Miracle teen Joshua thanks church for prayers he says cured him of cancer
Miracle teenager Joshua Martin, who confounded even doctors with his astonishing recovery from a rare cancer, had a narrow escape from injury yesterday only hours before he was due to share the story of his courageous fightback with hundreds of people in a Bangor church and thank them for the prayers which he's convinced saved his life.
The fourteen-year-old Donaghadee schoolboy slipped and fell at his home as he ran to his family's car yesterday afternoon. And he said: "I was late and I tripped over on to the flat of my back. I thought initially that I'd broken my leg."
However, Joshua told his parents that he'd "been through worse than that" and dusted himself off before going with them to the Elim Pentecostal Church in the Balloo area of Bangor, where he set out chairs so that more people could listen to his testimony in an 1,100-seater building which even country singer Nathan Carter hasn't been able to sell out yet for an upcoming concert.
In an adjoining sports hall at the church, a converted kitchen factory, hundreds more people watched a streamed feed of the proceedings, but there still wasn't enough room and officials had to put out more seats in the foyer of the building.
The congregation included Christians from Donegal and Fermanagh and some of them arrived over two hours before the scheduled start of the service, which usually attracts 400 worshippers on a normal Sunday evening.
And while there wasn't a free seat, there also wasn't a dry eye in the packed house as Joshua and his parents were interviewed on stage by the senior pastor of the Bangor church, Gary Beattie, who supported the Martins through their horrendous ordeal.
Kim Martin, who's a civil servant and Tim, a pastor at the Elim church, also struggled at times to keep the tears at bay as they recalled how doctors gave them almost no hope for Joshua; how they watched helplessly as he went through months of agony and how they wondered if it was ethically right for doctors to try to save him.
However, Joshua, who used to play lead roles in plays at his primary school, showed few signs of nerves.
"I'm really excited. I want to thank people for their prayers and to get across the message that God heals," he said.
Joshua was diagnosed with cancer last Christmas Eve after he was rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis.
Doctors found aggressive tumours in his abdomen and the teenager came perilously close to death as he underwent months of invasive surgery and chemotherapy.
Tim Martin said last night the family were told that a primary tumour was the size of a melon and that a number of secondary tumours were inoperable.
But in October, medics gave Joshua's family the news that they - and thousands of people around the world - had been praying for, that his tumours were gone and he was cancer free.
Last night, Joshua and his family thanked the medics who helped them and a number of nurses were in the congregation.
Joshua also got the chance to pass on his personal thanks to strangers.
One family friend, Thelma Evans from Newtownards, who recovered from cancer herself this year, said: "I am so delighted to see Joshua looking and sounding so well. I texted Kim with regular messages of support and prayed for her son. I knew that he would be healed. Faith works."
Joshua called last night's service a celebration - a celebration of what he believes God has done for him.
The service was billed as #rejoiceforjosh, echoing the social media prayer campaign on his behalf #prayforjosh
Kim Martin, who's 44, said she was proud of Josh, adding that he had been looking forward to last night's service for weeks.
During the service a series of previously unseen pictures and videos of Joshua over the past year were shown to the congregation, including ones of him after he lost hair and several stone in weight.
Kim said: "Joshua wanted to go into a lot of detail that we weren't able to share on social media. There were images of him along his journey that we didn't feel were very appropriate to share at the time."
Church elder Ian Atkinson, who's from Leeds, said the service had been uplifting for the entire Elim community, who had been overjoyed at Joshua's return to full health.
"It was a miracle. That's the only word to describe it."
Joshua's uncle Juls Martin spread the news of his trauma on social media and on the Christian Broadcasting Network, with whom he was a presenter, and was amazed at the response.
"I got messages from people as far away as the Philippines and Australia saying they were praying for my nephew. I had never heard of them before."
Joshua's grandmother Mavis Martin broke down in a video as she remembered the darkest days of her grandson's fight for life.
But last night she was ecstatic. "To see him so healthy is just wonderful. But without the global prayer campaign, Joshua wouldn't be here today."
Kim Martin said the family could never thank the people who prayed for Joshua enough, adding: "I don't think they have any idea what their prayers and texts and emails meant to us, at a time when Joshua was facing a very bleak diagnosis"
Tim and Kim Martin, who met at a Methodist youth group in Donaghadee in their teens, had been preparing for the worst possible outcome of their son's nightmare. But they didn't tell him just how seriously ill he was.
Kim told the congregation that Joshua knew he had cancer, but she and her husband agreed with their son's consultant that it wouldn't be helpful for the teenager to know the full extent of his illness as he battled through a number of operations and a series of even more life threatening complications which set in after he received chemotherapy.
And while Kim agreed it may seem strange to a non-believer, she said she had always shared her son's conviction that he would survive.
"I read my Bible regularly and I believed the promises that God had given me for Joshua," said Kim, adding that she and her husband now think that their son's name was ordained by a higher power.
"We picked the name 14 years ago, because in the Bible Joshua was so strong and courageous during the Battle of Jericho, but little did we know how strong and courageous our Joshua would have to be."
Kim said one of the most heart-warming spin-offs of her son's recovery has been seeing him smile. "For months he sobbed in excruciating pain, so we thank God for the simple things in life that previously we wouldn't have noticed.
"Every day I look at him and I think that he's a walking miracle. He was clambering over rocks the other day with his friends and I thought just to see him walking is remarkable given that he was in bed or wheelchair-bound for so long."
For Joshua, the all-clear has allowed him to think positively about the future.
"I am loving life and thanking God for everything I have got," said the Bangor Grammar School pupil who is a fan of kayaking, quad-biking, swimming and skateboarding.
But medics have drawn the line at one sport he wants to take up.
"They've said he can't do judo. And we agreed," said his mother.