Pastor Perseveres in the Face of Cancer Diagnosis, Battle

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Great Lakes

By Kim Ousley

Cancer doesn’t care who you are. Regardless of status, vocation, or calling, cancer can take on a life of its own. However, cancer didn’t know the strength of Kristi Rhodes, pastor of Hillcrest Community Church of God in Cedar Springs, Michigan, when faced with her own Stage-3 breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

At the time of this writing, Kristi Rhodes is half-way through her cancer treatments and awaits surgery, radiation, and reconstruction in the fall.

Her own mother and son had cancer. Her son survived, but her mother didn’t. Rhodes took care of both of them while working bivocationally as a nurse and a pastor. For twenty-five years, she served as a nurse, but also pastored the last fifteen years until she retired. Now it is her turn to receive the love and care of her family and friends, as well as her congregation.

Three verses came to her that helped her through the diagnosis.

  • “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.” Psalm 118:17
  • “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.” Matthew 9:22
  • “…so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them…” Acts 19:12 (each Scripture ESV)

Pastor Kristi celebrating a baptism in 2020.

“That pierced my soul that day when I read those verses,” she remembers. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, the endless testing and meeting with teams of doctors, Kristi announced this news to her congregation and family. “They have all been truly amazing,” she says.

But her congregation and staff wouldn’t hear of her retiring. They spoke with the state pastor, who asked what she needed to help her get though the cancer journey. Kristi had no idea how this treatment would affect her physically, so she was willing to step down and let them choose another pastor.

Lately, a guest speaker or visiting pastor fills the pulpit every Sunday as necessary, without any additional cost to the church. This was a huge burden lifted financially for Hillcrest Community Church of God.

Kristi’s daughter-in-law, Robin Rhodes, speaks highly of her mother-in-law. “Kristi carries a spirit that’s nearly impossible to touch; she touches everyone and everywhere she goes. It’s a crazy divine connection.”

Robin has put together a special fundraiser, benefit, online silent auction and bake sale for August 27, 2022. Dinner starts at 4:00 in the afternoon, and is by donation. The auction will have a link, so others may access it from anywhere. The bake sale will be after the dinner. If interested in learning more, contact Robin Rhodes at or 989-424-1198.

Hillcrest Community Church of God exterior.

Others have organized different types of fundraisers to raise money for medical expenses via a Facebook group, “Fundraisers for Kristi Rhodes.”

Kristi’s hope was given a boost following a vision she saw from God recently. “I saw the tumor in a hand, and it melted and turned to water. There was only a tiny bit left in the hand.” Still, Kristi knows no matter what the outcome, she will be in heaven with Jesus—or get to spend more time with family and friends until that time.

“Jesus is with me,” Kristi states. “I worry about my family and friends. I’m happy to encourage them even if they’re a little heartbroken at this time.”

God loves her family through this amazing and wonderful time through other loving people. “In sickness I will praise Him—in health I will praise Him,” she concludes.

Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.

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