A Little Girl Lost

Archive for the ‘ministry’ Category

Because Of a Wheelchair

It took years for me to adjust to my new life. Paralyzed from my shoulders down with minimal use of my arms, I sat in a large black power wheelchair and stood out in a crowd.  People stared and I often overheard them talking about me. “What’s she doing here?” “What does she want?” “She can’t sit there.”  Many said they were sorry I had to be in a wheelchair while still others yelled at me as if I couldn’t hear. Most people just walked around me. In my pain, I withdrew and hid behind veiled eyes.

Until one day, someone asked me to teach a Sunday school class. I didn’t want to do it, but God wouldn’t let me go. I accepted knowing He would be my strength. That single invitation gave me the courage to step out of my uncomfortable-comfort zone and speak up about the healing love of God’s presence in my life. My disability opened many doors for ministry; the wheelchair however, couldn’t go through all of them.

Buildings with narrow doorways, steps or other barriers set physical limits to my ministry while much of society continued to shun me. As I took a stand for Christ’s sacrifice “for the least of these” word of my ministry spread and I found I could be both a minister of the gospel and an advocate for persons with disabilities.

I prayed for healing from past hurts and God gave me an incredible ministry. God’s call may not be a “dream come true” but if you’ll accept it, He will bless you through it.

Father, it is my prayer that you would work through me, and use my disability to open doors and share your word everywhere I go.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are (disabled), but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).

In Christian Love,

Berta
 

What Are Your Spiritual Gifts?

Our music minister and his wife (Dale and Esther Julian) performed the special music one Sunday morning. Their strength and ability carried me into a time of beautiful worship of our Lord and Savior. After the service, I told Esther how their music ministered to me and she told me she gets nervous. I said, “It was awesome. I couldn’t do it.” Esther replied, “Well I couldn’t do what you do.”

That conversation made me think about God’s gifts and callings in the lives of all His children. Remembering Esther’s nervousness brought this cliché to my mind: “out of my comfort zone.” We all struggle with doing things God’s way. We often look at situations with human eyes and minds and consider what might seem to be the easier way.

Both Dale and Esther attended college to prepare for their ministry. They didn’t just learn how to sing and play musical instruments but how to polish the gift and call God had placed in their spirits. Nursing school didn’t call me to be a nurse. God had given me the gift and call and school was my opportunity to become what God had planned for my life. When I began writing, Earl gave me a computer. It was a tool that I used to hone my skills in that gift and call from God.

 
What is(are) your gift(s) and calling(s)? How are you preparing to fulfill yours?

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed…There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor 12:1, 4-11 NIV). 

In Christian Love,

Berta

For your personal spiritual gift inventory go to http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8051415/

 

An Equipped Saint

My response to a seminary students request for information about how I do disability ministry:

I’m not an ordained pastor, but I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I met Earl, I didn’t know Jesus and had no desire to meet Him. I continued to fight His presence the first four years of our marriage. Then I went on a Walk to Emmaus where I accepted Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Eight months later, I was paralyzed in an accident.

After rehabilitation at the number one spinal cord injury rehab in the United States, I became very depressed. I withdrew for hours, sleeping or just hiding behind veiled eyes.

When Earl took me out I couldn’t handle the stares, the “I’m so sorry,” and the patting on my shoulders. Servers in restaurants wouldn’t give me a menu and asked Earl, “What does she want?” without looking at me. I took my anger out on my family and friends. (Today we joke about the “spirit of slap” that came over me.)

I begged God, “Please, at least heal my hands so I can take care of myself.” Instead, He began a ministry of teaching and speaking to small groups.

A monthly Sunday school teaching led to teaching every Sunday. A young women’s Bible study, a weekly prayer group, and a daily telephone ministry with women who couldn’t attend Church followed. Soon I was president of the women’s group, chair of the evangelism committee, and chaired the conference-level disability team.

I’m a certified lay speaker and have filled the pulpit, testified before both large and small groups, and spoken before the pastors, laypersons and members of our regional conference.

Acceptance not just of my disability but also my abilities came through ministry to others and by allowing others to minister to me. I’m well known in my Church and secular communities for telling people what Jesus has done for me.

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” Ephesians 4:11-14

In Christ Alone,
Berta

The Incarnation

This Christmas was difficult. I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. I didn’t feel joyful. I felt Heaven’s Loss.* I wept as I saw images of the incarnate Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger. Oh, the glory He left to redeem God’s creation! The burden I felt did not lift as I prayed for understanding and talked with my husband, Earl.

I sobbed more deeply than ever before as the pain reached way into my spirit. I listened to friends mourning the loss of loved ones and saw sorrow in the eyes of a sister in Christ. There were many suffering trials.

I found a quiet place where I could think, meditate and pray. It was a balm to my spirit and I remembered my return home after my injury in 1991. To allow people to care for me was very difficult. I hated that I was dependent on others. Having someone bathe and dress me, pick me up and place me in my wheelchair, then feed me made me feel helpless, like a baby. Children often asked, “Why are you in a stroller”? Adults asked, “Oh. Can I feed her?” Others said, “I’m so sorry you have to be in that wheelchair.”

I cried. I begged God to heal me.

Jesus prayed, ““My Father, if it is possible, may this cup<sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”> be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39 NIV).<sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>

Sunday, January 1, 2011, will be the 21st anniversary of my spinal cord injury. I still can’t walk, shower, dress, etc., but my spirit knows healing. It came through faith and your ministry to me and evolved into my own ministry of healing through God’s calling and your faith and encouragement.

Today I teach about my disability and share my story and my faith wherever God opens a door.

In Christ Alone,
Berta

*Print by Ron DiCianni referred to last month.

Comment by Earl-
Incarnation, for God to be “in the flesh,” meant Jesus not only felt what we felt, HE risked what we risk. Death, disease, disability became very possible with Incarnation. Hebrews 13:3 brings home this point about you and I being incarnate, when we are advised, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them; those who are mistreated; since you yourselves are in the body also.” (NKJV)

Reflect God

I remember the first person I saw in a wheelchair. I was at the doctor’s office for my kindergarten physical. Who was in the chair? The doctor. (Polio) Then there was Dale, a young man who slobbered and walked funny. He taught me to dance the two-step. (Cerebral Palsy) I didn’t know the diseases nor did I know they were disabled. They were my friends.

In seventeen years as a nurse, I saw a multitude of persons with physical disabilities. Some had accepted their disability and functioned well in society, like my childhood friends. Others hadn’t. They were angry and depressed.

In 1991, an automobile accident injured my spinal cord paralyzing me from my neck down. Three months into an ICU stay, my neurosurgeon spoke to my husband. “Earl, she’ll be bedridden, ventilator-dependent, and a vegetable. You’re too young to be saddled with an invalid wife. We can let her die comfortably.”

Earl refused and arranged my transfer to a spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Once stable, off the ventilator, and using a power wheelchair I went to the gym. My neighbors and I shared our stories. We were alike.

Back home no one was like me. Strangers and friends petted me and called me a “poor thing.” Many ignored my injury, as if it would go away, or ignored me, hoping I’d go away. I became angry and bitter.

After years of struggling with the reality that I wasn’t going to be healed, and studying God’s Word, I learned that He didn’t call me to be an invalid. He called me to be Christ-centered and bold in my faith as I shared what He had done for me.

Henri J. M. Nouwen called this type of ministry “The Wounded Healer.” Steve Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Seminary, and author of “Wounds That Heal,” told me years ago, “His wounds have healed you. Now he’s using your wounds to heal others.”

Peter said it this way: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another” (1 Peter 4:10).

As we strive to reflect Gods nature, others will see God’s love in us.

In Christ Alone,
Berta

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