In 1995, a man woke up in a hospital bed in Arkansas and had no idea who he was. In fact, he didn’t know anything.
He didn’t know that his name was John Bishop. That he had been married for 24 years to Donna, and they had three sons. That he served as pastor at a church in Heber Springs, Ark., and they lived on the grounds of a youth camp they had started.
But this was more than amnesia. John was suffering from aseptic meningitis, and for whatever reason, the disease wiped away all of his memory.
John didn’t know how to read or write. He didn’t even know how to walk, talk, or chew food.
Everything was blank.
And so begins one of the more amazing stories I’ve ever heard. You can listen to the whole story of John and Donna Bishop of Rosebud, Ark., on FamilyLife Today®. For John, it’s the story of a man who has had the ultimate second chance–the opportunity to start everything all over. “All I remember is from 1995 to this day,” John says in the interview. “I remember nothing before that. Everything that happened in my life beforehand is what I’ve been told. When I woke up from meningitis, I did not know her. I did not know me, my name. I didn’t know anything.”
And for Donna, it’s the story of a wife who basically lost her first husband, and had to decide what to do with this grown man who, at first, had to be cared for and taught as though he were an infant.
She kept thinking John’s memory would return, but it never did. She had to teach him how to eat again, starting with baby food. It took two years for him to walk well. He learned to speak by reading lips and matching the words he heard with the way a person’s mouth moved. (In fact, even after 13 years, John is still learning to improve his grammar and syntax as he speaks.)
“It was almost like I had four boys instead of three,” Donna says. She had to assume all responsibilities for the family. Yet she never wavered in her commitment to John. “My parents had a good marriage, and I was always taught that when you’re married, you’re married for life. When you say for better or for worse, in sickness and health, you’re in for the long haul. I never even thought about divorce.”
But how do you explain the concept of marriage to a man who doesn’t remember you and doesn’t even know what marriage is?
At one point, when she felt John had progressed enough to understand, Donna told him, “You’re John, I’m Donna, and we’re married. That means you belong to me, and I belong to you.”
“You’re my Donna?” he asked.
He got it. And ever since then he has called her “My Donna.”
“It was so easy to love her, she loved me so good,” he says today. “Everything I know is what my wife taught me. I tell everybody she taught me reading, writing … and my favorite subject, kissing.”
John still suffers from a variety of health problems–seizures, cluster migraine headaches, an injured back … in the last year he’s lost much of his sight. But the impact God has had through him because of this long struggle may be greater than anything before 1995. He and Donna began God is So Good Ministries to testify to the goodness of God even in the midst of an incredible struggle.
John says the ministry name is inspired by something God taught him during a time of depression and discouragement after his new life began. “I really loved the book of Psalms, because David been through trials too … He kept saying God is good.” He remembers laying on the couch one night after a difficult day. He read Psalm 34:8, which says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
John prayed, “God, I gonna believe You’re good. If I never get better, I still gonna believe You’re good because that what Your word says. Lord, this must be what faith means … believing You, even when I don’t feel like it.”
There are many other stories I could tell about this remarkable couple, but then I’d be stealing too much thunder from the FamilyLife Today broadcasts!
You can listen to the three-part series with the Bishops online at our website.
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