No One Battles Cancer Alone: Christ Church Sugarland UMC

Date Posted: 12/14/2017

By: April Canik

Seeing the names of three young mothers on the ever-growing cancer prayer list was a stark wake-up call for Rev. Michelle Hall, pastor of Congregational Care, Christ Church UMC Sugarland. It was a reminder of the rampant nature of the disease and the urgent need for the church to provide a caring support system for both patients and caregivers. “If not the church, then who will care for these impacted families?” asks Hall. Leaders, cancer survivors and experts from the CanCare organization have provided guidance on how to revive this former ministry to serve in a supportive role during this daunting experience.
 
Christ Church chose the holiday season to relaunch this ministry in partnership with the Stephen’s Ministry. “Cancer impacted my mom and my dad,” shares Hall, “and because I walked through that with them and also minister weekly in area hospitals, I know this disease has no boundaries.” Church members appreciate this personalized ministry of compassion, particularly at this time of year. “We consider it a privilege to walk alongside others in their journey, and intercede in prayer,” adds Hall. Christ Church provides materials and the book, Cancer-Now What, to leaders and participants.
 
Member Wayne Gray has been one of the inspirations for reviving this support ministry. Seven years ago, Gray was given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and two months to live. He decided not to give in to the disease. Instead, he proclaimed that God was on his side and forged ahead in faith. “I’ve been life-flighted, survived a coma, 25 rounds of radiation and a rare form of maggot therapy,” said Gray “I knew the EMS staff on a first name basis, but I’m here to tell you I’m a special God-miracle, and he healed me for a reason.”
 
As a survivor, Gray is quick to give his powerful testimony to anyone needing encouragement. As a trained CanCare volunteer mentoring a growing list of cancer patients, Gray is excited to help his church inspire prayer warriors and wrap arms around others as they face their fears.
 
Key Steps in Launching a Cancer Ministry
“It is important to know that the size of the church does not matter when it comes to supporting one another in this critical way,” notes Hall. Leaders can begin by identifying survivors and volunteers to facilitate, pray and support patients and caregivers. Then, they can identify experts and local resource organizations.
 
CanCare staff and volunteers help congregations start cancer support groups and facilitate specialized training on the delicate matters involving cancer support. For groups in the Houston area, CanCare representatives can attend meetings and connect participants with resources and volunteers. Churches interested in starting a group can access training on the following dates in 2018-
 
• Feb. 16-18
• April 20-22
• July 20-22
• Oct. 19-21
 
Getting the Word Out
When publicizing the ministry, Hall recommends starting with one-on-one conversations with patients and caregivers in the congregation. Christ Church leaders then promoted their support group in the newsletter and social media forums, in worship, on the website and via word of mouth to friends and neighbors.
 
“We know this will be a work in progress and that we will learn by trial and error,” shares Hall. “Not everyone will be eager to look at their present reality and be vulnerable in a group setting.” Christ Church encourages a covenant of confidentiality and respect, and a time of sharing for caregivers to talk candidly among themselves.
 
Gray can’t wait to encourage others with his incredible testimony of faith and healing that began with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. He says, “Our church needs this group and our community needs it.”
 
Training information is available from Yolanda Lopez at yolandal@cancare.org or by calling 713.364.1671.