By Jonathan Serrie, ,
Published May 02, 2016
Even in the face of cancer, former President Jimmy Carter is keeping a busy schedule teaching Sunday school at his small hometown church -- and seeing a surge in attendance for the sessions he's led for years.
Since Carter announced his diagnosis, renewed public interest in the former president's classes has challenged the church to accommodate the crowds. But Carter, who has begun radiation treatment, says he plans to keep teaching.
"I don't know what the results will be, but I'm ready for whatever comes," Carter calmly explained to the crowd that packed the sanctuary of Maranatha Baptist Church on Sunday. "I'm trying to extend my life as long as I can. But I enjoy my teaching here. And it gives me a chance to be with people like you and to share my thoughts about God's will."
When Carter first announced his cancer diagnosis in August, more than 1,000 people showed up the following Sunday in hopes of attending his class in a room designed for 175. Since then, the church has been issuing seat assignments the day before each class to prevent visitors from having to camp in their cars overnight.
"The Sunday school class has moved up on some people's bucket list," explained Jill Stuckey, a church volunteer and longtime Carter friend. "We've been getting rather large crowds. But the more the merrier! We love people coming to Maranatha Baptist Church to hear President Carter teach."
This past Sunday, Carter's class drew people from around the U.S. and even overseas.
"I decided to do it because I don't know what will happen in the future and if I'll have this chance again," said Oliver Haas, a history teacher from Austria.
Citing passages from the Gospel of John and several epistles of Paul, the former president's most recent class focused on Christian concepts of leadership, free will, salvation and equality.
"Everybody on Earth is created equally in the eyes of God," the former president told the class. "That also means that we don't have the right to exalt ourselves above other people."
Each Sunday school class is followed by the church's main worship service. Afterwards, Carter, and his wife Rosalynn, pose for photos with all visitors who stick around.
"It was worth the six-hour drive from Clearwater, Florida," exclaimed Elizabeth Casper. "I loved it. I had a great time."
Health permitting, Carter plans to keep a busy Sunday school schedule. The church website lists him as teaching four out of the next six weekends.
Fox News' Avery Crow contributed to this report.