GOD's Confirmation

Biblical View of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Biblical View of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This was the first time when I read a book and Bible stories popping up and relate to the situations and the characters in the book. It was not because of my knowledge of Bible or any kind of talent. It was all HIM. Throughout the process, GOD gave me 2 confirmations. One will be shared later.

Purpose of this Article and Review

The purpose of this long article is to serve all readers out there about this book of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks looking at it from Biblical perspectives and bring them back from the darkness to the light, especially for young readers.

My Perspective of the Book

Why did I pick up to read this book? Long story short, it's because of my teenage son.

I must say that there are several chapters made me cringe. Some contents bothered me so much that it made me very concerned and worried for at least a couple weeks.

After reading those chapters, I have been asking this question, “What can I do to bring my son and the other children in the same class back to the light?”

While I was still reading this book, a parent in our support group requested a prayer time. During that short period of group prayer, GOD illuminated me what Bible stories I can refer to for those chapters and prepared me to discuss them with my kid.

However, those chapters I highlighted and prepared for discussion with him were skipped. School teacher only provided a 50-word-or-so paragraph to summarize each of those chapters. I didn’t have many opportunities to discuss them with him in details. But GOD had already showed these to me. HE most likely wants to me to put them up because, in the end, it is all for HIS glory. All things were made for good.

Please note that I am not a Bible scholar. For any Christian, I am sure you may find better stories and Bible verses. I don’t want to come out as a self-righteous person either. I am by no means perfect and do many things wrong in my daily life. My hope is that if we, as parents, can bring this up to our young readers and discuss some of the chapters mentioned below, we arm our children with the knowledge of Scripture, the right way to live our lives. This will help them how to handle life and always remember to walk the path of the LORD, not the world.

Proverbs 22:6: "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."

About The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Chapter 1-14

These few chapters basically gave you all the details about who was Henrietta Lacks and how the cells collected and cultured.

The rest of the book will give you the insights of how Henrietta landed into the situation that a doctor could get her cells and start culturing them and what happened after that. Also, it gave you a closer look of how all these events affected Henrietta’s family after her passing.

There were several things in those few chapters didn’t make me comfortable, such as doctors took it for granted to get the cells out of the patients to culture, Henrietta suffering the excruciating pain before passing away. Those were just a couple examples I called out.

I thought it was bad enough. Not until it reached to chapter 15, it made me cringe.

Chapter 15 “Too Young to Remember” 1951-1965

Deborah, one of Henrietta’s children, was molested as a kid by her uncle, Galen, who was Henrietta’s cousin. In this chapter, there was details of how Ethel, Galen’s wife brutally abused Henrietta’s children after her passing. Then, Galen molested Deborah (aka Dale) and showered her with gifts as a means to manipulate her in order to keep her as his victim.

There were incidents that she was molested in the presence of his father. When I reached that part of the chapter, I wondered how could a father not know what was going on. Galen even beat Dale bloody in front of him. In my opinion, her father, Day, was ignorant.

The content of this chapter had been bothering me for a couple weeks. It shook me to the core why kids need to read content like this. I even discussed this with my husband. Molestation is something hit home. One of our family members suffered this abuse during childhood. During our group prayer time, GOD illuminated to me 2 Samuel 13 in the Bible.

(Side note: When my son's school covered this chapter, the class skipped it by reading the short paragraphy of summary.)

A brief summary of this Bible story. One of King David’s son, Absalom has a beautiful sister. Her name was Tamar. Her half brother, Amnon, desired her. Under the encouragement of his friend, Jonadab (also Amnon’s cousin), he drummed up an idea to get to his half sister.

After violating her, he kicked her out and she was so ashamed. King David learned about the whole event. He did nothing, but just being angry.

Tamar stayed with his brother, Absalom. Then, he planned out a revenge to murder Amnon 2 years later.

(If you continue to read on the next 2 chapters in the Bible, you will realize the non-action of King David led him to suffer a very terrible consequence.)

So, how does this Bible story relate to this chapter? There are some similarities among these characters along with their actions.

Deborah (aka Dale) = Tamar, the victim

Galen who violated Deborah = Amnon, the predator

Ethel (Galen’s wife) = Jonadab, the instigator

Day (Deborah’s father) = King David, the ignorant father

Bobbette (Deborah’s sister-in-law) = Absalom, the protector of the victim (The biggest difference between these 2 characters was that Bobbette didn’t use any violence to solve the problems.)

Chapter 17 Illegal, Immoral, and Deplorable 1954-1966

This chapter dived into several true stories about scientists or doctors injecting cancer cells into healthy human beings without giving any knowledge or getting any consent from the patients or volunteers for doing the research.

If you think it further, these scientists and researchers did things in the name for science and medicine development. But in a way, in my opinion, they thought they were gods.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all doctors and scientists acted illegally and immorally. My families and I were very blessed to have great doctors and other professionals in our lives. Unfortunately, there is always some bad blood in all walks of life. Some may not do anything to commit crime, but immoral behaviors, in the name of something to cover up. Just think about a children story, the Little Red Riding Hood. There is no more difference from what we told our children in that story.

In fact, actions like mentioned above can only be done by GOD.

In Exodus 9:8-35, Moses asked Pharaoh to let go of the Israelites. But he refused to do so. GOD descended Egypt with several plagues, such as water turned to blood, “boils breaking out in sores on man and beast”. Then, the final plague was all the “firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die”. Pharaoh’s firstborn was no exception.

In Job 2:7, Satan challenged GOD. So, GOD allowed him to test Job’s faith. After taking Job’s wealth and all of his children away, Satan also “struck him (Job) with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Chapter 18 “Strangest Hybrid” 1960-1967

“Man-animal cells” are bred in lab which referred to mouse and human being cells together. Another chapter made me shake to the core.

In my opinion, this is another chapter further explained and showed what the scientists and researchers did as in previous chapter.

In Genesis 1, GOD created the heavens and earth, light, water, sun and moon, land and sea, plants, sky and sea creatures, land animals, man and woman in 6 days. The "man-animal cells" were the violation of GOD's creation.

Chapter 19 “The Most Critical Time On This Earth Is Now” 1966-1973

Deborah was pregnant, not by her predator, but by a boy who eventually became her husband. Bobbette, her sister-in-law, made Deborah continue her schooling during the pregnancy. She also helped Deborah to take care of the child while she was at school. She was abused by her husband. She tried to kill her husband to end it. But she failed. She was going to give it one more try and even called Bobbette to share her plan of killing her husband. Thankfully, Bobbette talked Deborah out of it and asked her to pack up and move away from her husband and bring her children along.

On the other hand, Joe, Deborah’s younger brother, was drunk all the time and got into trouble. He ended up committing murder and in jail.

In 2 Samuel 12, King David committed adultery. Nathan the prophet went to tell him a story to make him to understand that the king did wrong. Thankfully, the king listened and repented.

Deborah = King David

Bobbette = Nathan

Not only both characters did something wrong, but also they listened to the person telling the truth and follow through. How often do we do that? We always treat those people who are truthful to us as enemies. But, in reality, those who are honest to us want us to live a better life.

In this chapter of the book, it said, "When Deborah and Cheetah (Deborah's first husband) first met, he threw a bowling ball at her on the sidewalk in front of her house. She thought he was playing, but things only got worse after they married." My husband and I came from abusive families. Thankfully, we stopped this cycle. But I want to make sure that our children know this. What it showed here is that the violator always tries something and see if he/she can go one step further. That was exactly how Deborah's husband found out if he could continue with his domestic violence. We saw on the news every day that some domestic violence led to other more serious crime. There is no gender or age limitation, men or women, old or young. Make sure to discuss this with your children to watch out. If their future significant other or spouse acts like this, leave immediately. Cut off all ties.

Chapter 20 The HeLa Bomb 1966

Consequences of using HeLa cells. Everything was contaminated by those cells. All research time and money were wasted.

In chapter 15, we referred to the Bible story 2 Samuel 13. There are consequences when we did something wrong. It may not come to pass immediately. But when it happens, someone would pay the ultimate price.

Chapter 26 Breach of Privacy 1980-1985

Deborah left her son, Alfred, alone in jail after bailing him out several times. He didn’t let him to go back home anymore because of his drug addiction.

In 2 Kings 25, After sending prophets to ask the people to repent, the Isralites didn’t listen. GOD punished Israel and Judah by sending the Babylonian over to kill some of the officials and capture the royalty of Judah.

In this case, Deborah tried her best to give her son opportunities to turn his new leaf. But he continued to get into trouble with the laws. She decided to let him to suffer the consequences so that he would learn his lessons. Isn’t it how we parents do with our own kids? At the time, our children may think that their mom and dad are mean. But having them disciplined will help them to grow up. (Side note: There is a Chinese saying, "A lenient mom raises children of failure.")

Proverbs 29:17: "Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire."

Doctors released Henrietta Lacks medical records and published books. Some content was very disturbing that her children couldn’t stomach it.

After reading this chapter, I felt these doctors were like thieves and robbers. Referring back to chapter 17 of this book, there are always bad guys and good guys in all walk of life.

As a parent, I never want my kid to act like one of these doctors.

1 Timothy 6:10, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Chapter 27 The Secret of Immortality 1984-1995

This chapter begins with the discovery of HPV virus. This was also the virus I got and almost had to go through the hysterectomy. But the LORD healed me. If you are interested, here is my witness.

The evolutionary scientist proposed that HeLa cells changed through cell division time after time. As a result, they were no longer human cells, but a separate species. We learned from this chapter that normal cells can only split (or reproduce) 50 times. They acted like human being by aging. Abnormal cells have the potential of producing indefinitely. In the end, another scientist proved that HeLa cells are still human cells. They didn't evolve.

Did that remind you the theory of evolution? Some sceientists still challenge the creation theology today. But refer to Genesis 1 again how GOD created the world in 6 days.

Chapter 28 After London 1996-1999

A con artist came to the Lacks family and claimed he was a lawyer and dug into Henrietta Lacks' medical records. But then his identity was exposed. He took the advantages of the loophole of the law system to sue people for money. The Hopkins hospital helped the Lackses. But Deborah eventually suffered from a lot of anxiety throughout these law suits.

All the anxieties Deborah suffered throughout her life due to her mother's cells. Wait till you see chapter 35 of the book.

Chapter 33 The Hospital for the Negro Insane 2001

Around the period when Deborah's older sister staying in the institute, doctors did research on pneumoencephalography by drilling the skulls of the patients and did x-ray. It would take 2-3 months of recovery. This procedure could cause brain damage or paralysis. Then, the book covers “The Use of Deep Temporal Leads in the Study of Psychomotor Epilepsy,” which involved inserting metal probes into patients’ brains. Obviously, there was no consent from the patients due to their situation.

These doctors' and researchers' behaviors made me think of thieves0 The Bible says, John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Chapter 35 Soul Cleansing 2001

In my opinion, chapter 35 and 36 is the climax of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Deborah stopped in to see her aunt, Glady. Her cousin, Gary, got there and visited with her and the author. Deborah has been breaking out hives because of thinking about all the bad things his mother and sister could have gone through. Gary knew a lot about Deborah. He kept calling out the Scripture to calm her. And it worked. By the end of this chapter, Deborah felt more relief. Gary reminded me our LORD, Jesus Christ here in these 2 chapters.

Also, the author witnessed the very powerful encounter of the LORD's healing power.

What resonated to me was, "I REALIZE God that TONIGHT there's just some things doctors CANNOT DO!" Amen and amen to that. That was exactly what the LORD did to me. HE performed something that doctors cannot do.

Here are several Bible verses Gary called out.

"Man brought nothing into this world and he'll carry nothing out." 1 Timothy 6:7
"...if we honor our father and mother, we can live long upon the earth..." Ephesians 6:2-3
"...if our father and our mother fall sick, the Lord take care of you..." Psalm 27:10
"...He can carry all that burden." Psalm 55:22

Chapter 36 Heavenly Bodies 2001

Gary gifted the author his Bible and asked her to read it out loud of several chapters. In this chapter, it was obvious that the author is not a Christian. But she understood the perspectives of Henrietta’s family. Here are the verses that Gary turned to page after page of that Bible and asked the author read it out loud:

“Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die.” John 11:26

“Someone will ask, ‘How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?’ You fool! When you plant a seed in the ground, it does not sprout to life unless it dies. And what you plant is a bare seed … not the full-bodied plant that will later grow up. God provides that seed with the body he wishes; he gives each seed its own proper body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38

“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, the beauty that belongs to heavenly bodies is different from the beauty that belongs to earthly bodies.” 1 Corinthians 15:40

“This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. There is, of course, a physical body, so there has to be a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:44

Chapter 38 The Long Road to Clover 2009

Deborah died of heart attack in her sleep. The author had been trying to reach out to Deborah and left her tons of voice mails. Until the day she realized that Deborah's answering machine was full, she reached out to her brother and found out Deborah's passing.

Afterword (One of the Last Chapters of The Immortality of Henrietta Lacks)

This chapter most likely would be skipped by young readers. The author gave the update of what is happening after all these years since scientists started culturing HeLa cell.

There are still controversies whether scientists and researchers can use cells coming from patient when they were excised. Some were fetal cells through which scientists can trace whose babies they are. American alone stores millions of cell cultures. Is that right? Is it the scientists researchers using these cell cultures in the name of science?

If I were the teacher, I most likely will have the class debate this subject. It is a way to make the kids think.

My Lesson Learned from this Book

Before our group prayer, I was still reading the second half of the book. Without seeing the last 2-3 chapters, I was very bothered of what I read so far. Not until the group of parents prayed together and GOD illuminated me, in the middle of that prayer time, the stories that I could use to relate some chapters mentioned above, I felt a bit better. Being a weak prayer warrior, the power of prayer did wonder that we cannot deny it.

From the evening of our group prayers with a couple families to the next day of our pastor's sermon, I had been talking with myself back and forth in my head, "What does 'immortality' mean? Is there anyone in history immortal? Yes, Jesus Christ is the only one." The word "immortality" flashed in my mind during that less-than-24-hour period so many times. In my heart, all I knew was that I needed to point out the only person in history immortal is Jesus Christ. "What else?" I asked myself.

We went to church the next day as usual. Our pastor was preaching that there is no tomorrow. We may plan out a lot of things what to do in the future, like tomorrow, next week, next month or several years down the road. But no one knows if there is a tomorrow. So, we need to do it now. It was based on this verse, James 4:14 - whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

In the middle of the sermon, he called out the word, "immortality". At 53:26 in the sermon, our pastor mentioned that "...a scientist, Ray Kurzweil, figured that in 2030 science will perfect or discover immortality." It took me a minute to realize that GOD just gave me the confirmation. Click on the link if you are interested to listen to this sermon.

I brought this up to discuss with my husband after church, since his knowledge of Bible is more advanced than mine. He pointed out that it was GOD's confirmation. And I had a follow up question, "So, what did GOD try to confirm?" My husband asked me to follow the message of the sermon and do it now and pray on it.

At the time of publishing it, I was rushing to get it out so that kids of my son's class would have an opportunity to learn these lessons.  I don't know if it's evangelism or something else.  All I know is that it is the work of GOD.  I, alone, could never put this together with my limited understanding of the Bible.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Great Read

Here are some great books that I highly recommend.  Find the truth and comfort from the LORD Our GOD.

The Action Bible (Comic Book) - If you have never read an entire Bible, this one is a great start.  My son bought one and, next, I picked it up and read it, too.  Don't worry about the age range listed here.  Everybody is a child at heart.

The Kingstone Bible Trilogy (3 Volumes Comic Book Series) - This is the second set of Bible comic book series that I read along with my son before moving on to actually read the one in words.  In a way, this is like an expansion of the one above to give it more details.

He Healed Them All: Accessing God's Grace for Divine Health and Healing - I stumbled upon this book after one of the tests showing GOD healed me.  But surrounding with friends and families who are still suffering from serious illness, it made me want to understand more why it happened to them.

NIV, Chronological Study Bible: Holy Bible, New International Version - Born and raised in a Catholic family and went to Catholic schools throughout my whole life, I must admit that I had never gone through an entire Bible as much as this study Bible.  The great thing about this version is that it shows some of the other historical facts and customs at the time to help you to understand more why the Word of GOD is in this way.  It is a long read.  But my strategy is 5-10 minutes at a time each day.  Of course, you can expand the duration longer each time.  The only thing I want to warn you though is that there are some pages that they made the Bible sounds like the content was copied from other authors at the time.  I believe that it is the other way round.  The other authors and their books copied from the Bible.

Jesus Calling, Large Text Brown Leathersoft, with full Scriptures: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (a 365-day Devotional) - I got this book on my son's 14th birthday.  Little did I know that we need these words for us a few days after.  My son lost his 4-year-old dog 5 days later suddenly.  He had a hard time to deal with the loss and grief of his first pet.  We all relied on these words to pick ourselves up little by little.  There are many versions and sizes of this same book out there.  I particularly love this one because it lists out all the scriptures which prevents me from looking them up from a separate Bible.  The feel of the leather gives me a peace of calm.

Overcoming Life's Challenges: Lessons from the Life of Joseph - Have you ever heard of or watched a Broadway show called "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"?  That's the story about the same Joseph in the Bible.  The musical most likely is a bit dramatic.  But in reality, Joseph endured over 20 years of suffering and failures by being sold by his brothers and became slave in Egypt.  Then, he was imprisoned for a "crime" that he had never committed.  Sometimes, life throws us monkey wrenches over and over and we want to give up.  This book dives into the details of the attitudes and faith that Joseph held on to all these years and came out on top.

Verse By Verse Ministry Podcast - You can download the podcasts to listen to every episode.  You can also download the notes to read.  Both contain the same content.  Different people have different ways of learning.  So, take the advantage of it.  I have been listening to Pastor Stephen Armstrong podcasts and sermons since Sep 2022.  He passed away in Jan 2021 and left behind a huge library of Bible studies and sermons.  As a Christian, I found that I learned a lot of things new in each episode and Bible knowledge that I don't learn from my own church.  Everything here is FREE for the public.  If you can, make a donation to support them.  Highly, highly recommended.

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