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One day, suddenly, I got my Answer, and Jesus met me
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An Interview with Howard Katz

Howard Katz' father was a Holocaust survivor, and understandably, this lead to the family having a sense of the brevity of life. "It's not that my father went around with a cloud all over him," Howard says, "but it was always in the back of his mind." This sense of the fleetingness of life would have a profound impact on him.

One day when he was 20 years old, Howard had a revelation. "It was a time when many people were praying for me. It suddenly hit me that even if I accomplished everything I wanted it wouldn't make me happy." He was working in construction at the time on a high-rise apartment building. As they dug deep in the clay for the foundation of the building, Howard was digging deeply into his own foundations, and it made him depressed.

"I had prayed before that time, but they were selfish prayers like, 'If You’re real then give me..." This time, though, I began to pray for real. My prayer went like this: 'God, if You’re there and Jesus Christ is Your Son, I need to know because I can't live with this emptiness. I prayed this over and over. I needed an answer."

During this time he went on a camping trip with some friends and continued to pray his prayer of desperation. "One day, suddenly, I got my answer, and Jesus met me. My depression that had plagued me was lifted right off my shoulders, and I was filled with an incredible joy that lasted three days."

Fast forward a couple of decades. Howard has become a successful businessman, husband, father and church pastor. And he has found a couple of lumps in his shoulder area. "I knew about the lumps for about a year before we decided to do a biopsy. My doctor wasn’t particularly concerned, and neither was I."

Interestingly, about seven months before the biopsy was performed, a friend went to Howard with what he believed was a vision from the Lord. "He said he had seen me in a pickup truck in a deep valley, and the truck was stuck in the mud. He said he saw a wall of water coming toward the truck, but it was a 4 wheel drive truck, and I just shifted it into gear and drove up the side of the canyon to safety. The vision didn’t give me a sense of foreboding. I felt it was preparation, that there was trouble coming, but that I would beat the trouble by going to my safety. Of course, at the time I didn't know what the trouble would be."

They did the biopsy last December and Howard promptly went on vacation for a week. On his vacations he tends to rest and relax rather than be a typical tourist, and this was no exception.

"I was writing a book out of a sermon series I was doing on Job, and I read and edited the book three times during this vacation. Seeing Jobs' faith during all the trials he went through had the effect of strengthening my own faith each time I re-read about him. Two of Jobs' friends were asking, and trying to answer the wrong question. Their question was the 'why' of Jobs’ suffering. The third friend was asking the right question: 'Who is God?' Our vision of God grows through hardship."

When Howard returned from his vacation the doctor called with apologies: The biopsy revealed lymphoma. While it was fortunately a slow growing kind, the course of his treatment would be dictated by whether or not it had spread, and this information was not initially available.

"Despite my diagnosis, I was at peace. I was even able to share my faith with one of the doctors during this time. There were a lot of people praying for me, and in between appointments I spent time focused on God rather than what I was going through."

Howard's cancer turned out to be localized, which meant surgery, much les chemotherapy, and very localized radiation treatment. At this point he is cancer free. His understanding of the brevity of life, so instrumental when he was younger, is not lost on him to this day.

"The reality is life is limited and we're here to fulfill Gods' purpose for us. What if I had lived my whole life without the Lord and at 58 years old got this illness? My life would have been totally meaningless instead of having lived a life of peace, contentment, and serving God. My illness has made me desire even more of Gods' plan and purpose for me."