulseless. I knew he was dead,” says Greaves, who had spent years on various cardiovascular and medical intensive care units and as a member of a code blue response team. “We determined that he had been two or three minutes like that. I immediately went into action. Somehow I lifted him out of the car — he was a dead weight — put him on the ground, and started to do compressions and perform CPR.”
As she worked on Glen on the pavement, Greaves confirmed that someone had called for an ambulance. She also noticed a crowd of people had started to form on the nearby church lawn — many were praying. Focused on providing quality CPR, Greaves says she couldn’t pray, but she asked the people to pray more.
“For a split second my hands came off of him [Glen],” Greaves says. “I looked up and his eyes began to quiver and he took a deep breath. He threw up his arms and said, ‘Oh, God!’ and he took another breath — I’ve never seen anything like that as a nurse.”
Greaves says when Glen threw his arms up, it was almost like he was falling back into himself — like his spirit had returned to his body.
As Greaves labored over Glen, people continued to pray vocally on the lawn, in the church’s prayer chapel, and around the country as social media began to light up.
The ambulance arrived, with the EMS techs taking over. Greaves had been performing quality CPR for at least 10 minutes. Up to that point in her career, she had not performed CPR for more than four minutes before someone changed out with her.
Yet even with all of her effort and all of the prayers, the signs did not look remotely promising. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, nearly 90% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are fatal. Of that remaining 10.8%, only 9% percent are considered to have “good functional status” upon hospital discharge.
“I was standing there, watching the rhythm on the heart monitor,” Greaves says. “He had a rhythm that signals the heart muscle is not able to contract — the heart is quivering and there’s no cardiac output (blood pumping). It’s a rhythm that leads to death.”
While Greaves looked on, the EMTs were forced to shock Glen’s heart multiple times. After outfitting him with a mechanical CPR machine, the EMTs loaded him on the ambulance, while continuing to administer life-saving drugs and use an ambu bag to manually push air into his lungs.
GUARDIAN PRAYER WARRIORS
Within minutes of his cardiac arrest, people were praying for Glen. God had placed key people in the locations they needed to be, exactly when they needed to be there. And many seemingly random decisions proved to ultimately be life-saving decisions.
Although Glen had been surrounded by prayers while outside the church, once he arrived at the hospital, even family was stripped from his side as the hospital went into a frenzy of activity.
People were praying at the church, in the waiting room, in the hospital chapel, and through social media, but there was no one by his side — at least no one anyone else knew of.
Juan McKnight, 27, is a certified nurses’ assistant. He had recently started working at the hospital in Modesto, having previously worked in Fresno. He admits that some nights when he’s working he forgets that he’s even in Modesto. This was one of those nights.
“I’m a part of a float group, I have a new assignment every day, wherever the hospital needs me,” McKnight explains. “That night I was scheduled to work ICU. I had been there an hour or two when the whole story started unfolding.”
CALM TO CHAOS
It was slow in the ICU that evening, so McKnight periodically scrolled through Instagram. He follows Micah Berteau, Glen’s son, and he noticed a short post by Micah saying “Pray for Dad.” McKnight paused and prayed, having heard Glen minister several times at his old home church, Celebration Church, in Fresno.
McKnight continued with his duties. He began overhearing a number of nurses complaining about all of the equipment they had to set up, how it was a waste of time because of all the issues the new patient had, that he would never survive.
“It suddenly clicked with me that I was in Modesto,” McKnight says. “I looked at the patient list and there was pastor Glen’s name — he was the cause of all of the commotion.”
McKnight took a break and ran to the chapel to pray. On his way, he called a pastor friend to round up their church’s prayer team in Fresno to also start interceding for Glen.
When McKnight returned to ICU and Glen’s room, it was chaos.
“There was a lot of commotion, eight to 10 people all in the room doing all kinds of stuff to him,” he recalls. “I asked the charge nurse what was going on and she told me about his heart issues (previous heart issues greatly impact the odds of survival). I literally had nothing to do right then, so I posted myself next to his room and began to pray.”
As he prayed, the Lord led McKnight to start writing down Scripture verses about prayer on a sticky note pad. “I watched his vitals on the monitor, and when they would begin to sink, I’d begin singing the song, Great Are You Lord (It’s your breath, in our lungs . . .), and thank Him as the vitals returned to normal.”
Even as he prayed and sang, the chaos continued in Glen’s room, leading McKnight to also pray for peace and against the commotion. Finally, Glen was taken downstairs for tests, and McKnight took the Scripture sticky notes and placed them all over the room. Later, he took the notes down and placed them in the waiting room to encourage those there.
How was Glen doing? To McKnight, it was only God keeping him alive.
“He was hooked up to the most IVs and medical equipment that I have ever seen,” McKnight says.
McKnight also recalls a pair of nurses coming out of Glen’s room and one stating skeptically, “We’ll see if their prayers will work.” This motivated him even more to pray for Glen, urging God to prove himself to the hospital staff.
Working two days in a row in the same section is highly unusual for McKnight. But for three consecutive days, McKnight was scheduled to work in the same section Glen was located. “Every time I walked by his room and throughout the evenings I would pray for him,” he says.
McKnight says up until that Monday night, he had been contemplating quitting his job, unsure why he was traveling to Modesto when other options existed . . . he no longer wonders why he was still in Modesto.
A DOCTOR’S PERSPECTIVE
Dr. Manuel Canga (pronounced Kahn-guh), a medical doctor for 28 years with his own practice, is an internal medicine specialist who spent 10 years as an ER doctor. He became Glen’s physician in the late 90s, having assisted him through the pulmonary embolism and heart attack recoveries.
He was on his way home when he got the call that Glen had another heart attack [it was actually a cardiac arrest]. He immediately called the ER to make sure they got Glen into the cardiac lab and that they connected with a cardiologist to assist — he later learned neither instruction was followed.
About an hour later, Deborah called. Glen was dying. Canga headed to the hospital.
“He was really very sick,” Canga says. “He had been out for 40 minutes — really, really, really grim chances of survival.”
When the doctor called Deborah in to tell her that “they had done all they could do,” and basically let her know Glen was going to die, Canga was there to accompany her. As he listened, God planted thoughts in his mind.
“Did you talk to the cardiologist?” Canga inserted into the conversation. “Are you planning on placing a ventricular assist pump into his heart?”
If God hadn’t placed Canga there, Deborah wouldn’t have known to ask those questions. However, those two questions led to Glen going from a 1% chance to a 50% chance he’d live — though if he did survive, he’d suffer from significant brain damage and be on dialysis the rest of his life.
“Dr. Merlott, the cardiologist, did an angioplasty on pastor Glen and found all the stents in place and no significant blockages, which was a miracle considering his history,” Canga says. “It was determined arrhythmia led to his cardiac arrest.”
Canga credits Greaves for her excellent CPR, knowing she performed it well based on the number of bones broken in Glen’s sternum and ribs. But in reviewing the ER report, Canga caught a glimpse into why Glen was given so little hope to survive or at least have a poor quality of life if he did survive. In addition to having to shock his heart seven times and surviving on CPR for 40 minutes (after 30 minutes of CPR, it’s no longer enough and brain damage increasingly takes place with each passing minute), Glen had scored a three out of a possible 15 on the Glasgow coma scale — three being the lowest/worst possible score. Even Merlott, once Glen was recovering, thought Glen would require dialysis as he believed his kidneys would never recover.
“It was a miracle him just being alive,” Canga says. “Then he came out of his induced coma as if nothing happened — no sign of deficiency, recognizing everyone, when all indications were he should have brain damage. And in the real world, his kidneys are not going to recover, but I’m a Christian and I’m partial to prayer . . . all the problems, all the negativity have been taken off one at a time and he is making a full recovery!”
Canga then adds to the list of “shouldn’t-have-been-theres,” stating, “I was supposed to be in the Philippines at my niece’s wedding; I had known about it for two years. But suddenly I felt like I didn’t want to go, just so tired — so I didn’t go. I believe this was God’s will that I had to be here for my pastor.”
The House is a praying church. The prayers prayed were not timid, but specific and grounded in the promises found in God’s Word, spoken with the authority of those who believe in miracles.
Every time nurses or doctors came to Deborah with bad news — he’s not going to make it, he’ll be brain dead, he’ll be on dialysis forever, etc. — Deborah refused it in the natural and in the spiritual.
“We were constantly praying, singing over him, worshipping over his bed,” she says. “We literally had a 24-hour prayer meeting for a week, someone was always praying for him.”
“Everyone in the medical field is shocked that I’m still alive with no brain damage, no kidney damage, and no bladder damage (due to the catheter),” Glen says. “My memory is perfect, I have no short term memory loss — my mind is just as good as it was.”
The Berteaus share that Glen’s continued recovery has been miraculous as well as he’s been progressing at a rate far beyond doctors’ expectations.
“We preach this stuff about God’s ability, we preach the miracles and know that Jesus does this,” Glen says, “but rarely do we see these unexplainable-type miracles.”
A WORD FROM GOD
The Berteaus believe that God doing the “impossible” in Glen’s life is not just about a healing, but that it will be used to spark revival.
Glen says his belief and others’ belief in the power of God to heal has also been affirmed. He explains that he sent an appreciation and testimony video message to a church that continues to pray for him, and 60 people chose to give their lives to Christ through his testimony.
“I can’t tell you why God chose me, I don’t have the answer to that . . ., but my faith is at a whole other level,” Glen says. “There’s not anything you’re scared of, that you won’t pray for, you know there’s not anything God can’t do. My whole desire is to help people, to see people saved, to see just what He can do — that He really is that powerful.”
Although Glen has not returned to the pulpit quite yet, he has left the hospital and is well on his way to a full and miraculous recovery.
PHOTO: Glen Berteau and his wife, Deborah, with Penny Greaves (center)