Pastor offers kidney, hope to friend this Christmas

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Don Herbert, left, and pastor Tim B. Jones

CONCORD, N.C. — When Don Herbert wakes this morning and climbs out of bed, he’ll feel profoundly grateful for a wholly unexpected gift offered to him by a complete stranger.

He feels that way most days, not just on Christmas. It’s difficult for him not to feel that way because that gift — a kidney — will sustain and hopefully, prolong his life.

All because of the selflessness of Tim Jones, a native of Walkertown and a pastor Herbert just happened to meet at a church bake sale.

“It’s so hard to believe that someone you just met could be willing to do something like this,’ Herbert said. “A relative or a real close friend you’ve known forever, maybe. But for someone you just met … its mind blowing.

“Words just can’t express how you feel no matter how hard you try.”

Chance meeting

To understand this act of generosity in the season of giving, its first necessary to know a little about the two men involved.

Jones, 44, grew up in Walkertown – he still has family in the area – and graduated from Carver High School. He went into law enforcement before becoming a surgical technologist. He now works third shift as a surgical technologist at the Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast in Concord.

His real calling, though, the job he loves most, is serving as the pastor at Mercy Independent Baptist in Kannapolis.

Herbert, 56, worked in sales and purchasing before his health forced him to stop working in 2002. Before that, he was a professional wrestler known as John Savage plying his trade in small-town gyms throughout the region.

“Kind of interesting, huh?” Jones said.

The two men met in late October at a craft and bake sale at Jones’ church. The way they tell it, Herbert’s wife Belinda noticed the sale as they were driving by and asked to stop. He said that’d be fine, but he was going to stay in the car.

While sitting there, he heard the sounds of gospel music being pumped through speakers inside. A gospel singer himself since he got saved almost 30 years ago, Herbert couldn’t help but go inside.

There, he met the pastor. They struck up a conversation, and Jones learned that Herbert sang in a group called The Parables of Christ. He mentioned that the church was having a concert and revival in a month’s time and invited Herbert to bring his group to perform.

“We talked about gospel music and left as acquaintances,” Jones said.

There was no mention of any health issues, however. That would come later.

Herbert had a liver transplant in 2013, and had been experiencing problems with his kidneys. He also learned in November that he would need a heart catheterization. The dye used in that procedure would likely force him to have to undergo permanent dialysis.

“I was going to have to wait about a year for a new kidney,” Herbert said. “And because of the heart catheterization that needed to get done and the dialysis, we were told that the chances of getting a kidney were going to be slim and none.”

Arranged by God

To say the least, hearing that was discouraging for the Herberts. When the returned home from the hospital, Belinda Herbert shared the news the way a lot of people do these days: She posted it in on Facebook.

“After we first met, my wife (Sherry) and I had an informal get together and we invited Don and his wife,” Jones said. “That’s when I found out his history and that he’s walking miracle with that liver transplant. When they left I felt Iike I’d known him all my life.”

So when Jones learned from Facebook the new development, he was struck by the random unfairness to it all. How much should one man have to endure?

“I made a decision that I wanted to help this guy,” Jones said. “I prayed about it. You’ll never find anybody who says a negative thing about Don or his wife. If anybody deserves something good in life, it’s him.”

After serious discussions with Sherry, Jones knew that he wanted to donate one of his kidneys to Herbert.

“I’ve worked in surgery for 12 years so I know the risk,” he said. “It’s major surgery. It took a little bit but we’re born again Christians. We believe that God will see me through this. We were put in each other’s lives for a reason.”

They made the announcement at that revival, and it brought the house down.

“Definitely God arranged the whole thing,” Herbert said. “I think he puts some things in our lives to test our faith and see how far he can trust us to go.”

The men have undergone the testing required to see if they’re a physical match – they are. Jones has talked to counselors about his decision – a requirement in cases such as these when a stranger offers such a tremendous gift. They hope the transplant can be done by March.

When Herbert considers the magnitude of it all, he naturally thinks about ways he could possibly repay his new friend. So far, he’s at a loss.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t know how you repay it. If you find a good answer, let me know. I pray that the Lord gives me something I can do for him down the road. I will always be indebted to him. Whatever I have or whatever I can do for him and his family, I’ll do.”

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