Today is my birthday. For most of my life, this has been a day where I think about myself! More recently, however, the Lord has shown me my need to serve others.
This same day last year I received news that cancer had reappeared in a lymph node in my media sternum. I can remember that moment as if it were yesterday. I sat weeping in the parking lot of my daughter’s regional swim meet with my oldest son, Michael, by my side. I despaired over the fact that this disease had returned. Later, as I sat poolside, the heavy humid air in the natatorium felt oppressive, not unlike the fear and darkness that closed around my spirit.
That year, I didn’t want any birthday gifts. All I wanted for my birthday was to live!
In every city around the world, people battling disease, famine, and war want little more than the precious gift of life—God’s first and greatest gift to us. Now, one year later—on this birthday—I praise God for another year of life. I also find myself grateful that He allowed cancer to become a part of my spiritual growth. The ordeal of cancer has expanded my heart to see the needs of others, which allows me think more of others than myself! The eyes of my wicked heart are slowly being opened to just how selfish I am.
In 2012, this unwanted battle for my life took me to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for six weeks. As I stood at the battlefront of my personal war against cancer, I saw for the first time my new mission field. Throughout my ordeal, the Lord had been revealing just how much He loves me. In Houston, however, I was surrounded by people who felt lost and alone because they didn’t know Jesus. Nearly two decades earlier, God placed on my heart a calling to serve orphans, widows, and the poor. In Houston, He added the sick. My heart breaks especially for those battling cancer and I feel overwhelming compassion for their families. What is more, my gratitude overflows for the medical staff serving them.
Throughout our six week stay in the cancer ward—a war zone many people choose to ignore—we began the ministry of Chemo Church. The need for this ministry became evident when I began visiting fellow patients and praying with them. My nurses, who became my ministry partners, commented, “We have never had anyone, even a minister, get up while doing chemo and minister to other patients and staff.” This shocked and saddened me! The Light shines brightest in the darkness. How could so many Christians come into a place of such hopelessness, seek their own healing, and leave these precious souls in darkness?
I should not have been surprised; the answer can be found in an undeniable spiritual principle. We replicate what dominates our hearts. If our hearts are consumed with a desire to live and to be blessed, that will be replicated in our words and deeds. It is a self-centeredness that is all too common in the church today, but Jesus has called us to something much greater. He gives us life so that we might sacrifice it daily for the sake of service to Him (Rom. 12:1–2).
Trust me when I say that this is a message of conviction for me as well.
Hospitals—especially cancer wards—are often places of hopelessness and despair, but they can also become places where the lost find life in Jesus Christ. To answer the call of Christ, we are officially launching the ministry of Chemo Church to bring help, hope, and healing to those battling cancer, to their families, and to the medical staff serving these patients.
While we have much to do, we have a strong start. Mary Anderwald, my assistant for many years, has accepted the challenge to take charge of the Chemo Church prayer ministry. Christian counselors will be available to help families and patients walk through these distressing times. And we are taking Bags of Hope into chemo wards across the country. These festive bags are filled with devotionals, gift cards, and a blanket. It’s a simple gesture that offers encouragement and conveys the message that they are loved by Jesus Christ.
I am convinced that the reason I am breathing today—having endured brain surgery, proton treatment, chemotherapy, cyber knife radiation, and gamma knife radiation—is for one purpose . . . to tell others about Jesus, who is mighty to save and to heal! My birthday wish this year is not merely to live, but to mobilize an army of hope, help, and healing. To minister to those struggling for life in chemo wards across the country. The harvest is ready for you, all you need to do is say “yes” to God’s call for your life.
If you would like to know how you can bring the ministry of Chemo Church to a hospital near you, click the link below and complete the contact form. We will respond by sending you helpful information.
(Chemo Church is a new ministry of H.I.S. BridgeBuilders.)