Avery Willis, retired senior vice president of the International Mission Board and founder of the International Orality Network, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease on Jan. 7 (2010). He surprised doctors and family members with a quicker-than-expected remission in February.
With his health improving, Willis, 76, is turning his attention back to discipleship. He sees a parallel between the church's struggle with discipleship and the disease he has begun to battle.
Normally, bone marrow in the human body produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, Willis explained. Red cells carry oxygen while white cells fight viruses and bacteria. The platelets help the blood to coagulate.
"What happens in leukemia is an abnormal development in the DNA so that the body produces large numbers of immature cells that do not do their function," Willis said. "They don't carry oxygen. They don't fight disease and they don't clot.
"We produce a lot of [church] members," Willis reflected, "but they are not carrying out their functions because we have an overabundance of abnormal cells."
Willis, however, is calling for a return the original "DNA" of discipleship -- to Jesus' method of teaching: Bible storying.
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