Listen: LA-based pastor Chad Veach chats to Laura Bennett
It’s one thing to preach about having faith in hard times, and it’s another to live it. Chad Veach is one of those preachers for whom faith isn’t just a Sunday-morning sermon.
Faith is his daily, hourly anchor, since he learnt in 2012 that his daughter had a rare brain condition, reducing her expected life span to about 10 years.
The condition, called Lissencephaly, is a rare disorder in which the brain fails to develop its fold structures. For this reason, it’s also known as “smooth brain”. For little Georgia Veach, it has caused symptoms like frequent vomiting and seizures, which were at one point as frequent as 50 a day according to Christian Post.
Chad has just released a book about what he has learnt in his journey through Georgia’s illness so far, titled Unreasonable Hope. In an interview with Hope 103.2’s Laura Bennett, he described his daughter as “amazing, precious and beautiful”, and explained how dealing with her illness has taken he and his wife deeper in his relationship with God.
“We’ve been on a journey with her, a faith journey,” he said. “We just decided from the beginning, once we got the diagnosis, that we were going to put our hope in God.”
Having Hope Doesn’t Mean Burying Your Pain
With his wife, Julia, Chad has a new church in Los Angeles called Zoe Church (meaning “Life” Church in ancient Greek). Previously he was a pastor at The City Church in Seattle, led by Judah Smith. So the father-of-three obviously hasn’t let his daughter’s medical prognosis stop him from inspiring hope in others.
In his chat with Laura, he was quick to stress that having hope for the future about his daughter, doesn’t mean he buried his pain.
“We turned to Jesus saying, “we need you to be the remedy for our daughter and for our souls”.”
“I think the first thing we had to do was be really honest about the pain that we were in, how much it hurt, how much disappointment we were dealing with,” he said. “It was the first time we actually really needed people to really rally around us and pray.
“But then we started to look around and go “what are we going to do about this thing, and how are we going to face this, and what does this mean for our family and our marriage?”
“It was really early on where we just said “we’re going to turn to Jesus”. He’s the hope for all of our circumstances. So we turned to him immediately, saying, “we need Your peace, we need your healing, we need You to come and be the remedy for our daughter and for our souls”. I’m thankful that we did because it really prevented us from getting bitter and angry and disappointed.”
Dealing With Georgia’s 10-Year Life Expectancy
Given that someone with the “smooth brain” condition has a life expectancy of about 10 years, hope is a daily necessity for Chad. He believes in the healing power of God, but says he has hope that goes beyond a potential miraculous healing for his daughter.
“I don’t just have hope in this result here on earth, my greater hope is in heaven,” he said. “I know my daughter is going to be healed—whether she gets healed on this side, on earth, or the other side in heaven, that’s up to God.
“One day I’m going to dance with my daughter…it might not be on earth, but I have a greater hope…my citizenship is in heaven.”
“But my hope is knowing that one day I’m going to dance with my daughter, I’m going to laugh with her, I’m going to run. And it might not be on earth, but I have a greater hope in a greater destination that we’re going to. My citizenship is in heaven.
“So that brings so much comfort. Even if the life expectancy isn’t that long and she doesn’t make it to that old, I know that I’m going to be with her.”
The Accidental “G Tattoo” Movement
Chad and his family have experienced a groundswell of support in the form of prayer for his daughter—so much so that friends across America are now adorned with tattoos of the letter “G” in Georgia’s honour.
It’s an unusual trend that was started accidentally by the New York-based Hillsong pastor, Carl Lentz.
“I was preaching at his church and after the service he goes, “tomorrow I’m gonna go get a G tattooed so that every time I look at it, it reminds me to pray for you and your family,” Chad explained. “I said “bro, if you’re getting a tattoo, I am as well”.
“So the next day we go out and get these tattoos and post a photo with the hashtag “Gtat”. People had already been familiar with Georgia [followed suit], and it just began to take on a life of its own.”
Even Justin Bieber, who is a friend of the Veach’s, has had himself tattooed with Georgia’s initial.
And at a recent party to celebrate the launch of his book, a tattoo artist inked the letter “G” on 30 people, and Chad estimated that over 100 people now have the tattoo, reminding them to pray for Georgia.
And Chad’s book publicist was surprised recently when she got into an Uber car, chatted to the driver about the book, and discovered the driver not only knew Georgia’s story but already had the tattoo.
“The Uber driver rolls down his sleeve and lifts up his “G-Tat” and says, “I’ve been praying for Georgia too”,” Chad said. “It is just a wild, wild thing.”
When Pain Turns Into A Positive
For the LA pastor, talking about Georgia in interviews is no longer a heavy, painful process, because of the peace he has in Jesus.
“If I was still wounded and broken and hurting and really upset about it, I don’t know if I could [talk about it], but I think that’s God,” Chad said.
“The subtitle of the book is Finding Faith in the God That Brings Purpose to Your Pain and I think that we can all redeem our pain. We can talk about our pain once God begins to deal with it and heal us…we can actually find purpose in it.
“I think we can all redeem our pain. Once God begins to deal with it and heal us from it, we can actually find purpose in it.”
“My struggle actually turned into [a way that] I could share the good news of Jesus. I find so much redemption in that. I’m not rehashing this emotion that still is a fresh wound that brings me to tears immediately. It’s this thing that I feel like God’s brought me through.”
For others facing a painful prognosis, Chad offers encouragement.
“I would just say “there’s a real God that really loves you, and the storm could be raging and the wind could be howling and the boat could be rocking but if Jesus is alive, He’s on the boat with you,” he said.
“Whatever you’re going through, just know that God’s bigger than the storm, He loves you, He’s going to see you through this, and He’s in control. I’ve found that no matter what the storm looks like, I can rest in this love and this grace.”