A few weeks ago I was invited to speak to a Christian Support Group in Springfield called ENABLED. This group helps people with disabilities so that they will be
Equipped to know Christ and grow in a life-changing walk with God
Empowered to find connectedness and significance in life
Enabled to thrive in service to Christ and to others
It is a really wonderful group and I was honored to be asked to share my testimony with them. Ethel Campbell is the president of the program and she is an amazing Christian woman!
Last night my Mom, my 2 nieces Sarah and Olivia, and I went to worship them. It was beautiful and after the worship service I spoke.
It was well received but what I found was that the people I go to speak to are MY inspiration! These people encourage me to be a better person. Speaking to this group of people with an assortment of disabilities made me realize that Christ's face IS reflected in their faces.. I need to speak to every person as though I really AM talking to Jesus!!!
Speech for ENABLED
I used the “Perseverance” painting as back ground – had it on a stand nearby – (That’s the one of the Indian woman carrying the baby on her back with a load of bricks on her head – shows both security and responsibility)
1) Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
Heavy-laden just means, “carrying a heavy burden.” Or, “carrying something to heavy.” This woman IS heavy-laden. She is carrying heavy bricks up those steps to give to the builders above. She will do this all day long.
In India women do work like that, and they often have to take their babies to work with them. She is working hard, as she does all day. She needs rest. We can see that. But all people – all of us – also carry burdens too heavy for us. Not all of those things that are hard to carry are like bricks, either. Some of our burdens can’t be seen. We might be the only ones who feel them.
We all know that sin is the heaviest weight of all. But it isn’t the only one we have to carry. Sometimes we carry our own sorrows, and sometimes we are responsible for carrying other people’s sadnesses and hurt, bearing their burdens for them until they are able to trust Jesus for themselves. That’s what parents and friends often do, isn’t it?
That’s what the mother in the picture is doing. She’s carrying her baby. The baby isn’t carrying anything! That’s what our parents do. And it’s what God does for us, too. And God does it for our parents and caregivers, too.
2) For some of us, the heaviest burden we carry is our disability. It is heavy not to be able to do everything other people do. It is hard when other people stare at us, make fun or put us down. It is hard for us when we feel we can’t measure up. It is hard to be different.
But when we put that heavy burden into God’s hands, then we can experience freedom and joy and see ourselves as God sees us – see the value our lives have to Him.
My parents left me in a hospital in southern India when I was just a day old. They did not just let me die, which they might have done; they saved me. But they could not raise me, either. They did not know how to help me, and they were very poor.
When I was nearly two years old, I was adopted by an American woman, Cathy Cox, who is here with us tonight. She had already adopted four other girls. My mother is a strong Christian who was determined for me to know God’s love. And she also wanted me - and all my sisters - to be as independent as possible.
When I was little, she carried me. Other people carried me, too. And where they carried me was to Jesus. And Jesus still holds me. He carries me even as I study, and work to serve him. He still leads and guides me. And He loves me. I know that for sure.
God did not give me my burden. God did not make me disabled. But God IS WITH ME IN IT. And God gives me rest. Peace. Happiness. Joy.
And so God set me down on my feet (even though I don’t have any!) and taught me to walk in faith.
As a teenager, I learned to draw and paint. And that added to my gladness, and it strengthened my trust in God. I felt free when I learned to make beautiful things. I realized I didn’t need my arms or legs to do that!
Because of my disability I didn’t expect to be able to go to college. I didn’t see how I could get everything done there. I was afraid I couldn’t make it. But Southwest University accepted me, gave me a chance, encouraged me and even rearranged classrooms for me. They added automatic door openers to the buildings I used, and in many ways made it possible for me to graduate with honors last spring.
But I studied hard, too! I was able to meet the university’s expectations because I had learned to trust God – and to obey him. You might not want to go to college. You may want to live alone, or to drive a car, or to learn to cook, or to speak more clearly, or just to make your own bed. You know what your dreams are. You know what you long to do.
But what I have learned is that I can do all the things that I need to do, through Christ who strengthens me. That’s what the apostle Paul learned, too, when his “burden” was too heavy for him. I can’t do everything I might want to do. I can’t run, or do a cartwheel, or ride a bike or swim. I can’t take the trash out, or reach into the back of cabinets or take cookies out of the oven.
But I can do what God gives me to do. God has made me exactly as I am - for HIS own purpose, just as God has made you. We do not always know why, or what his good purpose is. But we can know that God loves us, created us in his love, and FOR his love.
We can be glad for what we do have, and for what we can do, and we can be glad for the people who love us and carry us – who help us carry our burdens.
We can be glad for Jesus.
Sometimes it is our parents and friends who struggle the most with our disabilities. They think it would be better if we could be different! They feel sad. They worry about us. They wish they could do more. They don’t always know what TO do.
But Jesus wants to hold them, too. We who are disabled need to help them let go of worry. Sometimes we are the ones who need to reassure them that if God knows and loves us, they can relax, too, and trust God to do what is good for us.
3) Part of my degree required me to live in another country for six months. I couldn’t take my electric wheelchair, so I used this old, manual one! It wasn’t easy, but it was a great adventure. I’m glad I went. I worked with children and disabled adults. And when I did, and when I spoke with many different groups of people in Africa, I discovered part of God’s purpose for me.
I discovered that many people who are not disabled are afraid of God. They do not know how good He is, or how much he loves them. They were surprised that I said God is good all the time, and that I trust him. But when I said it, they began to believe it. If I thought that God does everything for good, and if I experienced that love, then maybe they could, too. My disability became my greatest strength in telling people about Jesus!
So then I decided that we, who are disabled, actually have a unique way to show other people how good God is. People who do not have differences need each of us. Your church needs you and your family. Your school needs you. We have gifts to offer that no one else can offer.
I loved Africa. I want to go back there. I went to India when I was a teenager, and I’d love to go back to visit India again. And I hope to go to Honduras in September to work with families who have disabled children. There are not very many schools for disabled children there. And families do not know what to do. But I also love to speak even here in the US, to teachers and doctors and to families who are not disabled, to ask them to try to really SEE us, to see YOU – as children of God – precious to God – people of value. I want to tell them that all of us want to SERVE, not just to BE served!
We all have something to do, too, just by being ourselves and trusting God. We need to help other people IN the church see God better! When they see us happy in Jesus, that helps them be happy, too. It helps them to trust God better.
It is not easy to live without arms and legs. It is inconvenient! I know it is inconvenient for you to be in a wheelchair, or to struggle to speak. I know it is hard for you to try to do something and find that you can’t. I know it is hard for your families, too.
But you can do what God gives you to do. You can love Him and trust Him…and show by your lives that God loves others, too.
And that is really what all people are called to do, isn’t it?
4) God has carried me safely all my life – just like this baby is being carried by her mother. And God carries me still. God carries the burdens I have. And God carries you, too.
When we come to Him and let Him do it, Jesus picks up us and carries us through every hard place and every hard time. Even though God gives us work to do for Him, He does the hard work for us – just like this mother is doing the hard work. The baby isn’t! The baby is just resting, and watching, and feeling the touch of her hand.
And when we have rest, when we can trust Jesus to do everything for us that we need – then we can lift up other people to God and ask Him to carry them, too – and all of us together can sing praises to God for His love and goodness.
People believe us when we speak about God’s goodness. They believe us when we cannot speak, but only smile. They can see that we really KNOW that God is carrying us and our struggles! We know Jesus can carry them and their problems, too., That is our most important gift.
That is what we have to offer, when we work for Him, when we love each other, when we help others to carry their burdens – What we really give them is this: Jesus, the one who bears all our burdens.