Steven Strauch lives his life to the fullest. Even though he has a terminal diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, he says he has “a determination to live life.”
“You can live with cancer or die of cancer. I choose to live.”
Strauch is the director of missions for Laclede Baptist Association in southwest Missouri.
For the past four years, he has been battling cancer.
He has always enjoyed the outdoors and at one point wanted to work in the state park system. But the Lord called him to preach as a young man. He worked in summer internships at Windermere Baptist Assembly (now called Encounter Cove) in Roach, Missouri, and at the Missouri Baptist Convention building in Jefferson City, Missouri. Along the way, he felt God calling him to ministry.
He went to Southwest Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He was pastor of Missouri churches in Clarksburg and Conway. Later he was director of missions for Lawrence Baptist Association, Mount Vernon and since 2014 has served as DOM at Laclede Baptist Association.
He took up photography in 2014 as a hobby. He quickly learned to compose pictures and invested in good equipment. Of course, nature scenes were natural for him with his love of the outdoors. His proximity to many scenic vistas in the Missouri Ozark region afforded him opportunities for outstanding photography. He began to win awards and had his work placed in galleries and public displays.
And this led Strauch to take a trip to California in 2018 to “go shoot with a friend.”
He got off the plane in San Francisco and noticed some alarming medical anomalies. His friend wasn’t sure what to do, but the next morning they decided to check him into the emergency room. After some exams and consultations and a move to another hospital, he was informed he had cancer and one of his kidneys needed to be removed immediately. He was hospitalized for two weeks.
The news was sent back to Missouri and John Yeats, MBC executive director, shared with believers across the state that prayers were needed.
Strauch’s sister, Jody, went to California to drive him home “surrounded by pillows” (even though he said he felt every bump on the road home). His other sister, Kim, also provided care and support as he recovered. His Laclede Association churches also helped, he said.
A year later he had to leave a Laclede Baptist Association camp because of dehydration. He went to the emergency room and was referred to an oncologist for an exam. The doctor diagnosed stage 4 cancer.
‘Stages of grief in about five minutes’
Strauch said, “I went through all the stages of grief in about five minutes.” He said he had sorrow, but he remained steadfast. That is when he determined to “live his life” as long as the Lord would allow.
He said the cancer has now spread to his brain, spinal column, legs and hips. He’s undergone chemotherapy, immunotherapy (which led to diabetes), radiation, surgery and even spent two days in a coma because of extremely high blood glucose levels.
But his association leaders encourage him, and he has many people who take care of him, including two sisters as well as people in Laclede churches and community. Now in a wheelchair he has limited mobility but is fighting hard to regain the ability to walk.
He loves to get coffee and spend time on his front porch with friends. He said there are several younger ministers in the association that consider him a mentor and he enjoys pouring his life into their worlds. “They see me hurt. I want them to see how you can press through pain and suffering.”
Strauch was honored when the seventh floor of the MBC building in Jefferson City was up for a remodeling. Yeats asked him to contribute several photographic prints of Missouri Baptist churches to adorn the walls of the corridors, offices and conference room. He chose photos from his home church, Centertown (Missouri) Baptist, as well as Dry Fork Baptist in Guthrie and Beulah Baptist in Belle. All of these vintage rural churches serve as reminders to Missouri Baptists of their roots and the simplicity of the faith.
He also had the opportunity to present his photographic artwork to two Missouri governors. Governor and Mrs. Parson have a print of a Bennett Spring State Park stone bridge hanging in the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City.
Not afraid of death
As Strauch nears the end of his life, he says he is not afraid of death but looks forward to Heaven.
Asked what his life message would be, he replied with a couple of thoughts.
The first, “Be still and know.” He often quotes this phrase from Psalm 46:10 as he encourages others and relates his story to people online and in Laclede area churches. The verse says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
“In everything I’ve been through in life…I’ve always known in the end God will see me through.” He wants people to see that in all of it you can just “be still….stop.” He added, “Any believer, going through stuff can “be still and know that God is God.”
For pastors he said “Live your life ‘real.’” Even in the middle of sinfulness, Strauch encourages ministers to “let God use us in His grace as we walk in His grace.”
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Richard Nations and originally published by Missouri’s the Pathway.