Submitted photo A communitywide Day of Prayer is scheduled for this Monday, Dec. 19, for Nolan Weber who is suffering from brain cancer.
Community Day of Prayer planned for Nolan Weber

by Chris Pagano Staff Reporter


You have seen the marquees on the property of local businesses around town proclaiming ‘We Believe,’ since October. They are the result of Jackson’s solidarity for Jackson High School junior, Nolan Weber, who has been battling brain cancer since April 2011.

The community is being called to action for a day of prayer for Nolan scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., this Monday, Dec. 19, at the First Baptist Church in Jackson.

It all started on April 7, when Nolan suffered a seizure at school. After an ambulance ride to St. Louis, the doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital told his parents, Rachelle and Dean, that the seizure was caused by a bleed from a large tumor on Nolan’s brain. Saint Louis Children’s Hospital performed surgery on April 15, and subsequent treatments became a part of Nolan’s life.

Riding back from St. Louis after the surgery, Rachelle said that Nolan expressed an interest in being baptized on Easter. Pastor Tommy Weems of First Baptist Church in Jackson agreed and held a rehearsal two days prior to the baptism.

“It was difficult for Nolan to raise his left arm. After his surgery, his left side was not working; but between Friday and Sunday he got better. Before we slid the stained glass window back (to prepare for baptism) Nolan looked at me with a big grin from ear to ear and lifted his left arm above his head and stretched.”

The pastor and Nolan weren’t the only ones who were joyful that day. “When I told the congregation who the candidate for baptism was, they exploded with joy,” said Weems.

Despite Nolan’s incidents of nausea and fatigue, the motivated athlete continued to play sports, going  through the baseball season as best he could and playing varsity and junior varsity soccer this year. His soccer coach, Zack Walton, said he played several games and described him as a compassionate kid, noting the bond he had created with a younger child diagnosed with a different tumor, long before discovering he had a similar illness.

When the surgery and treatments were over by late June, a routine follow-up MRI in early October indicated a tumor had recurred and that it was inoperable. His parents knew they had to find a way to keep their son strong. “He got pretty down. The school always tried to be supportive, and we had a discussion on ideas to show support,” said Rachelle.

Nolan’s father said the support was important to help his son cope. “You’ve got to remember that with the surgery and all that followed, he lost some of his sports season, the routine of going to school full time and time with his friends.”

The origin of the widespread message of ‘We Believe’ came into play after a counseling session with Pastor Tommy at the Webers’ home. Weems explained that they discussed a Bible verse, Mark 11:24; that reads, “Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and you will.” Focusing on that thought became important. Dean said, “We went around to all the windows and mirrors in the house and wrote, ‘Believe’ on them. It has so much meaning. We needed for Nolan to stay strong.”

“Pastor Tommy said the verse is about letting go and putting 100 percent of your belief in the faith of God,” said Rachelle. “We believe he will recover from this.”

Words from the Bible account that spread throughout the Weber household were soon plastered all over Jackson school buildings on banners and the bodies of students and staff wearing silk screened and handmade tee shirts, announcing that they believed. The powerful words that fit neatly on marquees had spread like wildfire throughout Jackson.

Both Dean and Rachelle Weber agree that the support from the community has been overwhelming, even humbling. “Every day we get an email, a phone call — not just from people close to us, but people we don’t even know. Occasionally we even get things in the mail. Recently Nolan got a stocking that said, ‘Believe’ on it.”

And Kyle Newell, a friend of the Webers’ through coaching and kids’ sports groups, recently called them about having a day of prayer.

“I’ve been driving from Jackson to Perryville and thinking about them. I’ve been watching the situation and praying. It’s all we can do,” he said. Newell organized a prayer day at First Baptist Church by contacting Pastor Tommy.

“I know just how busy people get and wanted to be sure everyone’s still remembering Nolan. I believe the Lord put the idea in my head,” said Newell. “I know God’s Will can include miracles and the strength for Nolan and his family to get through this. I want Nolan to wake up in the morning and know he has a lot of support.”

A clinical trial was implemented to combat the recurring brain tumor that was inoperable. When the cancer was unresponsive to treatments he received in October and November, they were stopped. No other clinical trials were available but then... “A few weeks ago he started on another chemotherapy treatment. He goes up to St. Louis Children’s Hospital every other Monday for treatment,” said Rachelle.

The community’s consistent support since October has now become a call for action. Prayers for Nolan at the First Baptist Church will be constant with the idea of the entire congregation signing up for a time slot. “I believe the church will positively respond,” said Weems. All denominations are invited to attend, and Weems is hopeful that with all the different denominations attending, the prayers will continue throughout the churches indefinitely.

In the meantime, 16-year-old Nolan has future plans of going to college and is interested in physical therapy, possibly nursing. “I love to be around sports and kids so I could see myself being a coach also,” he said. “I would love to play a sport through college.”

He tries not to let his illness change his future plans. More interested in physical therapy and nursing now, than before his illness, he said, “ The biggest change is after I beat this, I would want to share what has happened to me with other kids. People don’t know what’s out there sometimes. I would like to try to help anyone else going through something similar, they don’t know what to expect. They need to know there is help and people to turn to. I don’t think I have ever been the type of kid to give up on something; my family tells me that this is no different.”