Aleteia

To restore a church and lose one’s voice: Working with God

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You may recall a story, way back in 2012, of a cancer-stricken man named Greg Thomas who felt called to restore a 150-year-old church made by Czech settlers, in Minnesota:

Though his body was growing weaker, Greg managed his stress by taking walks with his beloved dog through the Minnesota countryside. On one fateful day, he took a different path than normal. It led him to a 150-year-old church that was built by Czech settlers.

Greg could see that the small wooden church, which had been abandoned, was beginning to decay. The paint was peeling off, the roof was tattered and the floor was rotting. No one had prayed inside for 70 years.

Greg and his dog took a seat on the front steps of the church. He began to cry, and then prayed for a miracle.

That’s when the dying man felt a sudden urge to enter through the church doors — and once inside, he was struck with a strong sense of duty.

Despite his illness, Greg knew right then and there that he wanted to restore the church back to its original glory.

Once he began the work he found himself feeling much better and in fact, his cancer went into remission.

After 7 years of labor the little church is looking quite splendid and is even safe to pray in again.

Greg has continued his life, viewing every day as a blessing, and is taking classes to become a preacher. His goal is to preach at the pulpit of the church that he saved and that he believes saved him.

Unfortunately, this winter Greg has had a setback to his ambition:

But last fall Thomas felt a lump on his throat. “It was the same cancer I had before,” he says, “but now it’s in my voice box and has metastasized to the lymph nodes in my neck.”

Thomas says he was told by his doctor that the previous course of treatment is no longer an option. Surgery is an option, but Thomas was told it would be disfiguring and have a limited chance of success.

He has decided to forego treatment.

“Whatever God’s decision is, I’m okay with that,” Thomas says.

Thomas’ doctor told him the cancer is fast-moving, but he hopes to still realize his goal of preaching in the church he restored. Thomas is now in the first year of a two-year program at New Day Church in New Prague aimed at becoming a pastor.

“I firmly believe he’s not done with me yet,” Thomas says.

We sincerely hope that Greg will have the opportunity to preach within his restored church. From what he read, we think his first homily will be very beautiful:

“My sister asked me “Do you hear God speak to you?”

My reply was this: I hear him in the whisper of the wind. I see him in the sunset, as He paints the skies pink and gold. I feel His breath as it passes over the foxtail and the sage brush. I cannot deny His presence. Do I hear him? Yes.”

We wish you all the best in your health Mr. Thomas. You will be in our prayers.

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