Even though sad, this is a terrific story of faith --Bill Cherry
Cancer didn't stop Ike relief worker
By Bronwyn Turner
Correspondent, The Galveston County Daily News
Published October 29, 2008
GALVESTON - Two days after Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston, Melinda Ann Davis learned cancer had surged through her body, leaving her only weeks to live.
She was determined to spend her days at a disaster relief project in Galveston headed by her husband's ministry. The project, based out of RVs parked in a funeral home parking lot, was one of the few stable supply sources on the island, helping hundreds daily.
"In her time of crisis, she reached out to help someone else in crisis," wrote her husband, the Rev. Jerry Davis, in an e-mail describing the woman who won his heart at her 16th birthday party. "The quiet, reserved woman always in the background was a powerhouse of faith and the solid foundation which kept her husband and family and friends grounded with her God-centered life."
Jerry Davis was at her side, softly singing "Jesus Loves Me," when Melinda died Saturday at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston. Funeral services are set for 2 p.m. today at Fellowship of the Woodlands Chapel in the Woodlands.
The service, with the Rev. Frank Griffith officiating, will honor the quiet woman known for her servant heart. The 53-year-old grandmother of four touched many lives, even from an early age.
"Her childhood was challenging because her mother was never well," Davis wrote. "Melinda grew up quickly having responsibilities that normally fall to adults. She cooked and cleaned, nursed her mother and helped take care of her little sister."
Jerry Davis was the son of the new church pastor when he met Melinda at her 16th birthday party. Davis wrote he was "smitten for life." The couple married the summer after Melinda's senior year of high school.
In the years that followed, Jerry Davis worked as an itinerant preacher, and Melinda started a cleaning service with her sister. The money would go toward college educations for twin daughters, Tiffany and Andrea, now public school teachers.
The Davises began to focus their ministry on missions work in 1988, particularly in areas of natural disasters and wars. They worked in 61 countries in Jerry Davis Streetreach International Ministries, also called Good News in Bad News Places.
The ministry helped distribute humanitarian supplies and spiritual encouragement in crisis areas, including mission projects in Nicaragua and Honduras following Hurricane Mitch. Jerry Davis was also on hand to help after Hurricane Katrina, where he was nicknamed the "disaster pastor."
But Hurricane Ike would bring a disaster scenario like no other. Not only was the Conroe-based ministry in the midst of the hurricane damage, but the Davises were in the midst of crisis themselves.
Weeks To Live
Melinda was told Sept. 15 that her cancer was so advanced she had only weeks to live.
"She was in agonizing pain," Davis wrote. "Her liver was swollen with cancer. Ninety percent of her blood cells were cancerous. Her bones were full of lytic lesions."
But Melinda did not want to be bed-bound. She wanted to be near the workers and the mission of mercy in Galveston. She packed her bags. Her daughters and others gathered around her in prayer.
"The next morning, she stepped up into their RV coach for the trip, and the tortuous pain left her body," Davis wrote. The pain did not return.
Davis and other relief workers had already begun work in Galveston, searching for a facility where they could park RVs, distribute supplies and house home repair volunteers.
Rusty Carnes of Carnes Brothers Funeral Home quickly agreed to lend his parking lot and portions of his building for the project.
Volunteers slept on cots alongside casket displays. Truckloads of supplies were being distributed in the parking lot, while volunteers fanned out across Galveston to work on making homes livable.
Melinda stayed in the RV, her strength ebbing.
"She was watching and praying over us as we worked," said Paul Broussard, site manager for the project.
"She was the strength behind Jerry," he said. "She was sweet, quiet, a behind-the-scenes kind of person who didn't want to be in the limelight and just wanted to support her husband in his ministry and his work."
As far as a memorial for Melinda, Paul Broussard, site manager for the group at the Alamo Elementary shelter, suggested publishing the Web site of the project, now named Good News Galveston. Donations can be given online at www.goodnewsgalveston.org.
"That would please her no end," he said.
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