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New dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Oklahoma City rejoices in life outside 'bubble'

The Rev. Justin Lindstrom, the new dean of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Oklahoma City, said his past that includes a medical miracle has helped motivate him on his spiritual journey.
by Carla Hinton Published: October 22, 2012

The Rev. Justin Lindstrom, the new dean of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, said he was 21 years old and attending seminary when he first heard the amazing story of his medical mystery history.

And perhaps the most surprising part was that his father — and fellow seminarian — was the person who shared the tale for the first time, as they sat together in a seminary class.

Lindstrom, 40, said the instructor had asked each class member to share some reasons they were there. His dad, Joel Lindstrom, began to tell about a time one of his children lay near death in a hospital.

The elder Lindstrom told the class that his youngest son, Justin, was 16 months old when his chest cavity was flooded with a mysterious jellylike substance, and his lungs collapsed. He said the family's Lutheran clergymen were called to the medical facility to give the child what essentially were to be his last rites after doctors said the child could not breathe on his own. The elder Lindstrom, a schoolteacher, said he asked that everyone leave the room when doctors said they wanted to turn off the machine that helped the child breathe.

Justin Lindstrom said his father told the class that he knelt in front of the bed where his tiny boy lay covered with a large plastic, tentlike bubble. He and his wife, Jeanne, couldn't even touch the child without placing their hands in gloves that enabled them to grasp him inside the bubble that insulated the weakened boy from disease.

Joel Lindstrom told the class he simply prayed: “Lord God, if you save my son, I will make sure he becomes a minister in your church, and I will also.”

Joel Lindstrom told his son and the other seminarians that the machine was unplugged the next day, but something happened that even the doctors couldn't explain. His little son began breathing on his own.

Three days later, the child, young Justin, was sent home healthy and whole.

“So yeah, I was a bubble boy,” Justin Lindstrom said recently.

“It's just amazing to think about them unplugging the machine and the doctors and everyone there expecting me to die.”

Unknown influence

Lindstrom said he recently shared his childhood story during his first sermon as dean of St. Paul's, 127 NW 7.

As he prepares to lead one of Oklahoma's most prominent churches, he said the knowledge of his miraculous recovery has motivated him since that first time he heard it.

“It could easily have gone the other direction. That's what drives me — I'm a pretty motivated individual,” Lindstrom said, smiling.

Lindstrom said his case has been the focus of several articles in a medical journal. But he knew nothing about that when he was growing up. He said his childhood and adolescence were similar to everyone else's.

He said a big part of the family's life was Bible school and church, and he was surrounded by many people who also didn't know his medical story.

Nonetheless, “they showed God to me in ways that mattered,” Lindstrom said.

“I think God does that for all of us — intertwines our story with the people who are in our lives.”

That's why the young man who initially considered being an architect eventually decided to answer the Lord's calling to the ministry.

He said he graduated from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, and his father did as well, though they did not graduate at the same time.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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