While Willie E. Calhoun was in the U.S. Air Force, he had been in several war zones and had witnessed the fear of death in his colleagues. His daughter Shaundrea was different. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and only given six months to live, Shaundrea displayed an unfathomable amount of courage.
As unexpected as his daughter’s cancer diagnosis was, Willie believes that his military service prepared him for what was to come next.
Willie speaks with his wife Patricia A. Calhoun and his daughter Cheresa L. Calhoun about the final stages of his daughter Shaundrea's life, and how he summoned the courage to become a minister after seeing his daughter's courage.
“I admired the courage that she showed as a young person; you know I had never seen courage like that before, to know that you are dying and not complain,” explained Willie.
Shaundrea found comfort in her faith. Willie recalls her quoting from the Bible, about how Job had suffered, and “she felt it was an honor and a privilege for her to suffer the way she was, suffering for the Lord.”
In addition to dealing with his daughter’s illness, he was debating whether or not to act on his calling for the ministry. The courage displayed by his daughter is what ultimately pushed him to make his announcement.
Willie remembered “when she showed the courage to go through what she went through, then I said 'I just need to have courage.' … And I did. She passed away in September 2004 and in July of 2005, I became a minister.”
After serving under another pastor for about seventeen years, Willie opened his own church based on Shaundrea's life and the courage that she displayed back then. He named that church “Courageous Faith.”
Recorded on Feb. 8, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas.
Cheresa L. Calhoun: So what about your latest venture with becoming a pastor? How does that relate to the military, your wife, and then losing Drea at [age] 23?
Willie E. Calhoun: I think the military training that I had prepared me for a lot of things. [It] prepared me for different situations, different environments. After losing my daughter, being in the military, and being in some warzones — [I saw] the fear that people had with the possibility of losing their lives. When I saw my daughter suffering from cancer, and the last eight days of her life there at home on hospice, the courage that she showed even when the doctor told her that her diagnosis was terminal [and] that they had given her only six months to live. But I admired the courage that she showed as a young person; you know I had never seen courage like that before, to know that you are dying and to not complain and to not murmur. And, for her to even use a scripture from the bible that talked about — the Book of Job — how Job had suffered and she felt it was an honor, and a privilege for her to suffer the way she was suffering for the Lord. So I thought that that was over the top, I couldn't even imagine having that kind of attitude myself. There were some things I was dealing with internally, during the time that she was sick and even before, about whether or not to make my calling know for the ministry. I knew it would take courage to do it because once you cross the line and say that you are then — I felt like, there is no turning back. You know, this is not a job you can quit on. So when she showed the courage to go through what she went through, then I said “I just need to have courage,” and then make the announcement known that I am going to go into the ministry. And I did. She passed away in September 2004 and in July of 2005, I became a minister. I went to school and I did all the things necessary to become an ordained Elder. After serving under another pastor for about seventeen years, then I stepped out on faith once again with the courage to start my own ministry. My own church, and based on Shaundrea's life and the courage that she displayed [back] then. I named that church “Courageous Faith.” Courage Faith Church. We have been there for almost three years now, and it has been a help to a lot of people.