Several years ago, when he was 57, Greg Thomas received a terrifying diagnosis. He had stage four head and neck cancer and likely had only a few months to live. “They told my family to go ahead and start planning my funeral.” He described those days as, “almost like it’s a nightmare you can’t wake up out of.” After being let go from his propane delivery job, Greg started taking walks in the countryside with his dog as a way to relieve some of the stress and maybe bring some peace to his mind.
On one of these rural walks, Greg happened upon an old church. It wasn’t in the best shape, but it had obviously once been a very handsome structure. He sat on the steps out front and broke down crying, begging God for a miracle. Shortly thereafter, he acted on an urge to open the door and look inside. He realized it was his duty to restore the church to its former glory even though he had no personal connection with the building or its former congregation. He talked with one of the neighbors, who was the treasurer of the foundation that maintained the church’s burial yard. It turned out the little Catholic church had been built by Czech settlers back in 1868 but hadn’t been in use for a century. Soon Greg was at work, replacing floors, fixing the roof, and peeling away as many as 15 layers of paint.
For Greg, the work was a kind of therapy, a way to stay active and focus his mind on something less stressful. Miraculously, his cancer went into remission! He was able to finish his work restoring the church and can now look forward to a much longer and healthier life than he’d anticipated. “There’s been a lot of tears shed on these steps. They’ve been tears of joy, tears of pain, but tears of blessing too. It’s my way of saying thank-you.”
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