It’s a little after 12am. Cell phones are buzzing, Facebook is bleeding red with notifications, and police sirens begin to blare.
No one has seen or heard from Washington State University freshman Kayla Bonar in three days. No matter what the cost is, her parents are determined to change that.
Brian and Sonya Bonar do everything in their power to contact anyone Kayla may have spoken to in class, at work, or through church gatherings that week.
Many of her friends, leaders, and co-workers sit on edge as the Pullman Police Department checks Kayla’s dorm.
Authorities break down her bedroom door and everything comes into focus on the cold floor.
Kayla is found on the ground seizing and convulsing. No one knows how long she has been in this state.
She is completely unconscious and the likelihood of her living through this kind of scenario is slim, assuming she has been seizing for hours, or even days. And if she does live, the damage will probably be severe.
Kayla's story looked like it was about to reach a bleak end. Her family, friends, and some of her co-workers have a strong faith in God. But in that moment, it was nearly impossible to have hope as they began to mourn the loss of such a sweet friend.
Several months before this incident, Kayla wrote a blog post. She was preparing to travel to Pullman and was well aware she had a condition that could make living alone complicated.
She was struggling with her body. She was struggling with her future. She was struggling with hope.
So she titled it, "Hope Is Hard."
While wrestling with the simple fact that maintaining hope isn’t easy, she learned that hard-earned hope is pretty beautiful. It's the idea that choosing to have faith even when it doesn't feel good has a lasting impact and fruitful results.
“Hope is counting on and clinging to what we cannot see,” she said. “Hope is not always comforting, but sometimes it’s all that’s left.”
She goes on to beautifully write a brief conversation with hope, as if hope were a person. She questions what Hope would say or do.
“I’d like to believe that he’d take my hand and say, 'Here’s my hand, you can squeeze it,’” Kayla wrote. “Hope would know that if I can’t change my present circumstances, I’m better off knowing I don’t need to endure the battle ahead alone.”
Kayla then explains that her hope is the result of faith. They’re almost the same thing, she suggests, implying that she heads into battle with Christ at her side.
Through faith, her hope is in Him. Her faith enables her to hope in Him.
This faith, this hope began to grow stronger several weeks before the police found her unconscious on campus.
On October 20, 2014 she wrote about a newfound community of likeminded, spiritual college students investing in her life.
In another blogpost titled "Woman Without A Plan," Kayla writes about a minor seizure that led her to move out of her former dorm room, move into a single room, and her struggle to gain control and lead an independent life.
“Over the next few days a few friends murmured a few words of encouragement to me,” she wrote. “They sat with me. Hugged me. Let my tears wet their clothes. They saw me at my worst. And instead of being disgusted and without telling me to grow up and get a grip, these events somehow let them love me more. I still do not understand that deep love displayed by my peers.”
She began to realize that every time she tries to take control, she fails. She decided she was not meant to do life alone, but to do life with God within a community that loves Him too. She decided to do life with a community that cares.
“Never in my life have I had friends so willing to meet me, right where I am,” she said. “This is the gospel in action.”
Two weeks later, she was found in her room and rushed to Pullman Regional Hospital’s ICU. There was little to no hope left for anyone sitting on the sidelines praying for her life.
Several hours later, Kayla’s parents arrived in Pullman from the west side of Washington and had her airlifted to Seattle Children's Hospital.
As minutes turned into hours and hours turned into days, people waited for her to regain consciousness and wake up.
Friends and co-workers tossed and turned, restless all hours of the night praying and hoping for her recovery. They stared at their cell phones waiting for a text message or a call.
Her father spent hours beside Kayla’s bed, sometimes holding up headphones so that she could listen to Resonate’s Ellensburg album just waiting for a response.
This incident took place on November 8, 2014, about two weeks before Thanksgiving.
After five days full of agony and prayer, Kayla woke up. Hundreds of people from Seattle to Pullman celebrated and cried tears of joy as pictures of her alive and well flooded social media. And still today, Kayla is conscious and recovering.
Several days after regaining consciousness, in another blog post titled "All Things Considered," Kayla wrote, “In all of the confusion, there has also been a lot of clarity. I’ve had to rely and trust entirely on Jesus and my doctors.”
“I cannot even begin to imagine where I would be without my faith,” she said. The community of believers who rallied behind her, people she had just begun to connect with before her accident, left a lasting impression on her faith as well.
“I have never felt so loved in my life,” she said. “By God, friends, and complete strangers.”
“I feel strongest in my weakest moments. People have been calling me 'miracle child' and more commonly, 'fighter.' And while I know this is meant to be flattering, I rarely ever consider myself either one. I call it being human. I am who I am because of hope.”
Kayla, who has a relationship with Jesus Christ and has been walking with Him for years, expressed a while back that she desires her story to impact others and bring a new light to the gospel.
Too often we only hear stories of people who are transformed out of death and into life. We hear stories about God getting rid of pain and creating new life as a result.
But what about the stories where God uses pain to create new life? More often than not, life is found in the face of death.
Kayla’s story is a continuing narrative. It’s one that never lacks a new surprise. It’s one that will constantly be evolving. Much like our own.
Since November, Kayla has battled with her recovery and continued to have smaller incidents that prevent her from returning to Pullman. In January, she was in town for two days before being lifted to Seattle again due to yet another seizure, which unfortunately meant another semester of healing before she could return.
This continual struggle isn’t easy. It’s confusing for a lot of people. It’s causing many to cry out to God. But in the suffering, there is joy.
About a day after her most recent incident, her father Brian told me that joy is something that he prays for. Joy is what he felt when he saw Kayla reunited with her church, with her community, worshiping God with Resonate.
Her mother Sonya said that Romans 8:28 is a key verse to abide in. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
This verse is something Sonya says that she will always believe. She hopes Kayla does too.
“When you go through hard times and struggles, God is about to do something big.”
Kayla said this to her friend Kynsie McKeown last fall shortly before her near death experience.
Sometimes, God reveals himself in the roughest ways. But it’s all for the good of those who love him. God is clearly doing something big in Kayla’s life.
Death, where is your sting?