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Everyone remembers the world winding to a halt in the spring of 2020, but for Pastor Paul Peterson it was the beginning of an even more drastic change in his life.

In November 2019, Paul went to the dentist for a cleaning, a few X-rays, and a promise to return in January to have a problematic tooth pulled. Between that time another tooth began to act up, and both teeth were eventually pulled. One area healed quickly, but there was a complication at the second site – the lower socket. It wasn’t healing properly. On March 23, 2020, as most people were out trying to secure rolls of toilet paper and ramen noodles, Paul was getting a biopsy from an oral surgeon. The test results revealed a cancerous tumor on his lower right jaw.

Paul was sent to North Memorial in the Twin Cities where he met with a specialist who explained the cancerous mass was eating away at the bone in his jaw. He would need surgery in the middle of the pandemic, and it was deemed a priority when most others were canceled or postponed.

It was an 8½ hour procedure where they extracted the mass, removed part of his jaw, and used tissue from his left wrist to repair the area. After surgery, Paul was unable to eat, and Sherry helped with the recovery process. It involved grinding down medications every day and night and administering protein shakes through a feeding tube six times a day. He wouldn’t have made it without her.

Those who know Paul know of his love for preaching the Word, playing guitar, and leading worship. Recovery and radiation treatment ensured it would be some time before he would take the platform again at church. As a minister, he was used to supporting his congregation in times of need, but now the roles were reversed. Referring to himself and fellow ministers he reflects, “None of us like going there — because we are the caregivers.” At the same time, he knew the power of prayer and his own need for support.

So Paul told his family, then his church, and then his friends and ministry peers about the situation. He posted to social media and shared the news with anyone who might be willing to pray. He likes to say, “There’s no place for a Lone Ranger. They can’t pray if they don’t know.” His relationships within the MN District have been an encouragement and lifeline over the years and he knew he could lean on fellow pastors. His church and board have been supportive throughout the process and his wife has been his rock. He knows and believes that God still heals.

The recovery journey isn’t over, but Paul is now back in the pulpit and starting to play guitar again. Each day is another step forward. His sermons are a little shorter these days, but he jokes that the congregation doesn’t seem to mind.

When he started radiation, the side effects were much milder than expected, so much so that the astonished doctors made note of it. Now a year after surgery, in one of his latest reports Paul says, “My doctors tell me they cannot find any cancer.” They might be surprised, but Paul isn’t. He knows it is the power of prayer!