Janet Rose was in the hair product aisle at Walmart when she started talking with a pharmacy employee.
Rose was looking for a product to help turn her hair silver. The store employee had cancer, and she opened up to Rose about how she wished her own hair had not grown back gray after completing chemotherapy and radiation.
The two started talking about the employee’s children. They were not planning to come see her, to make sure she was OK after her treatments.
“It broke my heart. As a Christian, so many times we say, ‘I will pray for you.’ But for some reason, God said, ‘Do it now,’” Rose said.
Rose asked the woman if she could pray for her. She said yes. And there, in an aisle in Walmart, she did.
“She just walked right into my arms, and I prayed for her,” Rose said. “If you got cancer, you want somebody around that loves you.”
Rose wants to be that person to cancer patients in Brown County.
She and 15 other members of the Heart of Christ Ministries and the Country Gospel Church are trained and ready to minister to patients and their families. They were trained by Heart of Christ Ministries associate pastor Timothy Larrison after he completed the Our Journey of Hope Cancer Care Ministry program in May.
It’s sponsored by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago and is available to all church leaders in the country who wish to build their own cancer care ministry.
Currently, Thriving Hope Cancer Care Ministry visits with three cancer patients, Larrison said.
He decided to complete the training after losing his father-in-law last November to Stage 4 lung cancer.
“I had felt like the Lord wanted me to go to this training just to be able to minister to those that are ailing from cancer and are in their cancer journey,” he said, “just to serve the Lord in that matter.”
When Larrison returned from Chicago and began training people in his congregation, his family was hit again.
In July, his mother-in-law was diagnosed with the same type of cancer that took her husband’s life the year before.
“I often wonder if it was because of my father-in-law or if it was to prepare me for her,” he said about taking the training.
Larrison’s wife is now her mother’s full-time caregiver.
Thriving Hope Cancer Care ministers visit the Larrison home to bring food and visit with his mother-in-law, who is now living with the family full time.
“Now, we’ve gone from her being a minister to cancer patients to being a caregiver in the home,” he said about his wife.
Ministering is not limited to cancer patients. It is for loved ones and caregivers, too.“Whether it be a spouse, daughter or son, the primary caregiver is just as much affected by this as the one that is going through the cancer — maybe not so much physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Being able to go in and sit down with them maybe on a separate occasion and say, ‘Hey, how are things going? What are your biggest concerns? What are your biggest worries?’” Larrison said.The biggest reason for creating this ministry is to give cancer patients a cheerleader, Larrison said.
“Three things that we firmly believe in are: God provides the healing, the doctors provide the treatment, and we simply are there to provide hope, love and encouragement.”
Heart of Christ Ministries Pastor Lawrence Duncan supported creating the ministry so they could walk alongside patients during their cancer journey.
Members from other churches may come to pray over a patient, but then they leave and are gone, he said.
“People are scared and don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do,” he said. “It’s a ministry where you walk alongside people and show them love and care and be there for them.”
Or, “just share the love,” as Larrison says.
“It’s not to go in and take a Bible and beat anybody over the head with it. It’s just to go in and share the love of Jesus with people,” Larrison said.
Ministering could include running errands for patients, doing housework or just being there to listen. Visits will vary based on the person and the needs, Larrison said.
“Primarily with this ministry it’s just to be an earpiece and sit there and listen to them. If they ask for advice, say, ‘What do you think you should do? What do you think you would like to do?’ Again, it’s just being a companion and sharing love,” Larrison said.
“You’re going to see things that you would never expect to see. The main thing is you never want to look surprised or shocked by what you see because you don’t want them to feel bad by your reaction,” he said.
“Unfortunately with cancer, it robs people of their dignity,” he said.
Todd Barkes was one of the 16 trained to minister.
At first, he was unsure about participating, but he changed his mind after hearing two statistics: One out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
“As far as the need, it’s not just the patient but also the family members and caregivers. That was something that opened my eyes up, too,” he said.
Barkes believes it is most important to stay positive.
“The name of the ministry is Thriving Hope, so that is the most important thing to give them,” he said. “With God, all things are possible, so there’s always hope.”
Barkes lost his father to cancer, and plans to draw on that experience.
He plans to begin each visit with a prayer. Then, the rest of the visit will be determined by the patient.
“Each individual is going to be different, so it’s probably just a matter of listening starting out. That could be all somebody needs, just to get things off their chest,” he said.
Rose lost her aunt, a close family friend and the mother of her first husband to cancer. She knows that sometimes, family members get overwhelmed.
“They’re very uncomfortable around it, and they don’t want to see somebody they love in pain,” she said. “Instead of being there for that person, they don’t come around much.
“But you need to get away from yourself and stop thinking about yourself and (start) thinking about the person who has that cancer and how much they need you.”
If you or someone you know is battling cancer and would like to receive a visit from Heart of Christ Ministries’ Thriving Hope Cancer Care Ministry, email associate pastor Timothy Larrison at email@example.com or call the church at 812-371-0247 for more information.
Larrison will sit down with all who wish to receive visits to get to know them and make a compatible match with one of the 16 ministers.