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The Rev. Randall “Fats” Blakely, pastor of a newly founded South Toledo church, was visiting Manifested Word Church on Easter Sunday when the pastor, the Rev. Randall Parker, invited him to the pulpit.
“We believe what the Bible says [in James 4:2], ‘You have not because you ask not.’ I always make it a point to put it out there that I need a kidney,” Mr. Blakely, pastor of Disciples of Christ Church of God in Christ, said this week.
The 45-year-old minister, who said he’s been called “Fats” since he was 2 years old, told the congregation he has been undergoing dialysis three times a week and awaiting a kidney transplant since 2007. His father and his sister both passed away from kidney disease in 2007.
“I’m O-positive and if you want to give me a kidney, holler at a brother,” Mr. Blakely said he told the crowd.
After the service, a stranger walked up to the pastor with a big smile and said, “I’m O-positive, and I want to give you a kidney.”
The potential donor, Derek “Hawk” Reece, said this week that “something just came over me while we were in church.”
Mr. Reece, a 44-year-old Toledo barber, said he felt bad for Mr. Blakely and thought how he would feel if he were in the pastor’s predicament. “If I needed a kidney, I would really want someone to donate one to me or my family,” he said. “I felt bad for him. I can function properly without one kidney, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Medical tests have determined the donor and recipient are a perfect match, Mr. Blakely and Mr. Reece said, and the transplant is scheduled for Friday at the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio.
Eunice Blakely, Mr. Blakely’s wife, said the fact a stranger volunteered and turned out to be a perfect match makes for “a miraculous story.” “My husband has tremendous faith, and he has been saying for the past couple of years that he’s going to get a kidney transplant. He’s been believing God for a kidney,” she said.
Mr. Reece has been diligent in following up on his promise, she said, adding that Mr. Reece and the Blakelys have become a good friends during the process.
“He and my husband have personalities that are alike. He’s become like family to us,” Mrs. Blakely said.
Mr. Reece, who played football at Libbey High School, said he’s never doubted his decision to give the kidney. “The more I got to know him and his wife, I felt even stronger about it. He’s a good guy, and the way he and his wife get along, the way they bond, I want to help them both.”
Mr. Reece said he just happened to be visiting Manifested Word Church on April 24, Easter morning, when he heard Mr. Blakely speak about his condition. He said he considers it a divine appointment. “I’m looking for a church home, and everything was so straightforward,” he said. “It’s like all your ducks were in a row. It can’t be just a coincidence.”
Mr. Blakely, originally from Gary, Ind., worked as a music minister at various churches the last several years but felt inspired to start and pastor his own church. He and Mrs. Blakely founded the Disciples of Christ COGIC in February. Services are held at 11 a.m. Sunday in the clubhouse of the Deerfield Run apartment complex, 1255 South Byrne Rd.
He recently started a community choir, Word in Song, and also performs gospel music with his wife in the Blakely Family Singers.
“I have been strongly involved in music, and I didn’t want to give up my music just because I was pastoring,” said Mr. Blakely, who plays keyboards and sings. “Music will always be a part of me.”
Attendance at Disciples of Christ Church has averaged about a dozen a week, he said. “It’s a small church, but we’re just getting started.”
Mrs. Blakely said her husband has Medicaid coverage, which will pay most transplant costs, which typically range between $65,000 and $80,000, according to UTMC, but there still will be out-of-pocket expenses for the donor and recipient. Mr. Reece, a barber at Steve’s Sporting Cuts on Dorr Street, also will bear a financial burden because the surgery will put him out of work for eight weeks while recuperating.
The Blakelys hope their situation raises awareness of the need for organ donors. “This is definitely a story of hope for all Toledoans and people everywhere,” Mrs. Blakely said.
A benefit concert to help cover transplant costs for Mr. Blakely and Mr. Reece will be held Sunday, starting at 6 p.m., at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 1401 Hoag St. Scheduled performers include Bishop Donald Alford, Sr., and the Fourth Jurisdiction Indiana North Central Choir; Bishop John Williams; Arma Austin-Frazier; Gwen Norwood; Word in Song Choir, and the Blakely Family Singers. Admission is free. Donations will be accepted. Information: 219-801-9585.
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.