Cancer is not supposed to happen to people like Jeremiah Thomas. He’s young – 16 years old – and an athlete. He had been a member of a state champion football team, no small thing in football-crazy Texas.
But, in a broken world, disease is no respecter of persons, and the diagnosis for Jeremiah Thomas was not good. He had an aggressive bone cancer, dangerously close to his heart, and it defied all treatment. (Specifically, he has osteoblastic osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that is resistant to radiation therapy and has a survival rate of just 10 percent.)
Some people in Jeremiah’s position would succumb to despair. Even people of faith might submit to quiet resignation, perhaps get their affairs in order, and prepare to die.
Not Jeremiah. He viewed his cancer as an opportunity to preach Jesus and the message of life to people who might not otherwise listen. So, when The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which arranges experiences for children with terminal diseases, asked Jeremiah what he wanted his wish to be, he said: “To abolish abortion in my home state of Texas.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is not known as either a Christian or a pro-life organization, and it is more accustomed to kids saying, “I want to go to Disney World” or “I want to meet my favorite baseball player.” So, it wasn’t sure what to do with Jeremiah Thomas’s unusual request until it took on a more tangible form. Jeremiah turned his wish into a request for a meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbot to plead the case for life.
By this time, Jeremiah was no longer able to walk. A tumor near his spine had left him paralyzed. However, he would often tell friends and family, “Then I’ll just preach from my wheelchair.” The faith-infused hope in that response may have resonated with the Texas governor, who has been confined to a wheelchair himself for more than 30 years, the result of an accident when he was in his 20s.
So The Make a Wish Foundation arranged a meeting with Governor Abbott, but by this time Jeremiah was confined to his hospital bed, with tubes pumping in vital medicines. The meeting had to be a phone call. Jeremiah sounded like his namesake, the prophet Jeremiah, or perhaps a modern-day William Wilberforce – the 19th century British parliamentarian who helped abolish slavery — when he told the governor, “For my wish, I wanted to talk with you and discuss a bill of abolition.”
But this bill of abolition did not relate to slavery, but to abortion. Jeremiah had also done his research and spoke to the Texas governor in terms sure to have an impact: “A recent poll showed that 68 percent of Texans want abortion abolished so, sir, you would be representing the demand of Texas if you passed this bill. In conclusion, with this, I want you to treat abortion like an act of murder and should be punished by law.”
“Your wish,” Governor Abbot told Jeremiah, “is…what we’re going to be pursuing this next legislative session, to outlaw abortion altogether in the state of Texas. And so your wish is granted.” He also called Jeremiah’s wish “unbelievably selfless.”
Well, Gov. Abbott may have been a bit premature in granting a wish of complete abolition, because a ban on abortion in Texas or anywhere else in the United States has not yet come to pass. Still, Jeremiah Thomas recognized in Gov. Abbot a fellow warrior in the fight for life. In fact, Gov. Abbott has promised to make Texas “the most pro-life state in the nation.”
So, when the governor finished telling Jeremiah that his wish was granted, he yelled “Yes!” and thanked the governor. (You can see Jeremiah’s end of that phone call here.)
Jeremiah Thomas and Gov. Greg Abbott had their conversation in June. Since then, Jeremiah’s condition has deteriorated. Family and friends continue to pray for healing, though the survival rate for the kind of cancer Jeremiah has is only about 10 percent.
But even if Jeremiah dies before he sees the complete abolition of abortion, that does not mean his fight was in vain. It’s important to remember that neither William Wilberforce nor the prophet Jeremiah saw complete victory in their lifetimes. However, they were obedient, the causes they fought for were ultimately victorious, and we remember these men with gratitude and respect.
It seems likely that Jeremiah Thomas will be remembered in the same way.
Editor’s Note: A Go-Fund-Me campaign has been set up to defray some of Jeremiah Thomas’s medical expenses. You can learn more about that campaign, and more about Jeremiah Thomas’s life, by clicking here.
This article is one in a series based on the ideas in the book Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan To Change The World Through Everyday People by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet. To see all the articles in this series, click here. If you know of an individual or ministry that might make a good “Restoring All Things” profile, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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