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‘The Next Worship’ Author Sandra Van Opstal Undergoes Multiple Surgeries to Fight Rare Infection

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Editor’s note (Nov. 27, 2023): The original article has been significantly edited and updated with new information from Van Opstal.

Christian author and activist Sandra Maria Van Opstal has “had four surgeries to remove significant chunks of skin from her leg,” according to a GoFundMe post published in her name on Saturday, November 25. Van Opstal, fighting a rare flesh-eating disease, was expected to remain hospitalized for “several more weeks.”

“For those unaware, Sandra had a high fever on Thursday, November 16th,” the GoFundMe page stated. “Assuming it was a flu she tried to sleep it off, but after 24 hours of no flu symptoms we thought something was up.”

After heading to the emergency room, Van Opstal was given “rounds of four antibiotics” in response to what was initially identified as cellulitis. However, as the infection spread, doctors realized “she had necrotizing fasciitis, a deadly infection that has the potential for impact to muscles, ligaments, mobility, and more,” according to the GoFundMe campaign.

The medical fundraiser was listed as organized by Van Opstal. However, the author, who was heavily medicated, informed Faithfully Magazine via email Sunday night that it was local friends, a group of neighbors, who were coordinating efforts on her behalf.

“We were never meant to carry our burdens alone,” Van Opstal stated in her email. “We are meant for true solidarity and mutuality where we find the strength to recognize when our love and concern is needed and the honesty to know when we are the needy.”

She and her husband, Karl Ostroski, “have always prioritized reciprocity in community (locally, virtually, globally)” in their nearly two decades of marriage.

Van Opstal went on to state:

“I was pretty delirious from the high fever and the in and out of urgent surgeries, but when I was coherent, Karl would play videos and audio from my family in Argentina and Colombia, from our friends in Panama, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Indonesia. He shared with me about prayers and early support from [organizations] with which I serve, small communities of friends across the country, and my own team at Chasing Justice.

“More importantly, local community matters. Our small group, our family and our upstairs and downstairs flat mates that we consider family were there with prayer and tangible support. These are the people who know the hospital stay and recovery is [long] and are helping to [organize] grocery runs, care for our kids, meals and financial help and emotional support.”

The preacher and activist added that her life “will not be the same after this.”

“It will have altered how we do everything we do and we don’t even know how yet since we just have to wait and see,” she stated.

She closed out the email by recalling what her mother told her when her father was badly burned on the job and her family “didn’t have a lot of options:” Dios está con nosotros (God is with us).

“I think she [meant] God is with us when we stand together,” Van Opstal wrote.

Faithfully Magazine first learned of Van Opstal’s medical emergency when Ostroski shared a link to the GoFundMe campaign on Twitter, or X, Sunday morning. In the caption, he stated: “Friends – sharing an update on @sandravanopstal’s health along with a need.”

It was anticipated that Van Opstal will be hospitalized for a length of time, and faces anywhere from “three to six months of recovery at home with intermittent doctor appointments.”

In light of ongoing financial expenses and anticipated medical bills, the GoFundMe campaign, titled “Planes, Trains, and Medical Bills,” was organized with a goal of $18,000.

Van Opstal, who previously spoke with Faithfully Magazine about her reconciliation work through worship, is the author of the popular book The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, among other titles. As executive director of Chasing Justice, Van Opstal aims to equip and inspire others to pursue a lifestyle of faith and justice.

The Chicago-born, second-generation Latina is also known for emphasizing multiethnic worship. She has led worship at various national global gatherings hosted by the Willow Creek Association, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Lausanne Movement.

Van Opstal and her husband have two children. They serve at Grace and Peace Community, a church in Chicago.

What Is Necrotizing Fasciitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), necrotizing fasciitis is a fast-spreading rare bacterial infection that can turn fatal. Routine treatment involves timely administration of antibiotics and surgery on the affected area.

The flesh-eating disease is rare and typically nontransmissible, according to the CDC. However, it is commonly tied to the same bacteria (group A Streptococcus) that causes strep throat, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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