PITTSFIELD - Pastor Ken Mick Jr. owes his life to the kindness of strangers.
The preacher, who suffers from polycystic kidney disease, underwent kidney-transplant surgery on Jan. 16, hoping to curtail the effects of the genetic disorder. Now recovering, Mick looks forward to a bright and relatively healthy future, thanks to a man the pastor described as "practically a stranger."
When Mick was attending college in the Rochester, Pa., area, he and fellow students would lunch with various church families. It was during these weekly visits that he came to know Anna, the 12-year-old daughter of a local veterinarian.
Many years later, Anna (now all grown up) and the pastor became reacquainted when she and her family attended the same church camp as the Micks did in Pennsylvania. When Anna's husband, Richard Thorburn of Claremont, N.H., learned that the pastor's father was in need of a new kidney to fight the same disease that would later plague the younger Mick, he offered to become a live donor.
"They went through the whole process and right before they went through with the transplant, my father got a cadaver kidney and he didn't need Rich's," said Mick. "It was so kind. Rich was someone we knew, someone we saw every summer and maybe we'd write a letter in between. But we weren't very close. And he did it just because he and his family like to give."
In letter posted on Cafe Biblia prior to the surgery, Thorburn said he and Anna "gave this much consideration, met with doctors, and got counsel on the matter. I am excited about going forward with kidney donation, and have no reservations."
While the kidney disease doesn't typically show symptoms until late in life, Mick, 45, had already begun to see the effects and was expected to need dialysis by January 2009.
"My thought was 'If it's God's will, we'll find a match.' And Rich was there. He calls it a perfect match but I say it's a close one," said Mick. "Because it was such a close match, because it was a live kidney and not one from a cadaver, because I wasn't on dialysis before the transplant and because I'm young, my chances are much better."
Now, less than a month after the surgery, Mick, a father of four, will again rely on strangers to help him pull through.
On Sunday, the ALIVE Music Ministry will host a benefit concert in the First United Methodist Church to help raise money for the medication that Mick will need for the rest of his life.
"I have to take anti-rejection medication and a low dosage of steroids," Mick said. "I'm trying to raise enough money in a fund where the interest can pay for the medication by year."
According to Mick and ALIVE Music Ministry founder William England-Horsfall, the total cost for the lifetime of medications that go along with an organ transplant will probably be between $50,000 and $70,000. Mick and Thorburn had previously raised money for their time off work for the surgery by sending letters through online prayer networks and England-Horsfall felt he and his wife, Diane, could help the cause locally.
"I got the first e-mail from Marilyn Honig [a fellow Stamford (Vt.) Community Church parishioner who learned about the pastor's surgery from his wife, Beth Mick] which indicated he was in need and it just spoke to me. I said 'We need to do something,'" said England-Horsfall.
Along with a performance by the music ministry, the benefit will feature the Praise Team from the Stamford Community Church and four songs by the Honig family. The benefit concert's admission is free but ALIVE (Always Live In View of Eternity) will raise money in the form of a free-will offering, in which patrons give as much as they like.
"Pastor Ken" (as England-Horsfall lovingly calls him) plans to attend the event, though he is on doctor's orders to wear a mask and gloves when in public to protect against infection. Mick, who already began to preach again at the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, said he's grateful for his health.
"I've had a successful recovery so far. The Lord was very good to us," Mick said.
And though Thorburn can't attend the concert in person, England-Horsfall said he's got a plan.
"We're going to send him a videotape," he said.
The benefit concert for Mick involves a fourth church - First United Methodist Church in Pittsfield, which is hosting the event. The concert begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17, at the 55 Fenn St. church.
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