Jimmy Carter keeps teaching Sunday school, despite cancer

PLAINS, Ga. - Former President Jimmy Carter turns 91 on October 1st. He's undergoing treatment for brain cancer, but that's not changing his Sunday routine.

The line begins hours before the service. Lynne Fallow and her daughter Chapin drove from South Carolina to the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia -- Carter's hometown.

Lynne Fallow told CBS News she hadn't slept in two nights.

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Jan Williams takes care of crowd control. She's also a close friend of the instructor.

"Mr. Jimmy is one of the kindest Southern gentlemen who speaks what he thinks, stands up for what he believes in," Williams told CBS News.

President Carter has been teaching Sunday school there for 35 years. But since he announced his diagnosis, the crowds have been bigger than ever. While Carter has cancelled appearances, he hasn't cancelled this.

Carter begins with an update on his health. He said he has 4 treatments of immunotherapy.

Then, this Sunday, he taught about Timothy to some less-than-true believers.

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"What do you know about Timothy? Anything? You know his name right?," Carter said with a laugh.

First, he said, Timothy is about the importance of love. The former president challenged the group with questions -- particularly striking, coming from a man near the end of his own life.

"Do you have anyone in your mind against who you have a grievance, that might be resented by you, that you haven't forgiven?" Carter asked.

Jan Williams said Carter knows that "every Sunday that he teaches, he has a very good possibility of making a tremendous difference in somebody's life now and their future afterlife."

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When asked whether Carter seems rejuvenated by the crowd of people each Sunday, Williams said, "Oh, yes. I don't think once you're a politician you ever get over being a politician."

"He loves the crowds," she added.

That's why each lesson ends with a photo session. This time, he stayed seated for the photo, telling the group that his doctors recommended that he sit down.

Some in the pews were faithful -- some were there to see Carter before time runs out, like Ken and Jan Bryant.

"We said, oh, we can't miss out on that opportunity. That's just something we have to do. That's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," the Bryants told CBS News.

It was a last chance to learn about life and faith from an extraordinary teacher.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.