It is with heavy hearts that we share this news: on October 18, 2018, Gail Hamilton left this earth and went to her heavenly home. Our hearts hurt for her family and friends and all of us who miss her dearly. We are grateful for God's promise that she is now whole, and we are thankful for the lives changed for eternity because of her shining light.
“Don invited me to the prayer room at Johnson Bible College and I kept thinking, What in the world does he want to see me in the prayer room for?” Gail Hamilton recalled with a laugh. “Ladies, if you’re invited to a prayer room, don’t necessarily just plan on praying! Don had a discussion with me that day about his interest, and that’s how we started dating.”
Gail and Don Hamilton have spent 37 loving years together in marriage, ministry, and raising a family of four fabulous daughters. For 35 of those years, they have served Vibrant—A Christian Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
But this past year and a half, something new has gripped their lives and demanded their attention: cancer.
“I worked in the medical field as a nurse for years and tried to take care of myself also. I exercised pretty regularly. I ate right,” said Gail. In fact, Don would even tease her sometimes about how healthy she was.
So they were completely blindsided by a doctor’s visit in December 2016. Gail had no pain but noticed she had lost a little weight—tests revealed that she has stage four pancreatic cancer, with tumors in her pancreas, through her liver, and beginning to show in her lymph system. The oncologist said, “If you do nothing, you have three weeks to three months to live.”
“God has been doing things that never would’ve happened if it weren’t for this disease.” —Gail Hamilton
“I had lots of questions for God all of the sudden,” Gail admitted. “Why is this happening? Why me?”
Gail began treatment immediately. She continues to go every two weeks for a three-day regimen of chemo: First she has eight hours of treatment at the doctor’s. Then she goes home and wears a pump for two more days.
Even while dealing with her own emotions, Gail watches how this affects her loved ones.
“My family has been extremely supportive,” said Gail. The daughters who live out of town now visit more often. “I’ve had a wonderful time with family but yet a very difficult time watching them go through this with me. They’re hurting also.”
Don and Gail Hamilton pictured above.
One thing that helps Gail and Don process their experiences is writing on the blog they started: LoveGail.com. “We just want to be honest about how we’re feeling,” said Don. “We’ve received comments back from all over the world that it’s helpful for people. That’s what we want it to be.”
God Is Moving
Hearing the word cancer changes everything—priorities, plans, perspective.
But Gail is not ready to be defined by a diagnosis. Her entire life has been dedicated in service to the Lord, from being raised by amazing Christian parents to teaching her own daughters about following Christ; from becoming a preacher’s wife to leading the worship ministry; from lovingly caring for patients as a nurse to lovingly caring for church members at Vibrant. Her dedication to sharing God’s love will not stop now.
“It took a while to come around to this,” said Gail, “but finally I started asking the question, ‘Lord, if this is all the time I have left, what else can you do through me?’”
“In the midst of our pain, God uses it for His glory.” —Don Hamilton
Not long after this prayer, Gail was presented with an opportunity to partner with church planting organization Stadia to empower a ministry to the growing community of believers in Southern Asia. The goal is to train leaders on how to begin house churches in this heavily persecuted part of the world.
Tom Jones, Executive Director of Stadia, is friends with the Hamiltons and approached them about the ministry. While Stadia had found partners for the men’s house church leadership program, they were seeking partnership for the women’s portion. Tom saw Gail’s strong leadership and how she’s raised her daughters to be strong leaders and thought the family would be perfect. He knew it was a tough time in their lives, so they might tell him to get lost with this idea. But he woke up in the middle of the night from a dream saying, “Gail’s Girls”—he knew he had to call Gail.
She immediately said yes.
Hamilton family pictured above.
Gail and Don and their daughters, Andrea, Lauren, Kristin, and Rachel, all committed to minister through Gail’s Girls. Through fundraising efforts and a trip by the four daughters to teach and encourage the women in person, Gail’s Girls has provided the financial foundation for 25 women to have three years of training and support. Already these leaders have started 40 house churches in Southern Asia and are transitioning their community, teaching skills to other women so they can support themselves. Now Gail’s Girls is raising funds for the next class of 25 women.
“It’s a beautiful picture of how God is moving,” said Gail. “This wouldn’t have happened if not for this illness.”
“So much ministry has come out of this,” agreed Don. “In the midst of our pain, God uses it for His glory. As rotten as it is, God has taken the worst situation of our lives and He is bringing people to Christ because of it.”
We Continue to Trust
Since Gail’s diagnosis, she and Don have felt their church community surround them with love. They have boxes filled with encouragement cards.
“They assure us they’re praying for a miracle,” said Gail. “We keep praying the same: God will you perform a miracle on me? We’re trying to be bold about that, and we’re still waiting for that miracle—but at same time, He is doing miracles all around us. That’s what we have to keep our eyes on. He has been doing things that never would’ve happened if it weren’t for this disease.”
Sisters and brothers in Christ beyond their church are encouraging them also. The Hamiltons have supported Kairos Benevolence Fund since its inception, and KBF reached out to Gail and Don to see if they needed help. Don admitted that they never would have thought to ask.
“We ministers sometimes, we get so used to caring for other people, we’re pretty hesitant to ask for care for ourselves,” noted Don.
“KBF has been helping people all over the nation. We so appreciate what they do for us.” —Gail Hamilton
Yet even after insurance, medical bills are astronomical, so Gail and Don said yes—help would be a blessing.
“That has taken the burden of having to worry about those finances,” Gail said. “A lot of people don’t have insurance, so their situation can be even worse. KBF has been helping people all over the nation. It’s very needed. We so appreciate what they do for us.”
Because believers across the country donate to KBF, Gail and Don found some financial relief as they have transitioned to this new season of life. God is moving through the hearts of His people who may not even know the Hamiltons, using their generosity to be one answer to Gail and Don’s prayers.
“The whole year before I got this illness, God had impressed on me the word trust,” said Gail. “I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what this would come to. Obviously when I was diagnosed with this cancer, I knew He had given me that word for a reason. We continue to trust in Him.”