Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin alumna donates life-saving kidney

Courtesy Judy Vriesema

“That’s the most audacious bulletin announcement I’ve ever read.”

That was Susan Huizenga Cleveland’s (’85) reaction to a paragraph in Church of the Servant CRC’s bulletin last November that said church member Buddi Subba, a refugee from Nepal, was in need of a kidney transplant. Cele Mereness, another member of COS and a receiver of a kidney transplant herself, had championed Subba’s cause and written the bulletin announcement.

Subba had gotten very sick in a refugee camp in Nepal, after which she was flown to Grand Rapids for treatment and began attending ESL classes at COS and other churches while receiving dialysis treatment. According to Cleveland, Mereness knew the dramatic improvement that a transplant would bring over dialysis, and she told Subba, “You need a kidney, and I’m going to find you one.”

Earlier, in September 2015, Cleveland had felt led to leave her job as a chaplain in the prison system. “I’d never experienced before the power of the Spirit telling me what to do,” Cleveland said. “He told me what to say in the [resignation] letter, what typewriter to use.”

Since her prison job required working on Sundays, Cleveland wasn’t able to attend COS regularly until she left that position. It was during one of her first Sundays back that Mereness’s bulletin announcement appeared.

Cleveland, whose blood is prime for donation because it is type O, RH-negative and CMV-negative, felt the Spirit of God ask her, “Who else in this church do you think is going to do it?”

Both Cleveland’s and Subba’s surgeries were held on Monday, Sept. 12, and were immediately successful. Cleveland attended church again Sunday to update the congregation and join in prayers for Subba’s recovery.

Cleveland’s surgeon was fellow Calvin alumnus Michael DeJong (’84), who performs kidney transplants regularly. At each appointment, Cleveland recalled, DeJong would greet her by saying, “Thank you for the gift of life.”

Although Cleveland called DeJong a hero for his kindness, compassion and experience, the surgeon would always reply, “I’m only doing my job — you’re the hero.”

Cleveland is currently in the early stages of writing a book about the transplant as well as her career in prison ministry and other life experiences. She read a draft of the preface to the COS congregation last Sunday, beginning with “My kidney I offer to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

Though Cleveland estimates that she has given 1,000 sermons throughout her life, she said she’s never received the kind of response from others that she has from this one action. Subba’s partner, Aita, is not a Christian, and Cleveland said this was the best lesson about Christianity she could think of.

Cleveland’s fellow church members, especially attendees of COS’s Basic English Service who knew Buddi well, were amazed at her gift.

“It’s hard to find someone like God who is so kind,” one woman told Cleveland on Sunday.

“God is love,” Cleveland said, reflecting on what the experience has taught her. “My religion is kindness. My recent motto is ‘not by power, nor by might, but by my spirit, says the Lord.’ It’s not about correct theology or the fanciest sermon, and it’s not about egos. It’s about Jesus.”

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