We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

An Anniversary to Remember: The Faith of Hebrews 11

The miraculous healing of a toddler brought extra celebration at a New Jersey church’s 15th anniversary.

On the day the Mendez-Gómez family moved houses, 19-month-old Joshua took his first nap in their new home.

But when the baby awoke late that afternoon, his mom, Stephanie Gómez, saw something wasn’t right. Her son stared toward the ceiling, glassy-eyed, not blinking.

Joshua didn’t respond to his name. Nor could her husband, Jorge Mendez, awaken their son.

The couple called 911. Then they called their pastors, Josue Maria-Vargas and his wife, Mirian, who lead Hebrews 11 Assemblies of God Church (Iglesia Asambleas de Dios Hebreos 11) of Paterson, New Jersey.

Gómez, who serves as the church’s secretary and on the worship team, asked the church to start praying.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Joshua was seizing and drooling. Paramedics rushed him to the emergency room.

Within moments, eight doctors surrounded the baby. An hour later, Joshua still hadn’t come to. Oxygen wasn’t reaching his brain.

The first physician told Gómez that seizures are commonplace among children “but not for this long, and he’s not responding,” she recollects. “When (the doctor) told me that, I got very scared.”

Gómez, a psychologist, knew from her training that a seizure can damage the brain. “In the ER, I felt something heavy, something spiritual I can’t explain in the natural, but it felt like death,” she says.

By that point with Joshua sedated, intubated and breathing through a machine, physicians transferred him to pediatric intensive care in another hospital.

Meanwhile, the prayer network of some 250 Hebrews 11 congregants spread the desperate request.

“People across the country began crying out for the life of this child,” says Maria-Vargas, 46, from the Dominican Republic. He also serves as an AG Spanish Eastern District presbyter.

The church’s congregants from throughout Latin America passed word about Joshua to believers in other countries. People began fasting and praying, interceding for him.

Maria-Vargas and Mirian arrived at the hospital with anointing oil to pray for Joshua. But pediatric intensive care allowed only immediate family members—Joshua’s parents. Physicians allowed no other visitors.

Mirian told Gómez they weren’t leaving without praying for Joshua.

So, Gómez approached her son’s doctor with a cry from her mother heart: “Please, I beg you, they’re our pastors. We’re Christians asking for a miracle.”

Two hours later, his doctors allowed them to enter.

What Maria-Vargas saw startled him: the sedated intubated baby attached to a tangle of cables, tubes, and wires connecting blinking machines that monitored Joshua’s heart and brain.

Gómez recalls Mirian’s prophesy over Joshua as she stood beside his hospital bed: “He’s going to be fine. He will be at church on Sunday. We’re going to celebrate.”

Mirian’s faith-filled words took the baby’s mom aback.

“In my mind, I’m thinking, what’s she thinking? We’re in the PICU! He won’t be feeling well to go to church on Sunday,” Gómez says. “It didn’t look good for him–he was too little, seizing too long, wasn’t responding to treatment. Not a good scenario.”

The global prayer team joined Gómez’s and the pastors’ prayers, which continued into the second day. Joshua’s mom was all-too-mindful of what is often the aftermath of oxygen deprivation, and she prayed, “God, please, if you give me the chance to have him again, I don’t want him have difficulty in talking and walking. The consequences can be terrible.”

Thursday came and went with Joshua under sedation, his condition unchanged.

But overnight, doctors pinpointed a pair of viruses as the root of the child’s condition. Early Friday morning, physicians brought Joshua out of sedation and conducted tests that determined Joshua’s brain, blood, and all his faculties were perfectly normal.

Physicians discharged Joshua directly from PICU. The family arrived home late Friday afternoon.

Joshua’s parents knew they’d witnessed a miracle. “We needed to go to church to show everybody what God did,” Gómez says.

Once home, the baby was talking and running around. “That same day he was playing drums with his brother, Elijah, acting like nothing happened,” Gómez says.

Sunday’s service celebrated the church’s 15th anniversary. AG General Superintendent Doug Clay was on hand for the event. Everyone heard the story of Joshua’s miraculous healing.

“God is good. He is powerful,” Gómez says. “When we pray, everything changes.”

“It was impossible for a child in (Joshua’s) condition to be in the hospital and then celebrating with us. Impossible,” Maria-Vargas says. “But God did a miracle.

“What happened raised everyone’s faith.”

The pastor describes Hebrews 11 Church as a “hospital of the soul.” His vision when he and Mirian planted the church in 2009 was to build a church that loves God and loves people. He wanted to develop congregants equipped for ministry and service, willing to serve our community.

“We’re there to attend to emergencies of the community,” Maria-Vargas says.

Sometimes the emergencies the church attends to are within its own walls.

Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.