God’s Grace through the Story of TE Mike Francis and Immanuel PC
Long-term disability insurance is not glamorous, as far as insurance goes. Unless you receive it through your employer, most people will not purchase disability insurance independently. The benefit, however, is crucial, as it replaces a sizable portion of your salary should you become disabled from sickness, injury, or accident.
PCA Pastor Emeritus Mike Francis is a Berkeley-educated lawyer turned theologian. He pastored Immanuel Presbyterian Church (IPC), a small but steady PCA congregation in Deland, Florida since 2000. He is married to Maria, and they have three children.
He has trouble remembering these facts.
On Memorial Day of 2015, Pastor Mike Francis suffered a heart attack that put him on life support and took away his memory—crippling his ability to pastor. He did not have long-term disability insurance.
John Warren, CEO of CFS Financial and a member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, recalls eating lunch with Mike and his family one Sunday, the day before Mike’s heart attack. The Warren and Francis families had become close through Immanuel and were used to relying on each other for support. On Monday, John received a text that said, “Mike had a heart attack. Please pray.”
The news came as a shock to John. It didn’t make sense. Mike was a cyclist in excellent health. How could he have a heart attack that required three rounds of resuscitation? One airlift, two hospitals, and several days later, doctors discovered Mike had an anoxic brain injury that left the majority of his brain permanently damaged. Maria was told that Mike would never walk or talk and probably not see or hear, let alone work another day.
Today, Mike is not on life support. He is talking, walking, and attending church again. His faith is strong, his theology sound, his prayer life vibrant, and he can clearly explain the Gospel. He’s even auditing classes at Reformation Bible College. It’s a long and miraculous story of physical and financial recovery witnessed by John and the Immanuel congregation, the community, and people across the country and around the world. You can read the details and follow Mike’s progress at www.MikeMarathon.com.
“Mike stayed on the equipment for the longest time, but we all rallied, we all prayed. Eventually, he started breathing on his own without a ventilator. He did much better than expected at each milestone of recovery. He amazed medical professionals.”
Mike’s unprecedented recovery had no baseline for medical procedures. Doctors were dumbfounded. Although the family had excellent insurance through Maria’s work, Mike’s condition fell outside insurance parameters once hospital treatment was no longer helpful for Mike. Without long-term disability insurance, Mike’s family was hard-pressed to recover from the losses in the midst of their grieving.
“Maria and a small group of volunteers from IPC began work on a plan B, to bring Mike home. We put him in the living room of their home, rented a hospital bed and hired in-home nursing care. Mike was still an invalid at this time.”
The group of faithful volunteers served the Francis family by providing meals and spending significant blocks of time with Mike during his recovery. They helped Mike with everything from Scripture memory to taking walks to simply enjoying community activities.
In the absence of disability insurance, Immanuel paid Mike’s salary for two years. “The congregation is by no means wealthy. Mike felt strongly about keeping the church debt-free. Immanuel is a ‘plain Jane’ type of church from a facilities standpoint, but the facility’s low cost allowed the congregation to pay his salary for two years without missing a beat. I was blessed to witness several congregants at the poverty level give the most generously.”
Meanwhile, Mike’s recovery continued. John received a call one day from a volunteer working at the Francis family’s home telling him to come quickly. John rushed to Mike’s house and stood by his bed. Mike looked up at John with clear eyes and said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Inexplicably, Mike remembers whole passages of Scripture though he has trouble remembering simple details about his life. While he recovered, Maria realized that, although they had wills, they did not have a durable power of attorney. She went through the grueling process of becoming Mike’s legal guardian and applied for Social Security disability—all while caring for Mike and holding her job at Stetson University.
After relearning to breathe, swallow, talk, and walk, Mike is healthy and high-functioning by the miraculous grace of God. He still, however, is unable to work due to severe short and long-term memory loss. Thanks to his financial background, John was able to organize a fundraising campaign involving Immanuel, the larger family of God, and many other friends, in order to raise a sum of money that underwrites a significant portion of what a disability policy would have covered.
While you will certainly never experience a situation quite like Mike’s, it wouldn’t hurt to learn from it. Here are a few places to start if you’re a pastor without long-term disability insurance:
- Have a rudimentary estate plan, including a durable power of attorney
- Over 50? Get routine physicals
- Consider the potential impact of a disabling event to your family
- Consider the potential church-wide impact of a disabling event
- Purchase inexpensive long-term disability insurance
Contact PCA Retirement & Benefits
Insuring yourself from a disabling event protects you, your family, and your church congregation. While fewer than 20% of all working people own a personal disability policy, the odds of becoming disabled for 90 or more days is greater than dying during one’s working years. None of us like to think about tragedy, but we can plan for it.
PCA Retirement & Benefits offers a variety of plans whether you are securing insurance as a group or individual. The plans can be viewed in detail on our website.
Geneva Benefits Group serves those who serve others, providing practical support for the financial, physical, and mental wellbeing of people who work in full-time ministry.