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If You Can, You Should

Sep 08, 2018

"I never looked at cancer as life-threatening; I looked at it as a ministry opportunity."

— Gary Tracy

Gary Tracy, a resident of Holt, Missouri, drives thousands of miles each year with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team. He brings light and hope to people experiencing floods, tornadoes, and other life-altering disasters. Gary’s team was staged in Texas City when Hurricane Harvey hit last year, and just five months later Gary received news about a health condition that would bring him back to Houston as a patient, a short-term resident — and a volunteer.

Gary says he’s making up for lost time. Saved at age 52, he hadn’t been looking for God, but when he realized he needed a Savior, he jumped in with both feet to give all he has to Jesus. Janice, his wife of 30 years, supports his heart for service, even as it sends him all across the country to be Jesus’ hands and feet to victims of natural disasters.

“In August during Harvey, I was blessed to be healthy and had enough money to come down to help,” said Gary. “At the end of January I was told I had cancer.”

Gary Tracy at the Food Pantry & Clothes Closet in Spring BranchOne of Gary’s friends who had gotten a cancer diagnosis four years prior told him about Hope House — a ministry of Houston’s First. At the time his friend stayed, Hope House had four residences near the Texas Medical Center earmarked for out-of-towners needing housing, encouragement, and fellowship during medical treatment. Hurricane Harvey engulfed two of the residences and a fire put the third out of commission. Only one residence was available for occupancy when Hope House Coordinator Peggy Jones contacted Gary about staying there during his treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“It was amazing that the space came available for me the week before treatment began at the end of May,” said Gary. “I was anxious to volunteer while I was there, so I got in touch to see where I could be of help.”

Gary found a spot to serve at our Faith Center-Spring Branch’s Food Pantry & Clothes Closet as well as the Benevolence Ministry. He also helped with Men: Serve making home repairs for widows.

“Houston’s First has so many ministries for Jesus,” said Gary. “People in Pastoral Care were surprised I was doing so much while going through treatment, but my five-word life challenge is ‘If you can, you should.’”

God used Gary sitting “knee-to-knee and face-to-face” with Faith Center clients coming in for assistance. “People who come into relief places think the people working there have no problems,” said Gary. “I was able to tell people my own story of why I was in Houston.”

Gary worked nearly every day of the week as a Houston’s First volunteer while he was receiving treatment. Gary shared the Gospel with hundreds of people people during his time at the Faith Center. One of the first people he led to Christ was a young Muslim man from Pakistan who had immigrated to Turkey before coming to the United States. In all, Gary led 16 people to know Christ.

Now that he is back home in Missouri, cancer-free and waiting for his next assignment from God, Gary says he’s having ministry withdrawals. “I never looked at cancer as life-threatening; I looked at it as a ministry opportunity,” he said. “I’m crazy about Jesus, and I love talking to others about Him.”

Care & Support Ministries

Hope House is one of the many ministries at Houston’s First that provides care and support for various needs and challenges, for members and non-members alike. Visit the links below to learn more about each of the following and other ways our church can meet you where you are.

Pastoral Care

Counseling Center

Faith Centers

Our Faith Center-Spring Branch and Faith Center-Harwin offer a variety of ways to support the ministry as a volunteer just like Gary did while he was a visitor in Houston. Visit their pages to discover current opportunities to “give life away” at a Faith Center.


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