It was – according to his grandson, Jason – the 689th occasion that Jimmy Carter had taught a lesson at his church in Georgia.
But it was the first time he had done so since announcing this week that the cancer had spread to his brain and he had started a radiation therapy program in a bid to halt its progression.
As a result, hundreds of people gathered at the Maranatha Baptist Church in the town of Plains to listen to the 90-year-old give back-to-back Bible lessons. Some of those on the pews had traveled hundreds of miles to be there and listen.
the Associated press said Mr. Carter’s lesson was familiar to anyone who had heard him speak before; that when the burdens become heavy, it is time to ask God for strength.
The man who served as the 39th President of the United States spent only five years discussing his health issues before talking about faith, love and relationships.
As Rosalynn, his wife of 69 years, looked on, he said the two had long since decided never to go to sleep without settling their differences.
“Just being able to admit that you COULD be wrong and the other person COULD be right will make a relationship better,” he said.
He said that when people were faced with problems, they should be ready to rely on their faith.
“At any time, we can just bow our heads and say, ‘God, I’m really troubled. I ask you to give me the strength to bear whatever is on my shoulders and to endure whatever is happening to me,” he added.
The former peanut farmer and governor of Georgia has been teaching Sunday school for more than three decades at a small red-brick church, which has 40 regular members. His appearance on Sunday drew the biggest crowd members could remember, with around 460 people crammed inside.
Cricket Keating said Mr Carter’s “irrepressible joy” made the trip from his home in Columbus, Ohio worth it. She told the PA she and a friend had arrived in Plains at midnight to be on the front line and spent the night in sleeping bags.
“No matter how bad things get, we have company in this world,” she said of the former president’s message.
Mr Carter revealed on Wednesday that doctors told him the cancer had spread to his brain.
He said he was “quite relieved” when doctors managed to remove the liver tumour. But it was during a later MRI scan of his neck and head that “four little spots” were found on his brain.
“I just thought I had a few weeks left, but I was surprisingly comfortable,” he said. “I had a wonderful life.”