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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 6:21 am | Fog/Mist 54º


Easter Service Draws Thousands for Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara’s Message of Resurrection

Annual event at Courthouse Sunken Garden focuses on hope and strength amid turmoil as Michael English shares story of wife's battle with cancer

Worshipers rejoice and pray during Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara’s Easter Sunday service at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden. Several thousand people attended the service, one of the largest Easter church services on the South Coast. Click to view larger
Worshipers rejoice and pray during Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara’s Easter Sunday service at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden. Several thousand people attended the service, one of the largest Easter church services on the South Coast. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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Several thousand people celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ at an Easter Sunday service at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden.

Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara staged the “Safe & Sound” gathering, which has emerged as the largest Easter church gathering on the South Coast. The event was live-streamed and translated into Spanish on-site for those who requested a headset.

The outdoor service draws many of Calvary Chapel’s stalwart worshipers, but also attracts members of the general community who are not regular churchgoers.

Grammy Award-nominated Christian rock band Leeland performed for the first 45 minutes of the service, singing worship music and inspiring the crowd to lift hands in the air, bow their heads and shed tears.

The event was highlighted by a story shared by two of the church’s members, Kirk Hodson and Mike English, whose message urged the throng to stay strong amid the inevitable storm.

“Trouble is coming, but you can be safe and secure in it,” English said.

He shared with the crowd the story of his wife, Krista, and her battle with leukemia. The first time she was diagnosed with leukemia more than a decade ago, English said he felt helpless and scared.

“I wasn’t really ready for that,” he said. “It was the hardest news I had ever received.”

He said their children needed a mother and he needed his wife.

“It rocked my world,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t make sense.”

Krista, however, recovered and, from that day on, he said he knew that “God had given me back to her. Every day I had with her was a gift.”

They found strength in a scripture, Psalm 41:3: “The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.”

When the cancer came back a few years later, English said he was stronger because he had been through it before, and this time he believed God would take care of his family. He said doctors gave up on his wife at one point and didn’t thing that she would survive, but she did.

“That’s not always the case, but it was in ours,” he said.

But when the cancer returned for a third time, after two bone marrow transplants, in 2015, English said he was ready to let go.

“I knew that whatever happened would be OK,” he said. “The timing was right for her to go. We had this peace about it.”

English said he brought his wife out of hospice care and took her home to live the last six weeks of her life. He said it was the best decision he ever made.

Krista died on Nov. 3, 2015, at age 44. She is survived by her husband and their two sons, Adam and Trevor.

“We had six wonderful weeks at home,” English said.

English said people spend so much of their time avoiding death that when it confronts you, even for those who are close to God, it is “scary.” But he said he believed in a greater purpose and meaning, which helped get him through the ordeal.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” English said. “You don’t know how long you have. Today may be the last day or you may have many more years. You just don’t know.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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