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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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His eyes say hope

Pastor with ALS writes, listens & prays

The foreword was the most difficult part for Donald L. Roberts to write.

He had written the devotions for “Words of Hope in the Midst of Lou Gehrig’s Disease” one at a time over the past six years. So when friends persuaded Roberts to put those devotions from the church newsletter into book form, only the foreword remained.

But writing the foreword meant he had to look backward.

Roberts wrote about recognizing symptoms that seemed suspicious — weakness in his fingers and a quivering in his arm, for example. He wrote about the day he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He wrote about resigning his call as pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Mankato, Minn., about being put on a ventilation tube and losing his ability to speak.

“It brought back painful memories to me,” he said, his words dictated one letter at a time by moving his eyes across a letter board held in front of him. “I have been through much with this illness. For instance, I used to be a jogger. I don’t purposely forget what it was like, but I don’t think about it every day.”


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