Spotlight on Tricia Ross: Serving with a Heart of Gold
By Ashley Daniels
If a strongman competition existed to test the strength and spirit of the heart, Tricia Ross, administrative pastor at Solid Rock Church, would easily set a world record.
Her heart and love for others have been strained, stretched, stressed, and broken over the years, but you would never know. Because she continues to give from her heart with all of her love today.
Growing up in Florida, Tricia was in a physically abusive relationship with a boyfriend while in high school.
“I shut God out of my life at that time,” she says. “I was angry, I was hurt, and I just didn’t understand why He wasn’t there protecting me. I had believed in God, but I didn’t understand why I could get physically abused if there was a God.”
After high school graduation, Tricia moved to Maryland to live with her dad and was pregnant with her daughter at age 18. As if being a teen mother wasn’t challenging enough, she had to also endure her baby girl being born with a heart condition. Doctors had to do open heart surgery on her at only 13 days old.
“That was a lot,” she admits. “But I believed in God at that time and, when everybody else was saying, ‘No, there’s a 95 percent chance she’s not going to make it,’ I said, ‘No, God will heal her.’ And blessed to God, He did heal her. The doctor said she wouldn’t make it to her teen years, and she wouldn’t have children … Today, she’s 37 years old and already has one child and one on the way.”
Tricia says she then married her son’s father (her son is 27), they divorced, and she met the love of her life, John, in 2004.
“I met him and, immediately, we were like soulmates. It was kind of weird,” she laughs. “Both my kids loved him. He believed in the Lord with all his heart. … Actually, when we first met, he asked to see my Bible. I said, ‘Why do you want to see my Bible?’ He looked at it, and he goes, ‘Oh, good. You highlight scripture and you turn the pages, so you’re actually reading it.’”
This was just one of John’s many fun quirks and character traits that Tricia fell in love with. Those who knew the Army veteran also called him Superman because of his superhero-like strength through his battle with 3C colon cancer from 2007 to 2016, when he passed away on July 7.
“You would never know he was in pain,” says Tricia. “They called him Superman because he never complained about it. He just did what he had to do. If he had to come and pull weeds at church, he’d come and pull weeds. Sometimes he even had his chemo pack around him.”
“He would drive from here to Mt. Pleasant every day for 29 days and have 15 minutes of radiation,” she continues. “He worked in pest control and would just go back to work after that.”
John Ross first started having severe stomach pain in 2006, when he was admitted to the ER several times until a physician at the VA in Myrtle Beach ordered a colonoscopy, showing that cancer had already penetrated the abdominal wall. His official cancer diagnosis was on October 12, 2007, the same day as Tricia’s son’s 12th birthday.
It was also in 2007 that Tricia and John first began attending Solid Rock Church. Tricia’s daughter invited them both to its former location on Forestbrook Road, and the couple immediately felt God’s embrace and presence.
“Solid Rock brought food every day to the hospital the last time John was there,” says Tricia. “They did a 4th of July cookout for us in the hospital. They all showed up with Superman shirts on and prayed over John’s ICU room. We are blessed with a wonderful family and church family. … To get planted in a church without my church family … I’m not sure I would have come this far. They were there through it all.”
Tricia kept an in-depth journal that covered the highs and lows of John’s battle with cancer over the course of nine years – one riddled with infections, surgeries, and rounds of chemo sessions. Tricia and John were married on November 11, 2011 (11-11-11). Two weeks later, a blockage sent him back to the hospital, and he wasn’t expected to leave.
“They didn’t think he was going to make it through it, and they put him in the ICU because there was so much infection from that. I think he was in a coma for nine days,” says Tricia. “They were getting to the point where they were going to test brain activity. … We didn’t know if he was going to pull through. My sister just happened to be working at that same hospital, and she came in and said, ‘Trish, I know the numbers. They don’t look good. I want you to face reality.’ I put scriptures on the nurse’s board and still felt God had something for him.”
Despite his cancer being upgraded to stage four cancer that same year in 2011 because it had spread to his liver, John didn’t back down from the fight and would have five more years on earth.
“John was always funny,” says Tricia. “That’s what I think kept him fighting for so long. He just went on with things with a smile and said, ‘I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.’ No matter what, John was at church. … Besides God, John kept going because of his new grandson, Maddox. They were like two peas in a pod. He looked forward to every day with him.”
John and Tricia never stopped serving the church. In fact, they both began administrating for Solid Rock together, which is what Tricia continues to do today, and went back to school together. It was on his bucket list to get his bachelor’s degree in business, so he did online through the University of Phoenix. Tricia earned her associate’s at the same time.
“He was going to walk the stage, and he said, ‘Please walk the stage with me,’” says Tricia. “And I’m so thankful I did.”
After John passed away, Tricia earned her bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration on her own, graduating with a 4.0 GPA, an aspect she says has helped her tremendously with her full-time job at Solid Rock.
“I love it,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better job than to work for God. Pastor and I work together with all our elders to make it possible for Solid Rock to function each day.”
With only Mondays off (she considers Sundays at church a day off), Tricia’s daily duties behind the scenes include: coordinating the short groups each season, gathering the announcements and posting them on social media, helping with Faith First Academy, meeting with new members, training leaders, answering church emails, updating the website, coordinating Pizza with the Pastor, and, as a recently anointed administrative pastor, serving at baptisms, funerals, and weddings (she married her daughter).
Most churches with more than 500 people in the congregation, like Solid Rock, have at least a half-dozen full-time employees pulling off what Tricia does. But because of her superpower administrator skills, Solid Rock is able to function at its high level of excellence with only two full-time employees: Tricia and Pastor John Paul.
“We now have so many people serving faithfully that it takes a big burden off me,” says Tricia. “Everybody serves with a joyful heart. And each person makes a difference.”
As for Tricia’s life story, what has made a difference in how she decided to respond to conflict?
“No matter what you face in life, you have to trust God and turn it over to Him. No matter how you feel, you just have to give it to Him because he’s the ultimate physician in everything,” she says. “It’s so hard. … That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have really hard times. … But I’ve seen miracles so often that I know He can do it.
“You have to have faith because the doctors can tell you everything they want,” continues Tricia. I mean, they gave me a prognosis for [John] of less than 50 percent, or a five-year survival. But I myself had seen my daughter survive miracles, and John had miracles, so we have to keep our faith. We have to keep sharing God with one another.”