Thursday, January 6, 2011
Article courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian
Article originally published on January 5, 2010
By Jason Kotowski, Californian Staff Writer
Photos by Michael Fagans, Californian Photographer
The doors to Greater Bakersfield's First Pentecostal Church opened Tuesday evening and a stream of men, all with little or no hair, made their way down the aisle and lined up in rows.
Pastor Kevin Bradford watched for a moment, and then his smile grew wider as he realized what was happening. This wasn't going to be a typical prayer service.
The men and boys, about 80 in all, had shaved their heads in a show of support for Bradford, who was diagnosed in early December with cancer. He announced his illness to the congregation on Sunday, told them he was shaving his head in preparation for chemotherapy, and afterwards groups of churchgoers talked it over and decided to break out the razors.
They kept their decision a secret until the prayer service.
Bradford, 40, was stunned.
"I am so very grateful and thankful," he said. "I do want to apologize to all the wives."
Raymond Andreas, who attends the church, said this is the shortest his hair has been in 11 years. He said it was moving to see so many people participate.
"This shows solidarity for them to set their pride aside to support the pastor," Andreas said.
Laren Kaufman said he usually has a thick head of hair, and he went about cutting it Sunday in three stages.
He chose to go completely bald and he, like many others, brought knit caps to help protect against the chilly night air.
He didn't mind the slight discomfort the cold caused.
"We're just blessed to have the pastor we have," Kaufman said.
Others said they felt the same way.
"He's not only our pastor, but like a best friend," said churchgoer Randy Newton. "We cherish and love this man."
Colby Condren described Bradford as generous and outgoing. And very healthy. Condren said it was a shock to hear Bradford had cancer because he keeps himself in great shape.
"He's the healthiest guy I've ever known," Condren said.
Bradford, who's married with two children, said he was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He underwent surgery to have an axillary lymph node removed, and he had his first chemotherapy treatment Monday.
He said that, in talking with doctors, he's learned that many people who recover from illness often have large support groups. Bradford's congregation let him know Tuesday that he's got plenty of people pulling for him.
"I'm just completely overwhelmed by the support of the church and I'm glad to be a part of these great people," he said.
Posted by GBFPC at 1:05 PM