By Darrel Rowland
The February weekend Matt Proctor found out his wife, Katie, had cancer was filled with tears, fears, and scary portents.
The Sunday morning lesson he had to teach didn’t help; it was on Ruth and Naomi, both widowed when their spouses died.
Emotionally wrung out by Sunday night, he suggested his kids pick out a movie and they would all gather downstairs and watch it together.
The choice was the Disney-Pixar animated film Up.
Within the first few minutes of the movie, the husband loses his wife.
“I had tears rolling down my cheeks,” Proctor says.
Less than five months before he was supposed to preside over a North American Christian Convention with the theme of “Victorious,” Proctor didn’t know whether his wife would still be around to accompany him and their six children.
“I was just watching the movie thinking, What if? What if I do lose Katie and I have to raise these kids on my own? And who knows what will happen if this happens quickly with the convention? There were a lot of those question marks that swirl around in your head.”
The most important of those questions was answered following Katie’s surgery in April. As the family movingly proclaimed on the convention’s opening night—with help from T-shirts and signs designed by Katie—doctors have proclaimed they can find no evidence of cancer.
“Here’s what I came to say in a sentence: Never, ever, ever un-derestimate Jesus,” he told a crowd that included many a wet eye.
Could the cancer have struck at a worse time, with Proctor not only preparing for the convention but busy with his “day job” as president of Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, along with teaching and speaking engagements?
That’s not how Proctor sees it.
“Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better year if it was going to happen. Because we were not only surrounded by our family and the college family and our own church family, but because of this role as president of the North American, we were literally surrounded by family that was nationwide and worldwide,” he says.
“To be honest, as hard as these months have been, there’ve been a lot of blessings in it. My kids have been able to see the church at its best . . . And you can’t put a price tag on that.”
Darrel Rowland is public affairs editor of The Columbus Dispatch and an adult Bible fellowship teacher with Worthington (Ohio) Christian Church.