By Sharon Fischer
On New Year’s Day of this year, as my husband Hal, and I, entered third service at our home church, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California, we were greeted by our friend and CCCM board member Rob Yardley; he forewarned us that Pastor Chuck would be announcing he had lung cancer.
We took our seats in stunned disbelief at the devastating news. I wept as we waited for the service to start anticipating Chuck’s announcement. My mind wandered back over all the past 45 years when God brought this pastor to our little church on Church Street in Costa Mesa and how we had been so privileged to be part of this wonderful ministry.
My tears soon stopped flowing as Chuck spoke; he began by telling the congregation that he was at peace with the fact that his life was in God’s hands. He had such peace as he spoke that it resonated through the church like a calming balm. In relief I thought, Chuck’s ministry is not over and for a moment, in my crazy mind I lapsed into a hysterical thought “It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings and I hadn’t heard one singing.” It was such a relief to hear how content Chuck was with his lot in life.
Pastor Chuck’s daughter, Janette Manderson kept us informed through Facebook about his journey to recovery.
On January 3rd she reported, “Dad’s biopsy went well. He is resting comfortably and has no pain. The doctors hope to have the lab results this Friday. Our God knows every detail and is sovereign! We praise Him in this storm. Your effectual, fervent prayers avail much. Thank you!
January 5: “Well, Dad does definitely have cancer in his right lung. Please pray that God will lead him each step of the way in the decisions he has to make in this cancer battle. Thank you, prayer warriors! We love you and appreciate you more than you will understand in this life.
January 16: “The treatments begin today. Please pray for God’s perfect will for my precious Daddy and that all who take part in his treatment will receive a witness from the peace, joy, and grace that the Lord has poured out on Dad in this cancer adventure. God bless each of you prayer warriors with His peace, joy, and grace as well.
January 21: “Dad. every time I talk to him. He is trusting and praising God in the storm. Mom, Dad, and I had a long conversation tonight and we laughed so much. There is joy in the Lord, there is love in His Spirit, there is hope in the knowledge of Him.
January 22: “God answers prayer: Dad started chemo this week and has had NO nausea! He went to work after his infusion on Tuesday and has worked all week. Thank you for continued prayer. He has two more weeks of chemo alone, and then the doctors want him to have radiation as well. After those treatments, he may not need surgery. I am praying that the cancer will be eradicated by the chemo and radiation……or by the Lord Himself. He is able! Of course, His perfect will in each detail of Dad’s health and life is our deepest desire. Mom is right by his side, praising and trusting the Lord along with all the saints who are sharing this journey with us. Thank you for your fervent, effective prayers.
February 4: “Update on my wonderful Dad: He finished his third week of chemo with NO nausea or sickness, thanks to God’s grace in answering many prayers. Please pray that when he adds radiation treatments next week that God will protect his skin and keep him strong (radiation can cause extreme fatigue). The radiation treatment will last six weeks. He wants me to thank all of you for your prayers. He can feel the wonderful effects of the prayers.
February 14: “He’s thriving as much as one can thrive with lung cancer. Radiation is taking away his appetite, but he is happy even with that because he wanted to lose some weight. We are looking for the blessings in each step of the journey and many blessings are there. God is love.
March 17: “Update on Pastor Chuck: Prayer warriors, this is a crucial time in my dad’s cancer battle. He will be finishing the radiation treatments this week, then he is scheduled for an MRI of his right lung in two weeks. If the cancer is still there, the doctors plan surgery to remove the lobe where the cancer is located. They have said that he is not a good candidate for surgery, due to his age and the stroke he had in December 2009. He is carrying on with his normal schedule of work, teaching, and radio ministry in spite of the extreme fatigue that is normal at this point in radiation treatments. We want to see God’s perfect will accomplished for we have entrusted this illness and the outcome into His loving care. God hears you and answers your prayers. You are a vital part of this battle! I continue to give Dad updates on what you post here. You are so encouraging and loving.
March 25: “He is my earthly hero! He is battling this cancer with courage and grace. He is motivated to get well so he can keep teaching the beloved flock of God.
March 31: “I just put an update on “Praying for Chuck Smith” confirming that Dad does NOT have throat cancer. He has throat sores from the chemo but he told me tonight that they are healing and he is feeling stronger every day. Thank you from all of us for praying for him, dear family in Christ.
April 4: “Dad is definitely an inspiration to me. He is leaping and running spiritually through this journey and he doesn’t see setbacks, only “bumps in the road”.
Along with Janette, I agree that our pastor is an inspiration to all of us. On this past Easter Sunday morning, following the third service Hal and I had a pre-arranged meeting with Chuck in his office. We walked in to see kids and more kids seated on the floor casually chatting and waiting for their grandpa.
Chuck ushered us into a private sitting room, asking Jan to join us. We commented on how strong Chuck had been as he delivered the fourth message of the day. He had one more Bible Study in Ezekiel that night. But now Chuck was showing signs of weakness after such a taxing morning, one that would have exhausted any much younger man.
In spite of it all though, through his severely chapped lips he posed a radiant smile and his eyes still had that sparkle as he quipped, “a rose between two thorns” while we posed for the picture. I stood between them, Hal with his lame back and Chuck, I’m sure thinking, I hope this will soon be over so I can sit down again. In all these years, we had never had our picture taken together — a picture I’ll always cherish.
We asked how he was feeling and he commented he was tired and his throat was still sore, Jan explained it was from the radiation treatment. She said t hat the radiation was still at work in his body even after it was no longer administered, having the ability post radiation to continue to reduce the tumor in his left lung. She added that Ina his nurse had given them good news the day before that his cancer markers had gone down. The next step would be another MRI which had yet to be scheduled. Chuck added “depending on the result it could mean more radiation and chemo.”
What is all this saying? I believe it is: “You can’t keep a good man down” Maybe…but God once again was showing us His amazing answer to the thousands of prayers that are being offered on our pastor’s behalf. Chuck’s stewardship of his time and energy has always been a great example and inspiration especially to those of us who are in the autumn or winter of our lives. In the 45 years Hal and I have known Chuck, he has not just drifted through life. He has lived on the cutting edge growing older in the grace and strength God has so graciously given him whether it was behind the pulpit or with a pick and sh ovel in hand on one of the church projects.
Now once again, through Chuck’s example.his extended ministry of this journey through cancer, is modeling complete trust in God living out what he has taught us over the years; we do not have to be afraid of what the future holds because we know who holds the future. The strength from God finds its perfect outworking in our own weakness. We are mere earthen jars and probably cracked a bit. Our outer man is indeed perishing. But as God affirmed to Paul, there is great advantage in waning vigor—for the Lord’s strength is actually magnified in our own lack of it.
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (31 Days of Encouragement, Ruth Meyer.)
God’s strength has surely been demonstrated in our pastor, he has persevered, doing all four Sunday services, kept h is daily schedule on Pastors Perspective with Don Stewart, kept his many appointments and blessed his family and Christians around the world who have observed this remarkable work of God through Chuck Smith’s life. Nope.it’s not over; God has just given our pastor and friend a new ministry to add to all the others.
This Scripture reading reminds me of the life of Chuck Smith — Psalm 92:12-15 (New King James Version): The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him
I couldn’t sum it up better. Thank you Pastor Chuck for all you have allowed God to do in your life as an example to all of us, young and old and we will keep on praying for your complete recovery.
Sharon Fischer, in 1961 along with her husband Hal and their five year old daughter Terri Ann, attended the first service of Calvary Chapel held in a mobile home park recreation room with 10 others. She has written an autobiographical documentary on the Birth of Calvary Chapel — “Where Two or More are Gathered” – telling of their experiences and hiring Pastor Chuck Smith in 1965 and the tremendous growth from her firsthand account. The book is now being edited; to be informed of the publication date contact her at: [email protected]