Having cancer often means putting your “normal” life on hold. Needs of cancer patients at any point in their journey, from newly diagnosed to end-stage, can be overwhelming But “normal” life does go on. Family members need to go to work. Kids need dinner. The yard needs cutting. The house needs to be cleaned.
Many people have found support through their local congregations. When a community of faith organizes a response, it is overtly and intentionally an act of their faith. By putting that faith into action to care for the whole person – physically, emotionally, as well as spiritually –congregations have found great meaning.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition, whose mission is to reduce the number of cancer-related deaths and improve cancer care in Georgia, is promoting a faith-based initiative or Cancer Ministry across the state of Georgia. The goal of this non-denominational program is to encourage congregations to develop volunteer programs to help meet the needs of families in a cancer crisis.
While the role of the clergy is critical in providing encouragement, support and guidance, the heart of the program's success is the day-to-day efforts of teams of volunteers who put in hundreds of hours of time.
Volunteers are trained to help families with information and referral in reference to insurance, financial support, legal issues and support groups. They may provide services such as monthly housecleaning, babysitting, cooking and delivering meals, transportation to appointments and more.
For one family, the ministry may help build a back porch for the survivor to enjoy his final days. Another family may be given Christmas gifts for their children. Donations might make possible a trip to Disney World for another survivor family. Most congregations begin by serving their own members; as they progress, non-members in the larger community may also be served.
Every congregation and every community is different in their faith, their culture and their congregation's needs. The Coalition believes that many faith communities throughout the state have the human resources necessary to create a ministry that can help families dealing with cancer to handle the daily necessities of life.
For information on how your congregation can help support cancer survivors, contact Angie Patterson, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, at 404-584-0657.