Many describe it as humbling. Some say it was touching. However, most say the surprise parade and praise rally for a little girl diagnosed with cancer was nothing short of powerful.
An eight-year-old girl of Big Creek, Mississippi, was diagnosed in January with rabdomyosarcoma cancer that originated in the soft tissue of her foot and quickly spread to her brain. Doctors sent her home in June with hospice care and gave her two weeks to a month and a half to live because she was unresponsive to chemotherapy. Her family was told there would be no need for more scans. No hope was given.
Despite the grave circumstances, her mother, Jessica, was unwilling to accept this prognosis. The family made the decision to continue oral chemo on their own from home. With an unwavering faith, Jessica hit her knees and took up her position as a mighty prayer warrior on behalf of her child.
“I had to accept that she was my Isaac,” Jessica said. “I had to give my baby back to God and trust in His plan. I knew that through this painful experience, somehow God could bring healing to others through my child.”
Katelin defied the prognosis and returned for another scan two months later. Much to everyone’s surprise, the cancer had shrunk in some places and completely disappeared in others. However, she still has a long road ahead and is unable to return to school due to a very low immune system and the devastating effects chemo has on her body at times.
The family recently moved to Big Creek, and as residents heard their story and realized they were a part of their community, they began to ask what they could do to help. Not one time did the family ever suggest monetary gifts. Their only request: to receive help promoting September as Childhood Cancer Awareness month.
“We want other parents to be aware. We had no idea this could even happen to us,” Jessica said. “The only warning signs were a few headaches. We are blessed Katelin is still with us. We want to spread awareness, but more than that we want to share our testimony.”
A handful of people from several local churches came together to fulfill that wish. For five days straight, they secretly worked to spread the word using no social media whatsoever for fear of ruining the surprise. The initial plan was to sneak out on Friday night and decorate Big Creek with gold, the color of Childhood Cancer Awareness, as a surprise to Katelin when she opened her door Saturday morning.
The family had already planned a simple meet and greet on the town square of their nearby city on that Saturday morning. Katelin had worked hard making crafts to sell for cancer research, and the family hoped to meet some of the people who have been encouraging them throughout their journey.
As word spread about the decorations, the community became excited and more people happily got involved. Plans began to unfold for a surprise parade to follow Katelin and her family into town for the meet and greet. Unbeknownst to Katelin, the plan was for her to lead the parade.
Money was donated for decorations. Children made posters. Women made bows. Men made signs. Groups went door to door spreading the word, praying for Katelin, and sharing their faith. People picked up trash on the side of the road to make her “streets of gold” beautiful. And when Friday finally came, an all-night operation took place to “paint Big Creek gold,” as Katelin had requested.
Not only was the family surprised on Saturday morning, but also the organizers of the event were blown away by the number of cars and service vehicles who came to line up for the parade. A sign was placed at the beginning of the route that said, “We’ll travel this road with you,” and for five miles into town people lined the roadsides to cheer her on as she waved from a big red tractor. Over 50 vehicles followed them into town with “We Believe” painted on their windows. Sirens blared broadcasting her arrival, and at the last open bottom surrounded by cotton fields, the grand finale came down from above.
Now, as one of the workers, I was expecting a “gold” crop duster to make an appearance. But as I searched the sky for it, it was nowhere to be seen. Knowing this is one of the busiest times of the year for crop dusters and since the end of the parade was nearing, I became a little disappointed thinking it couldn’t make its planned appearance.
Suddenly, that magnificent machine swooped down and made itself known. In that moment, I felt more victory than I ever had in my entire life. Ahead of me and in my rearview mirror, I could see hands pointing upward at the plane in awe. I, too, with tears flowing, held my hand toward heaven praising the Giver of Life! Doctors had given this child a death sentence, but the Great Physician gave her life. We were not in a funeral procession; we were lined up for one precious life who was able to witness her own parade.
The parade ended with a praise rally on the square where hundreds of people from our county anxiously waited to receive Katelin and welcome her with applause. The high school band played as the cheerleaders cheered for her. We gathered together and proudly sang “How Great Thou Art.” Then we humbly came together before our Father in heaven to pray for her healing, and Jessica shared her testimony, just as she had initially requested. It truly was a powerful experience.
Hardly a moment has passed that I have not thought of that moment when the crop duster graced us with its presence. It continually reminds me of our sweet Savior.
Often in life, our road is long. Our journey is bumpy and full of surprises. We look for God, but we can’t seem to find Him. We know He’s there, but we can’t feel Him. Until in His own time, like that crop duster, He makes His grand and glorious entrance in such an indescribable way that it leaves us in complete wonder and amazement.
On a larger scale, this is the perfect illustration of Christ’s coming. As Christians, we are promised that He will return, but as we look around at the evil and devastation surrounding us, we begin to get discouraged. It’s hard to feel His presence amidst the storms of life and madness in our world, and at times we tend to take our eyes off of Him.
But make no mistake, when He comes back for His people, it will be as Psalm 97:6 says: “The heavens [will] proclaim His righteousness and all the peoples see His glory” (Emphasis added.).
A few people knew for a fact that day the crop duster was coming. Some, like me, were unsure of its coming, and many had no clue. Yet one thing is for sure, there was not one person in that two-mile-long parade who didn’t see and hear that crop duster and react with shouts of praise and tears of joy when it did come. All eyes were on it. And so it shall be when our Savior appears in the clouds: Every knee will bow and every tongue confess at the very name of Jesus (Romans 14:11).
What happened in our tiny community was phenomenal. It was a day we will never forget. A day when people came together like never before to praise the one true God, the Alpha and Omega, the Prince of Peace. Only God could have orchestrated these events with such perfection. Only God could have sustained this child and reduced her cancer. We believe in Katelin’s total healing. We believe there’s more work for us to do as a small community with a great big God. We believe in Christ’s coming! We believe.
“And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house’” (Acts 16:31).