Let Others Do Unto You
by Amy Nemecek
Okay, I admit it…I have a hard time asking others for help. But what happens when circumstances make it hard to minister?
That’s where I found myself in the summer of 2004 when, at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The next year of my life was spent having surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and dealing with all the side effects those things cause. My husband and I had no choice but to ask God’s people for help as we struggled to care for our three-year-old son, Ben, pay the bills, and maintain our home. It may sound strange, but it was some of the most effective ministry we’ve ever done. In letting others serve us during those difficult days, we witnessed the body of Christ working the way He intends. My journal is chock-full of praise to God for the goodness of His people. The snippets I include here will give you an inkling of what I mean.
April 16, 2004
I went in for my annual exam today…What made me call for an appointment was the discovery of a “lump” in my right breast. The doctor confirmed that there is a definite thickening of the tissue there…just some fibrous tissue, perhaps. I hope she’s right and that it’s not the start of something bad. Seems like we wouldn’t be able to deal with that right now, especially not with what’s going on in our church, etc. We do feel the enemy setting his targets on us, Abba, so please, defend, protect, and shelter us under Your wings.
* * *
In the intervening time, I found out I was pregnant. Our joy was short-lived, however, when I miscarried at six weeks. Needless to say, the lump didn’t lessen.
May 28, 2004
Went to the doctor yesterday for a follow-up check…the lump in my right breast has not gone away, and is larger than when she examined me in April. So I’ll likely be going in next week for an ultrasound.
June 9, 2004
Yesterday was one of those days that define a chapter in my life. I had an ultrasound on my right breast that had abnormal results, so they moved me down the hall for a mammogram. I guess I just figured everything would be okay, but the radiologist saw a “suspicious solid mass” and recommended further testing. So, Monday I’m scheduled to have a needle biopsy to determine what this is—benign or malignant.
* * *
The mass turned out to be malignant, and I was scheduled for surgery to remove the breast and lymph nodes.
July 9, 2004
Lord, this morning my thoughts and prayers are with Julie, my dear sister in Christ, as she undergoes breast surgery even as I face the same three days from now. That You have appointed us to walk this journey together, Lord, is a grace-filled mystery. It’s so amazing how You provided someone to travel alongside this sometimes gloomy, despairing Christian.
July 21, 2004
[Cancer] is constantly on my mind, and too often in my conversation. So I’m glad for opportunities to talk with friends like Julie and Lynne, who turn my conversation toward You and remind me of Your goodness, Your holiness, Your mercy.
August 27, 2004
How grateful I am today for my friend Renee. Tonight she came with my prosthesis…and when I put it on, I felt normal, balanced again…it makes a huge difference for me, Abba. Call me vain, but I can wear my favorite dress again. I can go out somewhere and not feel like I have to shield that side of my body.
September 11, 2004
Lynne and Kerry are here spending the weekend with me while Sean is away at a men’s retreat, Abba. Thank you for pouring out Your lavish love on me in this way…it’s as if Christ Jesus, Himself, were living here under this roof for a few days. What a privilege and honor that they would come all this way to encourage me, especially as crummy as I’ve felt this week.
Let me not forget this day, Father. May it forever be etched on my heart’s memory. And one day may I be able to serve someone in this way. You are teaching me so much about how You designed and intend Your Body to function; about how You still speak to us, to me, each day, not only in Your Word, but also through Your people. And to think—I get to spend forever with You, and with these people You have called out and set apart for the glory of Your Son, Jesus.
October 3, 2004
There You are, Abba. Once again showing me how perfectly and abundantly You care for me and my family. I received a parcel yesterday. No return address. Upon opening it, I found a beautiful card with an anonymous note: “I am blessed to be able to give—be blessed in receiving.” With the card was a stack of twenty gift cards for a store…each one for $50. Lord, we needed $100 to get groceries for the next week, and you sent ten times what we needed!
Overwhelmed—that’s how I felt. I walked into the silent woods and cried… and just listened to You, Father. You came, and here is what You said:
Amy, you are my daughter. I love you. I am your Good Shepherd, and because of that you will never be in want. You will never lack anything. Your heart is a beautiful, good thing to me, child. Look back on this day and remember my faithful goodness. Set it as a memorial in your heart…
My response, after more tears, is simply, Thank you, Father. I love You, too.
October 14, 2004
Great is your faithfulness, O God. I met Sara for lunch today, and she contacted our high school classmates and extended friends to put together a gift for my family. Lord, You moved in their hearts to bless us with a beautiful gift basket, some gift cards, and money to help cover medical bills…
Thank you for the kindness and love of these friends, Abba, our Great Provider. Your goodness poured out to me through them is indescribable. I can never repay this, but I will say it has changed my life. Bless those who have blessed me, Lord.
October 16, 2004
More cards today—[two] from people I’ve never met. They work with my mother-in-law. One contained a check for $300—the exact amount we needed to put new tires on our car for the coming winter. The other card was a gift of healing prayers being said on my behalf by a Catholic friend. I like to think, Father, that the unity of your people across denominational lines to support and encourage me and my family pleases You. I pray it does…that something in all of this mess pleases you.
November 7, 2004
It’s good to be here at the retreat [for pastors’ and church planters’ wives]. These women have become some of my closest friends over this last year or two, and I cherish our time together.
November 19, 2004
Had an email the other day from Alice that meant so much to me. She called me her “valiant warrior.” I wrote back that most days I don’t feel very valiant, but it’s a phrase that has stuck in my head, and I am pondering what it means and whether I am, indeed, a valiant warrior.
March 19, 2005
I got a package today from Rhonda…a beautiful note of encouragement that lifted my spirits, and a Willow Tree figurine called “Angel of Hope.” I had just been admiring that same figurine while shopping earlier today. Thank you for putting it in Rhonda’s heart to think of and minister to me in this way. It really was like getting a hug right from You!
So many people ministered to me and my family during the year I was fighting cancer. One friend and I had a standing “date” on Wednesdays. She would drive me to my radiation treatment, and then take me and Ben to McDonald’s where he could play while we could sit and visit over lunch. Another lady from our church cleaned my house when I was too tired or sick to do it myself. Sue, a parishioner who was herself battling cancer, cooked a meal for us when I had surgery. And the whole time we felt ourselves surrounded by the prayers of God’s people in our community and around the world.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:10-11, “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” This ministry family has been privileged to have God’s people minister to us. As we experienced the blessings of their prayer and care, we praised God to see His church being blessed. The service they performed not only supplied our needs, but also resulted in “many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Cor. 9:12) through a building-up of Christ’s body.