By Terry Hood, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Just six months ago, Tulsa lost one of its most well-known and well-respected religious leaders.
Billy Joe Daugherty died of cancer just before Thanksgiving. He left behind a wife, four children, and a congregation of 17,000.
Daugherty's wife, Pastor Sharon Daugherty, recently sat down with The News On 6 for her first in-depth interview since the death of her husband to talk faith, loss and new beginnings.
Sunday mornings rock at Victory Christian Center. It's an intense mix of music, testimonials and good old- fashioned preaching.
But while many things at Victory look the same, there's no denying the church has gone through a profound loss. And no one bears a greater burden than the woman who now carries on her husband's legacy.
Terry Hood, The News On 6: "You have been it seems amazingly strong. I know a lot of people have looked to you and it can't be easy."
Pastor Sharon Daugherty, Victory Christian Center: "Well, it hasn't been and I have my moments. And I allow my emotions to be released in those times and go forward. I really have felt a real grace upon my life that's beyond me."
Sharon Daugherty met Billy Joe when she was 16 years old. They married in 1973, raised four children together and side-by-side guided Victory Christian from its beginning in a used car lot at 44th and Sheridan to a ministry that claims 17,000 souls.
Those voices and more around the world who spent weeks in prayer that their pastor would be spared.
Terry Hood, The News On 6: "Did those prayers go unanswered? What do you make of it? How did you come to terms with it?"
Pastor Sharon Daugherty, Victory Christian Center: "Trust. There's a scripture in Deuteronomy that says the secret things belong to the Lord, those things that are revealed belong to us. And sometimes there are things we don't understand."
What was revealed to Sharon Daugherty, what she does understand, is that her life has a new purpose.
"I felt when Billy Joe passed, that God put it in my heart that I needed to steady the ship," she said. "Because it's a big ship."
A very big ship. As the new president of Victory Christian Center, Pastor Sharon is responsible for the church, the school, the International Bible Institute and training center and the north Tulsa Dream Center.
It's an undertaking that employees more than 700 people and operates in 93 countries.
Terry Hood, The News On 6: "There's not very many women who lead churches this size."
Pastor Sharon Daugherty, Victory Christian Center: "That's true. And I didn't plan on it."
But she has soldiered on, traveling to Washington to open Congress with a prayer, leading a mission trip this spring to the Dominican Republic, organizing a women's conference, food distribution and medical missions.
And in March, she launched the promotion of her husband's final book, "360° Life."
But first and foremost, Sharon Daugherty leads her congregation week in and week out. And here, she claims victory.
Daugherty says in their loss the church has become even stronger, even more determined to carry on the vision of the man who meant so much to so many.
"There's a sense of expectancy and excitement in people, which is, I know, unusual for people to think about, but everyone has a sense of great things ahead," she said. "It's not a sad feeling, it's a sense of challenge."