A feel good story:
For years, Greg Thomas would sit on those very steps and pray when he walked his dogs along the country lanes in rural Minnesota. But in May 2009, he learned that the searing headaches, earaches, and jaw aches that had plagued him for the past year were due to inoperable head and neck cancer. It had progressed so far that the doctors told Greg’s family to start planning his funeral.
“I was sitting at the church one evening, pouring my heart out to God,” Greg says. “I kept looking at the building and the shape it was in. I said, “Before I leave this earth, Lord, I’d like to do something for you.”
Greg decided that that something was to fix the peeling paint and the leaking roof, the mangled steps and the rotting floorboards. He approached the church’s association with a deal. He would completely repair the building on one condition: “That I get a key to the front door so I can go in any time to worship.” He warned that it would be slow going–he had just gone through three rounds of chemotherapy along with 40 sessions of radiation and had lost 66 pounds. They said yes, anyway.
Incredibly, as Greg scraped paint and replaced boards, he felt himself growing stronger every day. The more he worked on the church, the better he felt–he didn’t even need the strong prescription pain med’s his doctor had prescribed. “My oncologist was blown away,” Greg says.
“She said, “What ever you’re doing, keep on doing it.”
As Greg continued to rehabilitate the church, medical scans revealed some startling news. His tumors were shrinking. Four years and 23 days after Greg’s diagnosis, his doctors were able to remove his feeding tube–the one they’s said he would have for the rest of his life–and he ate solid food again. Today, Greg’s tumors are gone. He is considered officially in remission and no longer needs follow up tests.
And the church? After five years of Greg’s labor of love, it has been restored to its former glory too. Greg finished his main project this past summer, but he will probably always be involved in maintaining its beauty (he still wants to replace some windows for example). Greg held his third annual open house there near Christmas, inviting the entire community.
“While I was restoring the church,” Greg says, “God was restoring me.”
by Gretchen Voss
Readers Digest/ April 2015 (pg. 98-99)