Two years ago, my four boys ages 8-15 knew nothing about cancer. The oldest 3 had been to Haiti numerous times and had begun at young ages to grasp poverty, political corruption, and the need to work for change, but they were unfamiliar with cancer. Little did I know that our family was going to be blessed by cancer.
I know this sounds strange, but stay with me.
Inheritance of Hope co-founder Kristen Milligan and I became friends two years ago. It only took a few conversations for me to realize that Inheritance of Hope was heavy on my heart. I was privileged to volunteer at the January 2011 Legacy Retreat and help for a day at the July retreat. Praying for the families of IOH has become as much a part of our lives as praying for our friends in Haiti. IOH involves not only me as a volunteer but also my whole family.
I have asked myself a few times if cancer is too big for young boys and teenagers. Last night my 13 year old asked me, “Why does it seem like so many people we know have cancer?” I reminded him that one reason is that Inheritance of Hope is a blessing to families with a parent who has a life-threatening illness. Then he said, “But it seems like so many other people we know have cancer now too.” It all hit me this morning — God was using what he had learned through IOH to prepare us for the cancer that was soon to inflict friends close to us.
One month ago we found out that my 11 year old’s best friend’s father has pancreatic cancer. He had always appeared to be a healthy, active father of 4. In a quick turn of events, he was diagnosed and immediately began chemotherapy. I wondered how my 11 year old would handle the diagnosis — would he feel awkward around his friend and shy away? Would he be too sad to be able to talk to his friend about it? What I saw unfold was one of my most proud parenting moments. Suddenly, he wanted to spend more and more time with his friend and decided to play baseball for the first time because that is what his friend plays! My son said that they did not talk much about his dad but that his friend knew he could talk to my son about it anytime he wanted. My son spent last weekend with that family and called me to report what a great time he had with his friend’s dad “even though I know he is so sick, Mom. He went on the tubes on the lake with us and tried to act like he did not even feel bad.”
Then the story he was so excited to tell me began to unfold. He reported: “Mom, I have the most special story to tell you. You are not going to believe it. We were at church and I was standing there with my friend’s dad and he was talking to a little girl who had been sick last year and had been through chemotherapy. He got down on one knee and told the little girl that she was so brave to have gone through chemo and he hoped that he could be that brave. They just talked and talked, Mom, about chemo and being sick and what they had in common.” At this point, my son and I cried on the phone that such a meaningful exchange had happened.
I hung up the phone and immediately thanked God that my son had been exposed to the work of Inheritance of Hope so that he was not scared of cancer and those who have it. My son was able to show compassion because it had been modeled for him with those associated with IOH. He had never been on a Legacy Retreat but he had heard the countless stories of love and care experienced by those connected to IOH..
Titus 3:14 (AMP): “Our people must learn to apply themselves to doing good deeds and helping others who have urgent needs, so they won’t be living idle, unproductive lives.”
I am eternally grateful to Inheritance of Hope and the ways God continues to use the staff, volunteers, and families to impact our family and to provide us with teachable moments with our children.