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May12ThuHaving cerebral palsy doesn't hold me back from serving God. May 12, 2016 by Chad Lees
When I was born, 11 weeks early, the doctors didn't think I was going to make it. As I struggled for life in the neonatal intensive care unit, my parents prepared for the worst. The day after I was born, one of my lungs collapsed and I went into cardiac arrest. My life should have been over.
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But the unexpected happened. My heart started beating again. I believe God saved me, literally and spiritually, on April 30, 1996—that he brought me back to life because he has a plan and purpose for me.
I was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects movement and muscle coordination. I use a walker and wheelchair to get around. Although there have been things I wanted to do, but couldn't, such as play baseball, I've never been angry about my disability. My family has always said, “If you can't play a sport, be one.”
But I can get in the pool and swim. I started swimming when I was five and soon joined the Penguins Aquatic Club, a swim team for athletes with physical disabilities at the Y.M.C.A. in Kingston, Ont., and competed for many years. In 2014, I qualified for the 50-metre backstroke and competed at the regional level.
Easter Seals Ontario, an organization that helps children with physical disabilities, has also played a big part in my life. For three summers, I attended Camp Merrywood on Big Rideau Lake near Perth, Ont., where all of the activities—canoeing, kayaking, sailing—have been adapted. I was able to be a kid, with no barriers.
From a young age, I was interested in Bible stories and wanted to know more about God. My grandparents planted the seed of faith and it just kept growing. In high school, a friend told me about Kingston Citadel. I didn't have a church home at the time, so I visited one Sunday morning. I felt an immediate connection and knew it was the right place for me. Everyone was so welcoming and I've made many friends.
Our pastors and ministry leaders go above and beyond to make sure I am able to participate in activities and programs. I attend services on Sundays, the youth group on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the young adult ministry on Sundays. Kingston Citadel has become my second home.
On June 8, 2014, I was enrolled as a senior soldier. It was a pivotal moment in my spiritual journey. I wear the uniform with pride, knowing I'm part of the Army's mission to bring the lost to Christ and serve those in need. Being a soldier means I have made a commitment to God to be faithful in prayer and service, to support our corps and the community. When I volunteer on the kettles at Christmas, I know I'm making a difference.
My faith is the most important thing in my life. It's what keeps me going and gives me a positive attitude, because I know I can go to God for anything. Whether I'm worrying about something as small as a school assignment, or something major, I remember that God is with me and will help me in any circumstance. Everything will be done according to his will. It's not about me—it's about his will for my life.
Last fall, I was able to attend Converge, an annual youth conference at Jackson's Point Camp, for the first time. It was amazing to see youth groups from across the Ontario Central-East Division come together for a weekend of fun, worship and spiritual growth. The message of the guest speaker, Sid Koop from Truth Matters Ministries, really stood out to me—especially on Saturday night. You could feel the presence of God in that place. He spoke about how we live in a broken world, but there is hope in Jesus. Our world needs the healing that Jesus can provide.
I don't know exactly what God's plan is for me, but my goal every day is to share this message by showing love through my actions. I want to be part of the healing.