Cato Receives Providential Surgery

by Zach Krauss

Jim Cato experienced a providential brain surgery during Cedarville’s recent mission trip to Houston. 

Cato, associate vice president of Christian Ministries at Cedarville University, went with students to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

But Cato’s Fall Break plans changed on the Wednesday of the trip. He reported headaches and migraines and went to an urgent care center. He was informed that he was dehydrated. They gave him fluids and sent him on his way. As the night went on, however, Cato’s headache pains began to intensify, and around midnight, he woke up Keith Holcomb, the assistant director for global outreach, and asked to be taken to a hospital emergency room. 

After what Cato described as an “adventure of finding a nearby hospital in a foreign city,” he was admitted. He was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor, but he need to have it removed.

Cato was transferred to the Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston where he was placed under the care of Dr. Arthur Day, a neurosurgeon for the Mischer Neuroscience Institute. 

Unbeknownst to Cato and his team, Dr. Day is a specialist in type of surgery Cato needed. Day has served as the president for the Society of Neurological Surgeons, as well as the director chair of the department for Neurological Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s hospital. 

The next day, the staff administered an MRI, and by Friday, Day had completed the surgery and Cato was on his way to recovery. The swiftness and efficiency of the process, along with the confidence and skill of the doctors astonished both Cato and the students on the team. Everyone involved on the trip attested to one thing: because of the resources available in Houston, Jim Cato’s participation in the fall break trip was purely the providence of God.

While Cato was in the hospital and unable to help with the rest of the trip, students said that the staff pitched in and helped fill the gap more than expected. The drivers who attended the trip were chartered from the company Light Riders, which supports ministries such as Cedarville’s. Over the break, students said that the bus drivers were eager to be able to help work and support the team, which took part of the load off of the rest of the staff as well.

Cato said that the hospital will need to do a final procedure, probably in December, using a gamma knife treatment process in order to remove a very small portion of the tumor remaining, that, if left, could regrow. 

Gamma knife treatment is a non-invasive surgery often used as an alternative to whole-brain radiation therapy or traditional surgery.

Cato made a swift recovery and is back serving students and the university. He oversees Production Services, chapel bands, HeartSong and is involved in Global Outreach. He also serves as a professor for some of the university’s worship classes. 

Cato said he felt called to study at Cedarville after he was married. He wasn’t aware of God’s plan for him at the time. He was moving to a town where he had no permanent residence or income. He followed the call God gave him anyway and graduated as a music major. 

After graduating, Cato worked at the university’s radio station before hearing about and applying for a position in the Christian Ministries office overseeing the traveling music teams. Since then, Cato has become involved in the numerous ministries mentioned previously. 

Josiah Kenniv, a senior worship major, has been under Cato’s direction as a member of HeartSong since 2014. Kenniv said that what struck him the most about Cato through the years has been his intentionality behind everything that happens on the stage of a worship set. He said that there is meaning and thought behind every aspect of HeartSong from the physical presentation of the members at an event to the words that are said between songs. 

“There is nothing random when it comes to Jim,” Kenniv said. “Spontaneous, maybe, but not random.” 

Through his association with Christian Ministries at Cedarville, Cato has been able to travel all over the world for the Gospel. He said that now that his position has caused him to work more closely with Global Outreach, he had wanted to start taking advantage of more opportunities. 

During the week of fall break, Cato was planning on attending a trip to Eastern Europe through Global Outreach. Some things fell through for that trip and he wasn’t able to attend. He said the opening up of the fall break week led him to decide to attend the fall break trip to Houston to serve communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

When the team began working on Monday, Cato said he was extremely impressed at the work the students were doing. He was glad to be able to organize students that were all so clearly passionate about their work. 

Jonny Gaunt, a junior sports management major who was with the team on the trip, said Cato is a fantastic leader. 

“Even before I met Jim, I’d heard from my close friends who have been on HeartSong how great of a person he was,” Gaunt said. “After working with him, it became clear to me how God’s gifted him to be a good leader, and also how passionate he is about missions and sending people to do God’s work.”

Micah Gerber, a sophomore broadcasting and digital media major who was the videographer for the Houston trip, said that while he didn’t know Cato before the trip, it was clear from the beginning how passionate he was about God. Gerber said that he often stressed how important it was for the team to be praying for others. The team saw this as the opportunity to remain constantly in prayer for him. 

Cato reflected that one of the most resonating lessons he learned from his trip to Houston was the power of Christian community in his life. During the whole process, Cato was inundated with messages and emails from friends and strangers alike from Cedarville, all letting him know that they were praying for him. He received pictures of entire groups of people meeting together to pray for him.

Jon Wood, the vice president of Student Life and Christian Ministries, visited Cato in the hospital for almost two days before Cato’s family arrived, supporting him and making sure that he was being taken care of. Cato said that by the end of the week some of the nurses questioned whether Wood was his son because of how concerned he was.

“It was all just very overwhelming,” Cato said, “just seeing how big the hearts were in these people who were trusting God to help me through.” 


Zach Krauss is a junior pharmacy/music double major from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community, and meeting new people.

This article was originally published as the cover story in Cedars’ December 2017 print issue.

2 Replies to "Cato Receives Providential Surgery"

  • comment-avatar
    Tom T December 17, 2017 (9:56 am)

    Great story of God’s grace and care in our lives.

  • comment-avatar
    henna January 13, 2018 (2:53 am)

    nice article Zach.Interesting story