When the Lord called me into ordained ministry, within the first two weeks, I conducted three funerals. That is somewhat unusual as funerals and burials for clergy in churches the size of mine usually occur one every two months or so. I knew at the time that the Lord intended to get my attention by these three burials happening so close together and so soon after my ordination. God used this to tell me that ministering to people at the time of death would always be a key part of my ministry. And so it has been. I count it a privilege and honor to be used by the Lord to be part of those who accompany someone to death and in the case of a Christ-follower, to usher them toward their heavenly home.
Since my own cancer storm and my blossoming ministry outreach to those with cancer, the reality of death has become undeniable and unavoidable. Most of those to whom we will minister through “CANCER with CHRIST” will make their way through the cancer storm to a long and healthy life after the storm. But some will not and instead of being healed this side of heaven, they will meet the Healer face-to-face. In either case, cancer will not win the battle … Christ will.
On March 11, we received news that Cindi Wojcik, a friend, sister-in-Christ, kindred cancer sufferer, and faithful warrior went home to be with Jesus and to receive her heavenly reward. Cindi was a longtime member of my congregation and she was a long-time cancer sufferer. She suffered from cancer for more than 20 years, longer than I have known her. Her type of cancer called for more surgeries than I could count and she spent many years on the front lines of the battle, warring for her life both in prayer and practical measures. She did it with faith, with grace, and with a measure of elegance that is uncommon in our time. Cindi was the quintessential Christian lady.
Even in the most difficult of times when her cancer was progressing or when she was recovering from yet another surgery, Cindi would show up at church on Sunday mornings on the arm of her dear and loving husband John. Each week, they would walk down the center aisle to the front of the church and kneel together at the railing to receive Holy Communion. I would place the wafer into her uplifted palm and her eyes would meet mine and I would often see them fill with tears as I said, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.” I knew Cindi was hurting, both in body and in soul, but that did not shake her faith or alter her resolve to find Christ and His strength as she received Holy Communion.
You see, Cindi knew what I have discovered: those who suffer IN Christ suffer WITH Christ. They do not need to be convinced that Jesus is real. He is their calm in the midst of the storm. He is the tower of refuge they run into in times of trouble. He is the Rock on which they rest their faith. He is their Comfort, their Hope, their Rescuer, their Ultimate Healer and Hero. Jesus was real to Cindi Wojcik, more real than anything this world has to offer. And maybe one of the reasons He was so real to Cindi was because she suffered with cancer.
At the end of her life, heaven began to draw Cindi home and that draw became stronger than her desire to continue to battle here with us. Her husband John told us, “There was a resurgence in her cancer and new tumors on her lower spine developed which were inoperable and would lead to the loss of mobility. She wanted to leave us peacefully. She was at peace with her Lord and with her decision not to fight any further.”
Cindi and John had moved from Southern California about two years ago to find their dream home in Florida. They shared a sunny life and love and happiness there. They also shared suffering, chemotherapy, surgeries, and faith all the while in Jesus Christ. Florida was a good home for Cindi. But heaven is better.
Bless you, dear sister! Enjoy your heavenly reward and we will see you soon!
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.