So many significant world events grab the daily headlines – it’s entirely possible for some newsworthy items to fall between the cracks and be missed completely. Other happenings surface in our feeds but after a five second glance, we scroll down. If we knew the plight of a 60-year-old, single father from Lawrenceville, N.J., our eyes would be riveted on the story. Scrolling would come to an abrupt halt.


Rob Leibowitz’s time was running out. The condition of his kidneys had been in decline for several years. By 2017, they were in serious failure – functioning at just 5%. Yes, he was on a waiting list – but given his condition, he didn’t have seven years to wait.

The working single-father of five was desperate. Leibowitz said: “I wanted 25 more years with my kids. If I can get one person’s attention, that’s one more than I have.” (1) He had no time to waste!

Being a Disney aficionado, he planned a summer trip to Disney World with his five children. He would advertise his desperate plight on the back of his t-shirt.

His daughter designed the shirt, and he spent about $35 to get it printed. The white T-shirt had simple black writing on the front and back: “In Need of Kidney O Positive Call” and it listed a phone number. (2)

“Where else am I going to get more exposure than Disney World with hundreds of thousands of people walking around every day?” Leibowitz said. (3)

Rob Leibowitz and his five children at Disney.

Only One Thing Matters

A person who is desperate throws caution to the wind. Pride and what others may think, are no longer inhibiting factors. This is a critical matter. Self composure, public decorum, style and everything else that usually masks our behaviour, no longer is a factor. “My survival, my salvation, my future is all that matters to me.”

Ever been there physically or spiritually?

At the Disney theme park. Rocio Sandoval noticed the eye-catching and heart-arresting shirt-sign. With permission, she took a picture and posted it on Facebook. “The photo quickly made its way around the internet, amassing thousands of shares in just a few hours.” (4) That week it went viral.

A Stranger Responds with Good News

It caught the attention of a single father of two daughters living in Indiana. Richie Sully called the number on the t-shirt and left a voicemail:

“Hi, my name is Richie. I saw your post and I’m O Positive. I have an extra kidney and you are more than welcome to it.” (5)

Sully took a 16-hour bus ride to New York and he passed all the tests. After years of searching, finally there was a perfect match for Leibowitz.

Excuse this momentary interjection. How long have you been seriously searching – not for physical cures but for the cure of your life?

Back to the story now. “I called my kids, and my kids broke down,” Leibowitz said. “It was such a feeling of relief and happiness.” (6)

Robert Leibowitz just underwent a kidney transplant after he found a donor using a t-shirt.
Credit: Courtesy Max Leibowitz

In January 2018, at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Sully donated his kidney and Leibowitz received the gift. The transplant surgery was successful – apparently totally successful! The two men left the hospital a few days later.

Leibowitz (L) and new-found friend Sully (R) in NYC

Overwhelming Gratitude

The fact that Mr. Leibowitz is lost for words to describe his gratitude is not surprising.

“I keep saying thank you, thank you. You can’t put into words what he did for me. So, I will have to figure out how to do that the best I can for the rest of my life.” (7)

It seems that Leibowitz is quite certain he and Sully will be close friends for life.

Seven Spiritual Insights to Consider

Have you noticed any spiritual applications to be made from this story? Think of the spiritual parallels one could draw from Rob Leibowitz’s desperate need for a physical intervention if ever he was going to be saved and have a future? Consider just a few:

ONE: Despite whatever else Mr. Leibowitz had in life, there was a gnawing reality he could not push aside: physically, his condition was getting worse – not better! Spiritually, people fill their lives with many things and many successes, but the emptiness of life-without-God is spreading. A growing consciousness of sin is taking its toll on their outlook on life. Instead of more peace – they have less peace.

TWO: A growing sense of hopelessness and despair caused Mr. Leibowitz to finally go to extraordinary lengths in his cry for help. Many people are aware they are not perfect, and not guilt-free. Plus, there are a few secret sins that haunt them. But when they realize the serious nature of their sin in God’s sight, their worry intensifies.

It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.  Isaiah 59:2 NLT

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23 ESV

THREE: People become more desperate when they read in the Holy Bible, that no sin can be erased by good works of any sort. The plight becomes bleaker when they understand no person on earth and no religion can forgive sins.

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law (Ten Commandments) simply shows us how sinful we are.  Romans 3:20 NLT

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. Titus 3:5 NIV

Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:9 NLT

FOUR: How could it not be gripping when one understands the ultimate end? Sins and a severed relationship with God, ultimately ends in a dark eternal future – not in Heaven. When the reality of perishing is missing in a person’s story, it is highly probable they have never repented of their sins. Unless there is true repentance – a person is still lost.

Jesus said: “And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.” Luke 13:3 NLT

FIVE: When a person realizes the gravity of their spiritual condition, complacency and composure are up-ended! Maybe they don’t go to Disney wearing a cry for help on their t-shirt – but they have one consuming heart-cry: “I need to be saved. I am perishing in my sins. Oh, God please save me. I can’t get it. I can’t do it. I can’t help it. I can’t fix it. I am lost on my own.  Hear my cry.”

In one story Jesus told he said: “The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” Luke 18:13 NIV

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10:13 ESV

SIX: Will there be a positive response? It won’t be a voicemail but there will be an incredible response from the Lord. To understand the message from God and simply accept it – is salvation! When Rob Leibowitz accepted Richie Sully’s gift of the kidney – in that operating room, he had a new life. Really! The moment a lost sinner accepts Jesus Christ as their own Saviour, they receive eternal life. Their sins are forgiven.  They have a new life and a new eternity.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.  John 3:36 NIV

SEVEN: Gratitude – A real Christian is one who can’t stop thanking Jesus for dying on the cross, bearing that shame and suffering the penalty of their sins. Their lives are changed. Indebtedness and thankfulness mark the rest of their lives. They actually become worshippers of the Lord.

A former Jesus-hater, found out that Christ died for his sins. He later wrote: “The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. In 1Timothy 1:15, the same man, Paul wrote that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and then, he took the place of being the worst sinner and yet Christ died for him.

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  2. ibid
  3. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. ibid