WAXAHACHIE — As a prominent husband and wife in the community both begin to deal with cancer prognoses, the Waxahachie-based Chick-fil-A has stepped in to provide support to the two leaders who have dedicated their lives to helping others.
Pastor Bruce Zimmerman and his wife, Sheila, have been with the Waxahachie Bible Church for more than 30 years. After publicly sharing Bruce's diagnosis of prostate cancer in March, the family announced Sheila received a colon cancer diagnosis two months later. Because of the that, the Waxahachie Chick-fil-A has plans to host an evening to benefit the two on Thursday, July 27.
“We’ve never really had any health challenges before,” said Bruce Zimmerman, Pastor at Waxahachie Bible Church. “And then all of a sudden this all started happening. I got diagnosed at the end of March and my wife got diagnosed at the beginning of June. The community support has just been incredible. Everyone has been so wonderful in supporting and caring for us."
Born in Finland, Zimmerman traveled alongside his missionary parents as they preached the gospel before finally settling in Detroit, Michigan. After finishing high school, Zimmerman went to seminary school and by 1984, found himself in Ellis County filling in part-time at the Waxahachie Bible Church where he has remained ever since.
“As a long time resident here, I know firsthand through many conversations I’ve had the amazing and positive impact these two have had in the community,” said Philip Browne, owner of the Waxahachie Chick-fil-A. “Not just those who go to their church, but the community in general. I know they’re struggling so we want to encourage folks in our community to come out in support of the Zimmermans. We felt like this would be a great way to help out.”
A member of Waxahachie Bible Church himself, Browne’s testimonial provides an indication of how valued these two residents are.
“Just knowing who he is, the impact he’s had, I think it’ll be a great event,” said Browne. “When you’re struggling, what better way to go through something like this than having someone just shake your hand and tell you they’re praying for you? That’s something he’s done for decades now, so this is a great opportunity for people to do the same thing for him and his wife.”
A 16-year-chaplain for the fire department and pastor at Waxahachie Bible Church for 32 years, Zimmerman’s faith and irreplaceable spirit have won over the hearts of those both in his church community and city, which has been made clear since beginning their unexpected journey in the spring.
“Somebody paid off my wife’s bill after her surgery,” Zimmerman said. “Someone else paid off our portion of the bill to the hospital anonymously. I’m flying up to Baltimore for tests and I had a guy say ‘I have miles on Southwest. Let me book your flight.’ It’s been so incredible to watch again and again and again just people’s kindness. I’ll come home one day and someone’s mowed the lawn — it all matters.”
He added, “People have just been wonderful in supporting us and caring for us. When my wife went into the hospital there were flowers, cards, meals, it just went on for several weeks and everybody was praying. It was incredible. Just walking around town, people are saying ‘We’re praying for you.’”
Bruce will fly to Bethesda, Maryland, in August to begin sorting through his treatment options. Sheila has already undergone surgery and will be starting a six-month-round of chemotherapy in August. Despite life’s new adjustments, the Zimmermans said they’re pain-free and feeling “great,” adding it’s hard to believe that anything is wrong.
Throughout the entire process, the parents of four are remaining hopeful in God’s plan.
“There’s just an absolute confidence that no matter what happens, God is going to carry us through,” Zimmerman said. “We have felt incredible peace. I mean there are times where we’re like ‘what the heck is going on,' you know? But, for the most part, we have incredible peace and strength through it all. I believe God uses this stuff in our lives to connect us with people, to cross paths with people that we never would have otherwise and that God can use us all as opportunities to expand his work.”
Browne encourages the community to attend Thursday’s event to rally around the Zimmermans. As evident in Chick-fil-A’s Facebook post that has already been shared more than 400 times, it’s no surprise that this particular couple would garner such a large turnout.
“We’ve been blessed,” Zimmerman raved. “It's wonderful, it's amazing, I share this stuff with my brothers, one in Chicago, a brother in Florida, sister in New York and a sister in D.C., and we talk about stuff in this community, and they’re kind of like ‘I don’t get it.’ This stuff doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s truly the most incredible place. We love being here.”
The community event will occur this Thursday, July 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Waxahachie Chick-fil-A. There will be a money and gift card tree for guests to bring donations. At 7:30 p.m., the event will transition over to the Holiday Inn Express for a time of prayer for the Zimmermans and their family.
“People say I should relax, slow down, stuff like that,” said Zimmerman. “But if this is the last lap of my life I want to kick all the way to the finish line. I don’t want to just sit down and quit- I want to run the race. So I’m going to run the race and keep on kicking till its over, and I pray it's not real soon.”