“Each Day Is a Second Chance”: Leukemia Survivor on Stewarding Your Time and Strengths

Posted in

“I’ve always tried to be intentional about stewarding my strengths well,” says veteran ministry leader Carmen Pate. “But I needed motivation to become a good steward of the time God has given me.”

Carmen Pate

Carmen Pate

Carmen has served in roles from president to talk show host and producer with ministries including Concerned Women for America and D. James Kennedy’s Truth in Action.

But a three-year battle with leukemia moved her into a different kind of ministry – one of urgency to impact more people to discover and use their strengths.

Declared in remission in June 2018, Carmen has embraced the second chance to help others live with purpose regardless of their circumstances.

The Leading From Your Strengths process is a big part of that.

“People are broken,” says Carmen. “LFYS helps give them confidence and purpose in who God designed them to be.”

Brokenness Can Lead Communities to Combine Their Strengths

Carmen had become acquainted with Leading From Your Strengths when she worked with Rodney Cox and Truth in Action Ministries. “I had used many assessments in my adult years in ministry and business,” she says. “But when I read my LFYS profile, it was an ‘ah ha’ moment.” Inspired by the report’s accuracy and its biblical foundation, Carmen invited a group of like-minded female leaders to join her in becoming Level II Certified at the Ministry Insights Equipping Conference.

Soon after, she had the opportunity to use Leading From Your Strengths with a collection of business, government, and community leaders in Jackson, MS. “They were willing to come together to work towards racial reconciliation, but no one had initiated the process,” says Carmen. The group identified a project they could work on together: an inner-city church congregation, located in an environment of  drug addicts, prostitutes, and the homeless needed practical help. The coalition pooled resources to direct the needy to food pantries, clothes closets, job readiness training, and interview coaching.  “LFYS was a catalyst to help this group of leaders to see how they could combine their strengths to accomplish things that are God-sized,” says Carmen.  The coalition continued to meet and work together long afterwards.

Weak Times Can Lead You to Use Your Strengths

Once she was diagnosed with cancer, God began to use Carmen’s passion for equipping others in a different way. During a forty-day stint of aggressive chemotherapy and isolation in the hospital, she started praying for other patients, doctors, and nurses. She filled her room with praise music. Scripture dotted the walls. She recorded her prayers and thoughts in a journal and on social media.

One transport aide named Kyle regularly wheeled Carmen from her room to her treatments in other areas of the hospital. During the course of those back-and-forth trips Carmen felt prompted to ask Kyle about his future plans, encouraging him to identify his strengths and his passions.

Months later, a bone marrow transplant meant another long hospital stay and Carmen saw Kyle again – on a day she had been praying for more nurses to help relieve the burden of the overworked medical team.  “Since our conversations, I have thought a lot about my interests in a way I hadn’t considered before,” he told Carmen. “I want to tell you that I’ve decided to become a nurse!”

Shared Experiences Can Lead You to Invest Your Strengths

One fellow transplant patient regularly walked the halls with Carmen. Bitterness and anger spilled from this young lady, and she confessed that she felt the nurses did not like her.

“They love you,” said Carmen, as she shared about the staff’s unconditional compassion and tireless service. “What they need to know is that you love them.” Carmen felt led by God to invest in this woman whom God loved. Soon she and her friend began praying together. A transformation took place as the young lady began to be kinder and grew more joyful. Today, Carmen’s friend is in  remission and she maintains contact with Carmen.

“It’s wonderful to help shed light for someone as they consider their strengths and how they can use them,” says Carmen. “I was learning to be a blessing, not a burden. And so was she.”

Each Day Is a Chance to Use Your Strengths

Carmen’s passion going forward is to seek opportunities to tell the story of God’s amazing grace in her life and the importance of not wasting a day of His mercy.

Recently, she led the Grace School of Theology staff through the LFYS process. “These were 38 wonderful people who love God and one another,” she said. “But because all of us are broken, there are always times that communication breaks down.” With the school experiencing explosive international growth, staff is committed to showing appreciation for each other’s differences to stay healthy and stay on course. Carmen has partnered further with Grace Theology School to teach in its women’s ministry and help host the school’s podcast, Saving Grace and Grace Café. The seminary’s vision falls in line beautifully with Carmen’s desires: to train spiritual leaders around the world who can train others about the love of God; a love that can never be earned, and can never be lost.

She compiled her experiences of the greatest battle of her life, a relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in her book, In Our Weakness, God Is Strong: The Power of His Touch Through You. During her weakest moments, God’s strength became hers as He touched others with His love, through her.

“My time as a patient and in recovery was one of the most beautiful ministry experiences I have had in my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world” says Carmen. “Now I wake up every day and say to God, ‘Wow!  I can’t believe you gave me another day to serve you.’ I don’t want to waste one day – and I want others to feel the same.”

Carmen Pate has served in leadership and communications roles with the Kroger Company, Point of View, Alliance Ministries, Truth in Action Ministries, and Concerned Women for America. Today she uses her experiences in ministry to serve at Grace School of Theology. She is the author of In Our Weakness, God Is Strong: The Power of His Touch Through You. Carmen and her husband Bob live in Texas. They have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

More About Leadership Development

Leadership: AZ Church Builds Ministry Leaders for the Long Game

Leadership: Julian Dunham and Building Up Leaders Down Under

Leadership: Canadian Ministry Helps Mid-Life Leaders Transition Well