In November of 2013 I participated for the first time in No-Shave November. This is a month-long journey during which participants put aside shaving in order to raise awareness in cancer issues especially men’s health. I was inspired by a friends story of cancer. It was a story of courage and determination. It was a story that I have not had to experience but I see the effects of cancer over and over, and I knew I had to do something.
So over the course of the month of November I stopped shaving and I raised a few hundred dollars for cancer research.
Since becoming a pastor I have experienced many families who have had loved ones struggle with cancer, members of the churches have died because of cancer and I have had friends whose lives have changed forever because of this awful, deadly disease.
Recently a friend posted a video and he talked about No Shave November and inspired me to again put down my razor and to pick up the fundraising bucket to help those who are fighting this terrible disease.
Like I said Faith Lutheran Church is no stranger to cancer. This year we lost our organist to cancer and many other beloved members. So we as a church make it part of our mission to help raise money for cancer research by participating in Relay for Life through the annual June event and by hosting the Survivors Dinner the first Saturday after Easter.
I told this friend who inspired me again about No Shave November we talked about the fact that us growing beards doesn’t really make a difference in someone’s life who is fighting cancer. But we can make a difference. The first thing we can do is donate the money we would typically spend on shaving. For some this is not a lot of money, but it is a start.
The second way I plan on making a difference is to educate about cancer prevention. In fact this could be more important than raising money. I plan on asking people an important question. “What we can do to support families and individuals whose lives have changed because of cancer?” I hope to compile a list for people. I want to ask my friends who are survivors of cancer. I want to ask families who have lost loved ones to cancer. I want to know what I can do today to help someone. It is never easy to lose someone you love.
Growing a beard during the month of November was an annual tradition for many. It was a fun thing to do with your friends. However it took on a new meaning in 2007.
In November 2007, the Hill family lost their father to an 18-month battle with colon cancer. So the family decided to give some value to this annual tradition of not shaving in November.
The family launched “No Shave November,” they dedicated themselves and inspired others to raise funds and awareness for cancer. There is significance that there is a request to grow hair when so many cancer patients face hair loss following chemotherapy treatment.
Donating your monthly grooming funds may not add up to much, but it makes a real difference for this important cause. Typically over $100,000 is raised because of this movement.
This year I have decided to participate again. I hope to raise awareness throughout my church and the community about cancer and I will get a jumpstart on my fundraising for Relay for Life. If you would like to contribute please go to my website pastorjoe.me/noshave and I will have a link to donate to my Relay team The Faith Walkers and I will also update everyone on my progress.
A Bible verse that I typically share with those who are struggling with cancer is from the book of Deuteronomy. “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
No matter what you are going through God is will you and God will not fail you or forsake you. Sometimes this is hard to believe because the obstacle’s in front of us seem too big to overcome. But God is with us. Our lives are not going to be perfect because we pray to God but the pray changes us. It changes our heart and our thoughts and God hears them, even if God seems so far away.
The hardest prayer I had to ever pray was for a church member who was dying of cancer. They knew their time on Earth was coming to an end and they wanted me to pray that God would take them to their heavenly home. I did not want them to die, I did not want them to leave me or leave others. But I prayed that God’s healing would be upon them even if that meant that they were to go to God.
The last words I said to them was the Bible passage from Deuteronomy “Be Strong” I said to them. “Do not fear, God loves you and is with you, God will never abandon you, forget you. When you go to God, you will be made new in God’s perfect image.” With tears in my eyes I blessed them and I said good-bye. It was only a few short hours after that conversation that they died.
I know that growing a beard will not make it any easier that I lost my friend, but I am able to share my story and I hope that you will be able to share your story as well. We are story people and it is important to help one another and to inspire one another to make a difference in the world and to share Gods love.
The Rev. Joe McGarry is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, 627 Green St., Gardner, faithgardner.org. He also blogs at pastorjoe.me.