The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Chris Maxwell: Life Interrupted

By Barbara Cornick and Scott Ross
The 700 Club Scott (reporting): Chris Maxwell was an engaging pastor and prolific author. His mind was amazing; he memorized entire books of the Bible and wrote hundreds of articles for publications like Charisma and Ministries Today.

Chris loved his wife Debbie and their three sons Tyler, Aaron, and Graham. You could say he was an extraordinary man living an ordinary life.

Scott: What was life like for you? What were you doing? What was your vocation?

Chris Maxwell: Pastoring Evangel Assembly here in Orlando, Fla.; spending time with people; enjoying my organized skills and strict schedule; everything planned and organized and then that was interrupted.

Scott: Interrupted? How?

Chris: Wake up one day assuming [I was] maybe sick to the stomach, just a normal bug. But it was a different type of illness that came in my direction. I didn’t know where I was. I was talking about animals in the house -- animals that we did not have. I called the church office and complained a little bit to the business administrator about our steeple. We didn’t have a steeple on the building.

Scott: Wow.

Chris: So things that did not exist were existing in my mind, and things continued to get worse.

Debbie: As the day went on, he couldn’t even put a sentence together. His words were like syllables, and I thought, 'Why is he doing this?’

Scott (reporting): Over the next few days Chris’ health deteriorated.

Chris: Got up to go to the bathroom and passed out. I don’t remember it occurring but I fell on a basket of magazines. So that was proof something’s not right. This is not going away. This is getting worse.

Scott (reporting): Debbie grew more alarmed and took Chris to the hospital.

Scott: They ran you through some tests and came up with any diagnosis?

Chris: Yeah, guess what tests? Here I am the preacher in the emergency room [taking] drug tests. Okay, they think he’s O.D.’d and –

Scott: What?

Chris: Fortunately one of the nurses was from our church, and she’s said, 'My preacher’s not taking drugs. He’s not drunk!' And so they ran every test possible…

Scott (reporting): Chris was diagnosed with viral encephalitis.

Chris: The kind that I had is the type of virus that many people get. For some reason my body decided not to fight it off. And so during this week, as I was feeling sick, it was slowly damaging my brain and, when they did the MRI, my left temporal lobe was permanently damaged.

Scott (reporting): Permanently?

Chris: Permanently damaged.

Dr. Hal Pineless: It affects the brain by causing people to become confused. They have a fever, can develop seizures…It can be fatal if it’s not treated.

Scott (reporting): Fortunately, because doctors diagnosed the disease in time, Chris survived. And after ten days in the hospital, he went home. But because the encephalitis damaged his brain, he was not the same husband and father his family had known.

Scott: What was the most difficult thing you had to deal with?

Debbie: I think his emotions were one of the most difficult. He’s really still very different than he was before. I had to adjust to a different husband. He just needed someone there to tell him that this was what you need to do next and tell him, 'No, you can’t do that.' He thought he could just step back into what he was before.

Chris: Originally I knew two names, not counting Jesus -- Debbie and Carolyn, my mother.

Scott: What about your three sons? Remember their names?

Chris: Nope.

Scott: No?

Chris: I didn’t. No, it took me a while and then I even had to work. I had to work to remember the names of my sons. It was rough… These years later, I’m still learning new methods. I depend on my palm pilot.

Scott (reporting): Chris is back in the pulpit again. And despite the tremendous struggles he and Debbie have faced, they sense God’s abundant love for them.

Debbie: He calls you to walk through certain things but He doesn’t leave you. I hope that my boys have learned commitment. When hard times come, you don’t walk out; you lean on God. ‘Cause it was no surprise to God this took place. I felt called to be his wife 24 years ago. God knew it was going to happen, and He was calling me even then to walk through it. I hope that’s what I’ve done.

Scott (reporting): Even the most skeptical realize that, although Chris still has challenges, he’s thriving because of his faith in God.

Debbie: I think that his strong spiritual beliefs had a lot to do with his ability to recover.

Chris: I will continue to ask God, 'Lord, it would be so cool if you would heal me completely, but I do thank You that I’m so much better than they ever thought I would be. I can still tell others about Your love and how crazy You are about us.'

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