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How the Church can end the waiting list for a kidney 

Could you share your spare? Joe Walsh of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Leeds, explains why he has created the Faith in Operation initiative to encourage altruistic kidney donation  

If you’ve attended a Baptist church long enough, you may have been involved in reviewing your church’s vision, values and strategy. At Cornerstone Baptist Church, Leeds, we did this last year and unsurprisingly ‘following Jesus’ made the cut.

Perhaps more unusually ‘embracing adventure’ also featured. One might argue that ‘following Jesus’ and ‘embracing adventure’ are actually indivisible. Following Jesus involves going on a journey and sometimes we are called to get out of the boat and walk on the waves. Adventures are exciting but sometimes risky. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus says that we cannot follow him unless we take up our cross, and embrace suffering. I wonder how God might be calling us to live adventurously? 

Some Christians have felt called to give a kidney to a stranger. Amazingly the first person to give a kidney to a stranger in the UK was a Christian, and former palliative care nurse, called Kay Mason. Since her operation, many more have come forward to donate. One notable donor was a theologian and former head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance called Justin Thacker.

Today around 100 people a year give a kidney to a stranger and last year I joined their number. Christians are intended to live lives of adventure, this doesn’t preclude taking calculated risks and encountering suffering, but it is the most satisfying way to experience life with God. For me giving a kidney was one of the best experiences in my life and God blessed me through it. 

Unfortunately, there are still many others who are suffering with kidney failure. Right now around 4,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney, which is a physical and emotional ordeal. Dialysis can sustain someone with kidney failure, however the average life expectancy is between 5-10 years.?In most cases, a kidney transplant is the best treatment option but simply isn’t available soon enough. Patients should receive a kidney when they are six months from requiring dialysis: tragically, however, the average wait for a kidney on the kidney waiting list is?2½ to 3 years. Even more shocking is the reality that ethnic minorities wait a year longer and currently comprise 31 per cent of the waiting list. 

Simply put, more kidneys are needed, and they don’t grow on trees.   

While governments have tried to maximise deceased organ donation by changing the law to presumed consent, fewer than 1 per cent of people are able to donate in this way when they die. Ideally everyone with chronic kidney failure would have a friend or family member who was willing and compatible to donate, but again this simply isn’t the case. 

Joe Walsh Faith in OperationTherefore more altruistic donors are needed. Giving a kidney is a low risk operation, akin to having an appendix removed. Reassuringly the long-term health of kidney donors is statistically better than the average population as good health is a pre-requisite. 

Amazingly someone willing to give a kidney to a stranger, can enable multiple operations. This works because patient A may have a relative or friend who gives their kidney on to patient B in exchange. That means one altruistic donor can transform two or three lives, while saving the NHS £200,000 per operation.  

The way to end the suffering and deaths of those waiting for a kidney is simple but profound. More people need to share a spare with a stranger. However in a risk-averse society that emphasises individual freedom, donors are understandably few. In this area Christians have an opportunity to lead the way by embracing altruistic donation and telling a different story of unconditional self-giving adventurous love.   

Since donating I have felt God calling me to raise awareness of altruistic kidney donation to the UK church. This is why I have just launched an initiative called Faith in Operation. Throughout organ donor week I have had many fantastic opportunities for publicity and I’m excited to see that Christians are starting to come forward. If you are intrigued, please visit www.faithinoperation.co.uk where you can learn more about altruistic kidney donation and get in touch. 

Furthermore please support Faith in Operation by signing up for the newsletter so I can keep you up to speed with prayer requests. Finally, please also share the promotional video with your church leaders, and on social media.   

If mobilised, I believe that the Church can end the waiting list for a kidney, saving lives and witnessing God’s love. Whatever your reaction to altruistic donation, I hope you will embrace the adventure that God has for you, and for your church. I pray that, in the words of Matthew 5:16, you will ‘let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’.  


Joe Walsh is an elder at Cornerstone Baptist Church and Founder of Faith in Operation  

Baptist Times, 16/09/2020
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