PHYSICAL CHALLENGES & 3 Ways to Engage the Homebound in Church Life #HeatherHagstrom,

by Heather Hagstrom, LifeWay, 12/7/18.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I enjoyed actively participating in my church and thrived in a young adult weekly Bible study. It was a blessing to worship God and fellowship with other believers regularly.

After I was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t attend church or Bible study consistently for seven months while going through a major surgery and cancer treatments. Throughout my cancer journey, the church included me even when I couldn’t attend consistently.

This inclusion gave me hope and perseverance to view my trial from God’s perspective so as to bring Him glory through my suffering.

With the number of people forced to stay home because of physical or mental illness, how can churches include these isolated and hurting people in their congregations?


“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 (CSB)

Throughout my cancer journey, I was humbled and thankful my church and other churches throughout my hometown—and even other places in the U.S.—were praying for me.

A pastor and his intern met me in the hospital at 5:30 a.m. to pray with me before and after my cancer surgery. My 28 days of radiation promoted prayer as a pastor prayed for me daily at my scheduled times for radiation. Sunday school classes also kept me on their prayer chains throughout all my treatments.

All these prayers helped to ease my fears, encouraged me to persevere, and prompted me to keep my focus on God, knowing He had a good plan for me even in the midst of my pain and heartache…


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (CSB)

When I was isolated at home, my pastor took the time out of his busy schedule to personally write a note of encouragement to me. This helped me feel included as part of my church.

I also felt included in my church when I was able to attend online through livestream and people applauded to welcome all those who were attending online.

When I couldn’t physically attend church, my parents, who were my caregivers, stayed home with me to watch the church service online. They graciously served me communion at home while we watched communion being served at our church service.

God changed my attitude to see my cancer journey not as a crisis but as an opportunity to share His love and compassion with those in difficult situations...


“Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts.” Romans 12:4-6a (CSB)

As people from different churches volunteered their time and talents to help me throughout my health crisis, their skills were increased to help others. Many cooked and provided delicious meals for me and my parents through a meal train after my surgery. Others wrote encouraging cards, offered rides to my treatments, and provided thoughtful care packages.

Including me in my weekly Bible study through the use of technologies such as FaceTime and Skype when I couldn’t physically attend has provided skills and resources to include others. All these people were utilizing the gifts and skills God had given them to provide outreach to others.

As I was included through creative approaches, I received encouragement, which motivated me to promote the gospel in my cancer center. Each time I went to my cancer center to have blood drawn, receive treatments, or attend a follow-up appointment, God led me to bring in cancer devotionals…

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