Andrew Parfitt – Maidstone Christian Cancer Support Group

In September 2013 I was diagnosed with advanced, incurable, prostate cancer. This was a complete shock to my wife Ann and myself, and we had to learn quickly how to process the information and cast ourselves on God. In the weeks that followed I went through all the usual tests and then began hormone treatment, which is continuing. I agreed to go on a clinical trial, so also received a month of radiotherapy.

In 2015 we discovered by accident (i.e. Providence) the Loseley Christian Cancer Help Centre which is based in the chapel on the beautiful and historic Loseley estate near Guildford. We have been going to their twice monthly meetings ever since, and it has proved a wonderful source of spiritual and emotional blessing. Through the group I was set free from a period of depression caused by my medication.

In August 2016 I woke up one morning with a very strong thought in my mind, ’Start a group in Maidstone’. I had never even considered this but we were prepared to accept that this was God’s word to us. The next day was a Loseley day and as we drove onto the estate we asked the Lord to confirm it to us. The speaker was a retired doctor who announced her subject as, ‘Leave those things that are behind because God has something new and unexpected for you’. That settled it!

Thus began a six month process of setting up the group and proving God’s help, especially in the provision of a lovely Congregational chapel on the outskirts of the town as a meeting place. It is perfect in every way and has an adjoining café area where we eat lunch. The church has been hugely supportive and we meet without any hire charge. One of the first things we did was to set up a core team, and both of the ladies who joined us have relevant medical and counselling experience. The area coordinator for Macmillan has also been very encouraging.

On 6 February 2017 we held a commissioning service attended by friends from Loseley and ministers and supporters from around the area. It was great that Helen was able to take part in the service, and thus establish our friendship with her and the link with Firm Roots. We meet on the first and third Mondays of every month, with a sandwich lunch (including Cake!) followed by an informal service with worship songs, devotional ministry and prayer. As at October 2017 we have had 30 different people attending (some of them not yet Christians) with up to 19 present at any one meeting. We are also in touch with several others who are unable to come. Ann and I have presented the ministry in several local churches and in every place we have received a high level of interest. After all, almost everyone has someone close to them (if not themselves) who has, or had, cancer.

I had served as pastor in an Assemblies of God church for 24 years and since retirement in 2007 had been involved in various Christian ministries including teaching in a Bible college one day a week. But I never expected, in my seventies, to start up something new. But such are the ways of God, and the group has become the priority focus of our lives.

When I was first diagnosed a friend emailed to say that she believed that my experience of cancer would be used to help others. We have since had similar messages. The cancer support group seems to be a specific fulfilment of that ‘word’. The Bible does encourage us to turn our problems into blessings, so that nothing that happens to us is without purpose:

‘The God of all comfort… comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)