Here's yet another inspiring story on the challenges that my friend Chuck Obremski faces every day. What a man! Or, as Chuck would say, "What a God!" Thanks for continuing to pray for this committed servant of Jesus as he lives every moment for God's glory! - David
Note: This is what Chuck looked like a couple of years ago. Please check my posting from earlier this week, "Facing Death...Alive in Jesus" for a recent picture of Chuck and Linda. One day he'll have a brand new body and will see Jesus face to face. Maybe Christ will return before then but if not, Chuck is ready to meet the Lord and enjoy Him forever. Thanks for continuing to pray for this dear man!
Monday, May 30, 2005 - ANAHEIM - Terminal cancer has robbed Chuck Obremski of 55 pounds, half a lung, most of his hair and much of his energy. His faith remains unscathed. Which makes the Angels' team chaplain perhaps more inspirational than ever before.
"I think Chuck is a saint," Kansas City Royals veteran Mike Sweeney said Sunday. "He's coming out here to talk to us even with cancer eating up his body." Obremski, 48, has been the Angels' chaplain since 1997. Whenever the Angels have a Sunday home game, Obremski goes to a spare locker room to conduct 20-minute services - one for the Angels, one for the visiting team.
Even while fighting an aggressive and mysterious cancer for almost two years, Obremski has missed only one Sunday at the ballpark. "If this is the end of my life," he said, "I'm going to do what I do till the very end." He has chosen to use his condition as "one more thing to use as a lesson to teach."
Players are impressed. Even moved. "I wept the last time I was here," Sweeney said. Said Angels outfielder Garret Anderson: "A lot of people wouldn't react that way to a life-altering experience. He's practicing what he preaches." During his Sunday session with the Royals, Obremski sat in a corner of the long, narrow room. Arranged before him were players sitting on folding chairs. A Bible and a single sheet with a lesson from the Bible - English on one side, Spanish on the other - were placed on each chair.
"These bodies are collapsing tents," Obremski told a dozen players an hour before the game. "I never thought the day would come when I look like what I look like." That prompted some to examine him. His eyes remain bright, but his clothes hang on him. He is pale and seems undernourished. He smiled and added, "Every time I go past a mirror, it's like some guy I don't recognize is following me."
He urged the players to make spiritual matters a priority. "When your day comes," he said, "it's not going to matter how many hits you had or how many strikeouts you had. What will matter is whether you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior."
The players sat, quiet and attentive. Said Sweeney: "For him to talk to us helps me put things in perspective. Because sometimes we as professional athletes see an 0-for-4, or a high ERA, and we let it rob us of our joy."
Obremski has a career in construction but was drawn toward the ministry after a religious epiphany in 1978. He found himself conducting Bible studies in Santa Ana, including one that some of the Los Angeles Rams attended. He became the Rams' chaplain in 1984, and conducted services and led Bible studies until the club left for St. Louis after the 1994 season.
He picked up the Angels in 1997. Tim Salmon and Anderson gravitated to the plain-spoken preacher early. Now, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Scot Shields, Robb Quinlan, Jeff DaVanon, Paul Byrd and Anderson are likely to attend Obremski's Sunday services.
Obremski said pro athletes often are particularly spiritual because "at a young age they already have the things so many of us spend our lives striving for, and they find themselves asking, `Is that all there is?'‚"
In July of 2003, Obremski came in from running when he noticed a lump in his groin. It was a "high grade" sarcoma, and it has metastasized. Five surgeries have been performed to remove tumors from his right lung. The lower lobe of his left lung was removed. He receives two units of blood via transfusion each week. And despite "30 radiation treatments and 20 chemotherapy" sessions, the tumors continue to spread. He said "an inoperable" tumor in his body cavity is causing him the most trouble, pressing on his heart, spleen, diaphragm and what remains of his left lung. "It's like someone is standing on the the left side of my chest," he said. "There's constant pressure. I get winded easily." The medical community doesn't know how much time he has, he said. "It's such a rare cancer. They don't know if it's one month, or two ..."
He has been in and out of the hospital. At times, he has needed morphine to manage the pain. He currently takes Tylenol with codeine three times per day. Still, he has not missed a Sunday in the pulpit of the nondenominational Kindred Community Church in Anaheim Hills, where he serves as pastor. He has three children and two grandchildren. His wife of 30 years supports his decision to use however much time he has left to continue to preach.
Obremski concedes some have suggested he "take six months off and travel or relax. And I say, `Why?' "If I'm going to die, then I have plenty of time to enjoy heaven and rest there. Why would I stop doing what I've done all my life the last month of my life?"
He said he never has questioned why he should be struck down in the prime of life. Anderson and Sweeney agreed they have never heard a word of self-pity come out of the mouth of the man known as "Pastor Chuck."
Said Obremski: "Who am I to question God? If I believe He loves me and controls all things and could heal me if He wants to, it becomes a matter with a purpose behind it."