By Toni Stauffer
Pastor Alan Griffith of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Phenix City knows what it’s like to lose to cancer. His beloved wife of 41 years, Reba, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2016; she passed away September 2017 after a long battle with the illness. After struggling with his wife’s decline, death and then his own heart-wrenching grief, Griffith decided to start Hearts of Hope in his wife’s memory to help others struggling with the effects of the nefarious disease.
“When she got cancer, the Lord just gave me a broken heart for seeing what people go through and what they experience,” Griffith said. Griffith found initial inspiration through the Cancer Center of America in Newnan, Ga., where there is a similar ministry. He attended the center’s classes and received training so that he could return and teach others how to offer spiritual support.
“Just knowing what cancer patients and their caregivers have to go through…we just want to come alongside them to give them some spiritual support and to let people know that they are loved–that there is hope,” Griffith said. “This is not a caregiver ministry. We are not stepping in to be caregivers. But I found out through personal experience, that sometimes a person going through cancer doesn’t always have (someone) to talk to. They don’t want to talk to their family, because they don’t want them to know how bad things are; the caregiver doesn’t necessarily want to talk about it, because they don’t want to bring it up.”
Griffith added, “The first thing you think of when you hear ‘cancer’ is ‘I’m gonna die,’ but that’s not always the case. But, if you give up, that hurts the recovery process. God didn’t give them cancer, but He’s not going to abandon them, either. We can pray with them and give them spiritual guidance.”
The Hearts of Hope ministry currently consists of 12 spiritual support staff, including Pastor Griffith. If the ministry gets a call that someone needs a friendly ear, a prayerful heart or a hope-filled voice to help brighten the darkest moments, Pastor Griffith will go and meet with the person first and get to know him or her; then, he will assign a spiritual support person. In addition to prayer and talking, the ministry will also follow up with phone calls and cards. The ministry also helps to arrange other types of help, such as cutting the grass, or helping around the house, if the ministry can provide it.
“(There are) all kinds of things that go by the wayside when someone is going through cancer. You don’t think so much about the house, or the yard. So, we just want to help out however we can and let them know that someone is thinking about them—that somebody cares.”
If you or someone you know is in need of spiritual support because of cancer, you can reach Pastor Griffith and Hearts of Hope at (334) 298-4728, or (334) 520-4599.