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Georgia congregation reaches out to cancer patients

 


 

 

July 7, 2004                                             

 

By Amy Green*

Sara Bazemore spends up to 20 hours a week at a job she receives no payment for.

 

Bazemore is co-director of Cannon United Methodist Church’s 200-member cancer ministry, an elaborate and well-coordinated endeavor at this Snellville, Ga., congregation that nurtures cancer patients in nearly every way possible, from cutting their lawns and cooking their meals to lending emotional and spiritual support in the face of devastating illness.

 

For participants who have encountered cancer among their own families and friends, the ministry is one way to say thanks for the support they got, Bazemore says.

 

“I felt God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, ‘You know, Sara, you need to take a real active role in this ministry,’” says Bazemore, who lost both parents to cancer. “Because I have been in this situation personally, I can help people. I know what they’re going through.”

 

The 3,100-member congregation launched the ministry about five years ago at the urging of a member whose friend had breast cancer. The member sparked widespread interest by asking during one Sunday service that all those stand who knew of a family member, friend or someone else battling the disease. By the end of his speech, nearly everyone in attendance was standing, Bazemore says.

 

The ministry’s volunteers are organized into several groups. When a call for help is received from a cancer patient, one group assesses how the patient can be helped and then the ministry organizes a response.

 

Other groups are responsible for yard work, house cleaning, cooking and transportation. One group stands by ready to pray in an emergency. Members of these groups work together to ensure all the needs of the patient and family are met. They get the patient to doctor’s appointments and pick up medicines. They also help patients seek financial support from philanthropic organizations if they need it.

 

“If (the patients) go into remission we follow them into remission, and if they pass away we follow the family through the grief,” Bazemore says. “It’s just helping them keep up with the basic needs ... because many times when families are in this type of situation, all they can do is get their loved one to the doctor and get them home and take care of them. We try to take away their other worries.”

 

Bazemore estimates the ministry has cared for 1,000 cancer patients since it began. Among them is Martha Cobb, 49, who suffers from breast cancer. She was declared cancer-free after a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy, but her cancer returned. Now she is undergoing a third round of chemotherapy. Her mother and sister died of cancer last year.

 

The ministry cooks and cleans for Cobb, among other things.

 

 

 

The ministry reaches out to cancer patients — both church members and nonmembers — who live in the area. Nonmembers who live outside the area are referred to their own local churches for help. Many nonmembers hear about the ministry through their doctors.

 

“The most incredible thing is it’s not driven by staff,” says the Rev. Amy Morgan, an associate pastor at the church who oversees the ministry. “It’s laypeople, and they just do an incredible job with it.”

 

Bazemore runs the ministry with fellow church member Cindy South. Eventually they plan to help other churches launch similar efforts and network with those churches to care for a broader number of cancer patients. Bazemore, a registered nurse who lost each of her parents to lung cancer, says the job keeps her busy, but her compensation is worth more than money.

 

“When I combine my nursing experience with my personal experience, I think God has put me in this position,” she says. “But also it’s a way to honor the memory of my parents.”

 

*Amy Green is a freelance journalist based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

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