Within the past year, a series of experiences brought the Rev. Jerome Anderson to his knees.
Not in a posture of defeat, but humble submission to God’s plan.
As a leader in the Christian community, Anderson is accustomed to counseling people during life’s darkest moments, helping them to not just find light at the end of the tunnel, but teaching them how to apply scripture to their situation.
A timeline of the past 18 months of the minister’s life is parallel to the Biblical account of the sufferings of Job in the Old Testament that depicts love, long-suffering and restoration.
Anderson’s mother, Birdie Jackman, died in July 2013, leaving the seasoned Baptist preacher at a loss for words.
Often lending his ear to people as they talked about being heartbroken, Anderson said he didn’t personally experience how far the depths of heartbreak could extend until he came to terms with the fact that his mother would succumb to her terminal illness.
Preceding the death of his mother, he was barely functioning. He cried every day and was in desperate need of God to take the pain away.
His reprieve from life’s stings would be short-lived.
A few weeks later in September, a botched biopsy of the prostate ignited a cascade of problems that resulted in septic shock. Anderson was at death’s door on his daughter’s eighth birthday.
Without the early treatments of antibiotics, intravenous fluids and his wife, Tina, Anderson said he knows he would be dead.
“As soon as I told my wife to go ahead and leave, I coded,” he said.
Anderson describes the hours he was told that he had been “unconscious” as an intense fight for his life.
“All I can remember is that I was in a struggle, I felt like I was wrestling and I only had one thought, and it was that I would not die on my daughter’s birthday,” he said. “I also thought about all the unfinished work that God had planned for me in terms of ministry.”
Standing at well over 6 feet tall, Anderson believes at the moment when he stood taller than the death that was trying to take him out, “God heard me and said ‘OK, I’m going to give you another chance.’ ”
His prognosis was going to be a long and tedious “18 months of recovery, but it was just 18 days.”
Another of life’s hiccups came again just weeks later. However, Anderson chose to meet this with humor instead of hum-drum.
He laughed at his new diagnosis: prostate cancer.
“I smiled and said, ‘Doc, look, I just got through being delivered from death. I’m not worried about no cancer,’ ” he quipped.
Despite having pastored three congregations throughout the Southeast and degrees from Georgia Southern University and Duke University and studies at Emory University, the accomplished preacher of the Gospel, husband and father of three faced difficult questions: “Will our relationship with Christ be sufficient to sustain us during life’s most difficult times?” “Does Christ see and care about what we are going through?”
Anderson finds solace found in the epistle to the Philippians, one of Paul’s prison letters written in Rome: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Anderson is the founder and senior pastor of Unity Fellowship Community Church. He and his wife, Minister Anderson, are the parents of Angel, 20, Auston, 18, and Alyvia, 9.
He is vice president of the Orangeburg Ministerial Alliance, chairman of the Bootstraps Mentoring Foundation and member of the Orangeburg Alliance for Community Development, Orangeburg Interfaith Alliance and the Orangeburg Community Scholarship Alliance.
He believes the church has to return back to God, and God will return back to the church.
“The evidence of His return will be the empowerment of the church to transform the world for Christ through how believers love, and through how we live,” Anderson said.
After a successful prostate surgery the day after Christmas, with doctors he says were handpicked by God, the St. Matthews native is at a new place in his life. Not a destination, but rather a renewed state of mind.
No one is exempt from the challenges of life. There are many lessons to be learned even after a hurdle, he noted.
Anderson was back to playing full court basketball and leading a healthy lifestyle shortly after surgery.
His new outlook started when he knelt in prayer at his mother’s bedside.
It was there that he relinquished everything to God and “received total healing. I learned God has a purpose for each of us,” and that it might be revealed in unexpected ways.
After the near-death experience, Anderson said he answered the call to “stop piddling around in ministry and do something. Now I am seeing God like I’ve never seen God before. I’m seeing the realness of God being alive on the inside as opposed to having knowledge about God.”